Op-Ed: A six-lane intersection between Greeley and CC shopping center is a monstrosity

December 12, 2014

Editor’s Note:  What follows is an op-ed + public comment.  Since today is the deadline for comments on the proposed rezoning of Chappaqua Crossing as a retail shopping center, I am submitting into the record an email discussion with Town Board and Board of Education members.  It was triggered by my email to them suggesting they consider a roundabout rather than a “signalized” six-lane intersection at the high school entrance.  Roundabouts have been proven safer for pedestrians and vehicles that conventional intersections with traffic lights.  In the group email below, Supervisor Greenstein and Board of Ed members Jeffrey Mester and Vicky Tipp weighed in.  Thanks to a reference by Mester to a previous article in NCNOW, I found that the Town’s traffic consultant Michael Galante had told Board of Ed members in August of 2013 that only 5% of traffic could be “counted on” to use the back road into Chappaqua Crossing; the Greeley entrance and the main entrance on Bedford Road would serve as main access drives.

“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.”

~ from Town planner promotes changes to Greeley campus to ease Chappaqua Crossing traffic, NCNOW.org. 8/15/13

December 4, 2014 Email to Town Board and Board of Education members: Greeley and Whole Foods intersection

Emailed Comment from Christine Yeres to Town Board members Supervisor Rob Greenstein, Deputy Supervisor Lisa Katz, Adam Brodsky, Elise Mottel and Jason Chapin; and Board of Ed members President Karen Visser, Jeffrey Mester, Vicky Tipp, Warren Messner and Alyson Gardner-Kiesel

Since the Town Board seems unwilling* to lighten the load of shopping center traffic that may pass through the Roaring Brook Road/Greeley intersection, and the Town Board has hinted in its most recent public hearing that this is the time to ask Summit Greenfield for needed mitigations, I’d like to suggest an alternative to the current plan for that intersection. 
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* CY: I am including Town Counsel Ed Phillips’ objection to the wording of my email-comment to Town Board and Board of Ed members:

Town Counsel Ed Phillips’ Dec. 12 email to Christine Yeres and Town Board members:

I was troubled by the word “unwilling” and the implication that the Board hasn’t tried to limit traffic impacts on RBR.

As I mentioned in another email this week, the traffic allocations were complex and involved all three proposed entrances and all three uses (residential, office, retail).  I think something was lost in translation with respect to the statement you attributed to Galante.

 

CY: Following Phillips’ email, I invited Town Board members today to state what they believe the percentages are.

December 12, 2014: CY to Phillips and TB members:

But there was no “translation.”  I was present and I noted what he said.  If he has changed his opinion since, I’d be happy to hear what he currently believes the percentages will be.  Or, better, what Town Board members currently believe the percentages will be, from all the traffic testimony they have gathered for decision-making purposes.

Town Board members? What percentage of the traffic into Chappaqua Crossing—for all three purposes (residential, retail, office)—will use the back CC entrance, the RBR-Greeley entrance, and the Bedford Road-117 entrance into Chappaqua Crossing?

December 12, 2014: Ed Phillips to Christine Yeres and TB members:

I was not present to hear what Galante said, but I don’t think the 5% statement attributed to him is accurate.  Unfortunately, Galante is not available due to medical reasons.


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[CY: Back to my comment on the Greeley intersection…]

The planned six- (or 5.5-) lane intersection connecting Greeley and a Chappaqua Crossing Whole Foods shopping center would be a monstrosity both logistically and aesthetically.  Its intensive commercial, signalized appearance would also be unseemly conceptually, for both the high school and the neighborhood, compared to the fairly natural setting of the existing intersection and median along Roaring Brook Road—given also the prized academic and field use of the property. 

A far better solution would be as large a roundabout as is required for circulation, more on SG’s property than the HS’s (it needs to be off-center in anyway)—so that the Ed Center on the southeast corner and the new residents on the southwest corner would be looking out over a handsome circular park at the high school entrance, around which cars are constantly moving (forced, by the nature of the roundabout) at a rational rate of speed, with pedestrian crossings not through the circle but across the feeder lanes and their triangular splitter islands.

You will find that research shows that rotaries are not only traffic-calming, but they eliminate the idling forced by the signalized intersection now described in Summit Greenfield’s plans and—even more important—are safer for both cars and pedestrians than conventional intersections.  The State prefers them, in fact. 

As described in current plans, all 5.5 or six lanes of traffic will come to a halt and cars will sit idling every time a pedestrian (most likely, students) pushes a button to cross the intersection.  With the high school schedule as full of extended free periods as it is, and the campus as open as it is, there will be a great deal of crossing back and forth, therefore a great deal of all-way-stopping, with cars idling, for a mechanically-set period of time. 

I visited Poughkeepsie two months ago to view a roundabout near Vassar.  It happened to connect campus park-like areas with small-town streets of small shops (as opposed to a 120,000 SF shopping center-plus-office park), but it was handsome and well-used by both vehicles and pedestrians.  Movements were orderly.  Because of the grade (see photos), it was terraced slightly (Roaring Brook Road is less complicated grading-wise).  It provided a distinctly pedestrian-friendly experience in crossing its feeder lanes. 

Two attachments below are photos of the Poughkeepsie roundabout; another is a GoogleEarth map and ink sketch of a roundabout for Greeley’s entrance by Chuck Napoli, and a pdf with more material on roundabouts. 

