Town planner promotes changes to Greeley campus to ease Chappaqua Crossing traffic
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
by Christine Yeres
With the public hearings on Chappaqua Crossing largely closed as of last Tuesday and the majority of the materials on environmental impacts set out before the Town Board, Town Planner Sabrina Charney, Town Administrator Penny Paderewski and F.P. Clark traffic engineer Michael Galante paid a visit to Board of Education members and administrators to gauge the their interest in making changes to traffic circulation within the Greeley campus that could help to mitigate increases in traffic caused by the proposed development of Chappaqua Crossing—changes the developer might be persuaded to pay for.
Only about five percent of the traffic into Chappaqua Crossing can be counted upon to take the back entrance into the campus from the Saw Mill, Galante told Board members and administrators. The main entrances onto the Chappaqua Crossing campus will be one opposite the high school entrance on Roaring Brook Road and one on Route 117, or Bedford Road, currently the one official entryway.
Serving also as a main entryway into the shopping center / office park / residential development, the intersection of Roaring Brook Road and the high school entrance would be expanded to six lanes on its Roaring Brook Road axis—right, straight and left lanes in each direction—and would be regulated by a traffic light. The left turn lanes would be placed where the grassy median is now, said Galante, with length enough to stack four or five cars, he estimated. “And all the surrounding traffic lights would be timed to create a positive flow of traffic,” added Charney.
Highly aware of the existing traffic load at the high school, the Town Board, Galante explained, had asked him to assess the interior roadways of the Greeley campus and to suggest ways to alleviate the back up of autos entering the campus at a creep on school days between 7:00 and 7:35 a.m. that “spills out” onto Roaring Brook Road down to the Saw Mill and beyond. The Town Board asked Galante to see “what we can do [to the Greeley campus] to pull the traffic in quicker.” Leaving the campus, everyone agreed, was much less of a problem.
After an earlier talk with Board of Ed members, Galante had come up with several measures he and Charney believe will help ease traffic in the area. They suggested the following:
• Add a third lane to the campus entryway.
• Remove the existing sidewalk on the right hand side (as you enter) of the campus entryway; construct a new sidewalk on the Ed Center side.
• Eliminate the crosswalk from the senior parking lot—a major impediment to traffic flow—to the existing cafeteria-side sidewalk.
• Instead, channel students walking to school from the senior lot to a sidewalk (newly built by the district over the summer, as it happens) running alongside the softball field that would take students along the bottom aisle of the teacher parking lot all the way to the gym.
• After the point at which the teacher parking lot aisles begin, allow students to cross to a remaining segment of sidewalk on the right hand side (leading to the cafeteria and library entrances)—a much safer place to cross, Galante explained, than the curve in the roadway at the senior parking lot entrance-exit.
Traffic yes, but mitigations required
“The development is not going to generate a huge traffic problem,” said Charney. “Yes, they are adding traffic, but the mitigation plan minimizes the impact. This is an opportunity to improve the situation at the high school, an improvement opportunity that the developer could pay for.”
“Yes,” said Galante. “The developer is obligated to mitigate their traffic. If this plan were implemented, [morning and afternoon school] traffic stays the same but we can move it in and out quicker. The development across the street—whatever’s approved, if it’s approved, causes more traffic. The thing is to mitigate this. I’m not saying there’s no traffic.”
Changes to 117 and Roaring Brook Road
Add to this, said Charney, the left-turn lane at 117 and Roaring Brook Road for northbound traffic and a right-hand slip lane for southbound traffic that developer Summit Greenfield has proposed, and “that intersection will work better than today.” [Roaring Brook Road, a town road, is within the town’s power to alter; however, changes to Route 117, a state road, must be approved by the NYS Department of Transportation.]
According to Galante, the three lanes for the high school driveway at Roaring Brook Road would finally permit cars leaving campus to make a left turn to reach the Saw Mill, rather than turn right—east—and be forced to make a U-turn on Roaring Brook Road to double back to go west, as they must do now. “And you can time the green phase of the lights differently at different times of day,” said Joe Gramando, Superintendent of Operations and Maintenance for CCSD. Galante concurred. At 2:00 p.m., for example, the green phase for Roaring Brook Road traffic could be lengthy, he said.
No mitigation for Saw Mill Parkway intersection
No physical improvements are proposed at the Saw Mill, Galante acknowledged. “There will be delays there still. It will continue to back up.”
Town Board’s “Findings” could be Yes, No, or Yes-with-conditions
“What about landscaping of the new roadway?” asked Assistant Principal Andrew Corsilia. “We could ask the developer,” Charney responded. “The intent of our meeting here is to identify what you want done if this is the plan you choose to go with. These are circulation issues on the high school property that impact the project, so if improvements can be made I’d like to list them [in the Findings].” She suggested that approval of development at Chappaqua Crossing might be made “contingent upon making ‘the following mitigations to the high school.’ ”
[The Town Board is within its ten-day waiting period after declaring the Environmental Impact Statement “final” on September 3. It could issue its “Findings”—approving, disapproving, or approving the project with conditions—at the end of that period (around September 14), but not before. Charney did not specify whether the Town Board could or would take more than the ten calendar days, but told Board of Ed members that the developer was understandably eager to move the process along.]
Board of Ed will present proposed changes to the public
Board of Ed President Jeffrey Mester told Charney that his Board would need to bring up the proposed changes to the campus in its next public meeting, on September 25.
“There’s time for you to have your public process,” said Charney, “but I need to know which way you’re leaning. If the changes seem reasonable to you today, I will craft recommendations based on this proposal. At the end of the day the developer doesn’t need to make improvements on private property.”
“But he wants to be a good neighbor,” said Mester.
“Yes,” responded Charney, “but he doesn’t have to be. And there’s an opportunity for this private developer to pay for it by having the Town Board roll it into the Findings statement.”
“Coming back later won’t work,” added Penny Paderewski.
Are the changes to the Greeley campus good for Greeley in any case?
NCNOW asked Galante whether even without the development of Chappaqua Crossing the changes he had proposed would improve traffic within the high school campus and area roads. He responded in the affirmative. “And not only that,” he added, “but it would make campus conditions safer.”
To the question of whether the Town had asked Galante to run a traffic assessment for the high school taking the alternate layout of a “Town Center” into account, Galante and Charney both responded “No.”