I don’t know what kind of approval the town needs for alterations to Roaring Brook Road, but it is a town road and not a state road, and so may not have to go through the same DOT channels as the proposed northbound lane with dedicated left turn lane onto Roaring Brook Road.

One day later, on December 5, Rob Greenstein responded first, in an email to me with this summary of Galante’s position: 

Per Michael Galante: The roundabout was evaluated about a year ago. It would take land to do it. The concern, if I remember correctly, is that there was a concern with the high use of the roundabout by school buses (and the need to size it accordingly). Further, the Town at that time did not want students crossing on the legs of the roundabout without signal control.  Traffic will still be stopped every morning waiting to enter the school campus. This issue will not go away with the roundabout, or with the signal.

I added my comments to the “Per Michael Galante” email and sent it to all Town Board and Board of Ed members:

Christine Yeres to Town Board and Board of Ed members with comments on Galante’s take on roundabouts:

To Rob’s forwarded response including Galante’s analysis (Mr. G may not be well-versed in roundabout use) I want to respond (in UPPER CASE):

Per Michael Galante: The roundabout was evaluated about a year ago. It would take land to do it.

THE LAND IS THERE, ON THE CHAPPAQUA CROSSING SIDE.

The concern, if I remember correctly, is that there was a concern with the high use of the roundabout by school buses (and the need to size it accordingly).

OK WHAT SIZE IS THAT?  THE BIGGER THE BETTER AND THE MORE PARK-LIKE.  THEY NEED TO BE 100 FT IN DIAMETER FOR BUSES.  CHUCK NAPOLI’S SKETCH IS OF A 100-FT.  BUT MAKE IT BIGGER IF YOU WANT.

​Further, the Town at that time did not want students crossing on the legs of the roundabout without signal control.

​PERHAPS THE TOWN WILL BE PERSUADED BY SAFETY DATA FOR ROUNDABOUTS v. SIX-LANE SIGNALIZED INTERSECTIONS.

Traffic will still be stopped every morning waiting to enter the school campus.

​WHAT DOES MR. GALANTE MEAN, “STOPPED EVERY MORNING WAITING TO ENTER THE SCHOOL CAMPUS”?  LESS STOPPING WITH ROUNDABOUTS.  ALMOST EVERYONE DRIVES TO SCHOOL (OR IS DRIVEN).  VERY FEW WALKERS INTO GREELEY DURING THE BAD MORNING-ARRIVAL HOUR.

This issue will not go away with the roundabout, or with the signal. 

LIKE MR. MARWELL, WHO ANSWERS THE QUESTION, “CAN IT BE MADE BETTER BY DOING ‘X,’?” GALANTE IS ANSWERING THE QUESTION, “CAN THIS MAKE IT BETTER?” WITH “THIS ISSUE WILL NOT GO AWAY” WITH EITHER.  HE’S SKIPPING OVER “BETTER”—AND, AESTHETICALLY, CHARACTER-WISE, AND SAFETY-WISE IT IS, I BELIEVE, “BETTER.”

Jeffrey Mester replying to all—December 5, 2014:

Christine,

You were at the meeting at the Ed Center when this was asked of Mr. Galante. (Here is a link to the story you wrote about that meeting.)  I think I asked the question as Chuck Napoli, a big proponent of roundabouts, suggested it to me.  Galante answered why it was not “better” than a traffic light. He is the traffic expert.  I do not think one trip up to a roundabout in Poughkeepsie makes an expert.  If it does, I used a roundabout in Blacksburg, Va this past weekend and I found it to be quite confusing and treacherous.  Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with the area and it was a tight circle roundabout.  I happen to think it is safer to cross at a stop light than to have to cross lanes of traffic that are entering and exiting a roundabout. 

If I am on this email because you want my support for this idea as a school board member, I do not.  I think the best interest of the district and the students is served either by no entrance across from the high school or by the proposed traffic light in the current plan. I do not think aesthetics trump safety.  If I am on this email for some other reason, unsubscribe me.

I am also not sure what you mean when you wrote, “With the high school full of extended free periods as it is…”

December 5, 2014 email from Christine Yeres to all, in response to Mester’s email:

Let’s be scientific about it, Jeff.  For safety over aesthetics, roundabout may be the way to go.  Let’s both suspend belief in our own experiences of roundabouts and see what the research says.  Michael Galante is a traffic expert; he may not be expert in roundabouts.

December 9, 2014: Vicky Tipp email to all:

I am for safety first.  However, I do think aesthetics and character are important.  If we’re examining all options, and if there is a lot of land available on the Chapp Crossing side for a roundabout, I wonder if a pedestrian bridge would make this a more feasible option.  It could be a bridge with plantings and other interesting features, i.e., a mini version of the Highline in downtown NYC.  I am concerned about our beautiful hamlet with open space and a slightly rural feel turning into another Mt. Kisco.  Development is necessary but should not be done in a roughshod way that puts expediency and convenience above quality of life considerations.  I am very concerned about a six-lane major route configuration right outside of the entrance of Greeley.  I understand the convenience of having a major entrance to Chapp Crossing at that intersection, but the priority should be the safety of our students and respect for the aesthetics of their space.  I want to be clear that I don’t speak for the Board here and only for myself, but I do feel that the placement of this intersection is an intrusion on HGHS.

December 12, 2014: Jeffrey Mester email to all:

I would also add that I liked Vicky’s suggestion of a pedestrian bridge regardless of the configuration of the intersection. But, I understand that it is not practical to build with ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act), requirements.

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