Monday, June 07, 2010

Oneida Square Circle . . . vs a New Oriskany Circle . . .

Oneida Square Circle - - -

A traffic circle on Oneida Square . . . Two years ago the OD hated it . . . "a waste of money, time and resources," but now it likes it.
  • It’s something fresh. Most will agree that downtown Utica needs that. And a planned park that would be built around the statue would be a nice complement to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute campus.
  •  It would improve traffic safety. The traffic flow around Oneida Square as of today is a challenge for motorist and pedestrian alike. There are nearly a dozen traffic signals on or around the convergence of at least five streets that make New Hartford’s Consumer Square traffic pattern actually look good. A roundabout would eliminate the can of worms and establish some order from the chaos.
  • It could be good for business. As is, no turns are allowed onto Oneida Street or Park Avenue off Genesee Street, something that’s a detriment to business development along those streets. A roundabout would allow motorists to smoothly transition off Genesee onto either of those streets — from either direction — while Genesee Street traffic could continue uninterrupted. That could be a boost for businesses already situated off the square, as well as be a catalyst for additional development in that area.
So, just what was it, OD, that got you to change your mind? You never really explained what is different about the proposal now that you opposed before.

As a Rotary, Oneida Square will become a problem for pedestrians if the intent is to eliminate signals. . . . and signals seem to be the issue here. Imagine trying to drive through the circle: it will be difficult to look for a gap in traffic and look out for pedestrians at the same time. It will be an accident waiting to happen. If a problem is created for pedestrians, it will become a major hindrance to bringing businesses back to the square.

Just exactly how will someone get to enjoy the park that is going to be created, without a traffic signal to allow someone to cross to visit it?  Are we creating a space for people to gather and enjoy . . . or just look at from a quickly passing car -- one that is navigating through several entering streets and pedestrian crossings?

Places like Washington DC and Paris have traffic signals on their circles, especially where there is a park. Utica is a city, not a country town. There will be pedestrians.  Signals will be found to be necessary to protect the safety of pedestrians. And if signals eventually have to be added here, is moving the statue and reconfiguring everything really worth the effort?

And just what does this do to Genesee Street?  One of the things that makes Genesee Street so unique and a real treasure is its great width that is uninterrupted down its entire length.  This makes it the ideal regional venue for parades and celebrations.

Oneida Square as currently configured is NOT 'chaos' . . . not a 'can of worms.' Going one block out of the way to go from Genesee to Oneida, or Genesee to Park is not a significant inconvenience.  I go through this intersection every day from different directions. . . . via auto and on foot . . . It is no problem (except for that broken signal that flashes "cross" and "don't cross" at the same time -- a maintenance issue).

If the City wants a 'Fresh Look,' let it do some street scaping around the Square . . . maybe some cobblestones, period street lamps and garden beds to give the entire square a theme. Perhaps some of the establishments nearby can be encouraged to use the broad sidewalks for outdoor dining.  A more visible police presence would probably be the biggest help.

Street scaping would be a lot less expensive and a lot less disruptive than a roundabout and reconfigured streets.

A New Oriskany Circle - - -

I'm not aware of anyone proposing this so far, so I'm raising it here.  For those younger than 50, Oriskany Circle used to exist where Whitesboro, Liberty, State, and Varick Streets came together with Oriskany Blvd -- about where the N-S Arterial now passes over Oriskany Blvd.  It was a major intersection.

With the N-S Arterial, the ramps, and arterialization of Oriskany Blvd., this area has become a major headache for anyone passing that wants to go in directions other than where the arterials go.  Traveling north on State St., just try to get on Oriskany Blvd. going west.  Or try going from Whitesboro St. behind the Aud to Whitesboro and Varick Streets on the south side of Oriskany Blvd.   These movements are virtually impossible.   Aside from the businesses that were actually removed from Oriskany Circle (as well as from the tax rolls) for these arterial projects, economic activity on Whitesboro St. has withered away to virtually nothing.  Does the city seriously expect any significant development to be able to occur on the former Washington Courts site when it sits on a practically dead-ended Whitesboro St.?

It would seem that if the city really wants a traffic circle, this would be the place to do it. Street connections and driver movements would be restored, cutting many blocks off of certain trips.  Developable areas will be made accessible.  Restored street connections would make the entire neighborhood more pedestrian friendly.  It would then become possible to walk directly from the Aud to Varick Street.

The N-S Arterial could either be routed over it or under it, but if the city is interested in creating a "signature entrance" into Utica, and, perhaps creating a climate where its neighborhoods could be restored, the Arterial would end right on the circle's north side, and pick up as a boulevard on the south.  The circle would be a park, designed like Place D'Italie in Paris, or a gathering place like Dupont Circle in Washington.  Yes, there would be signals to make it both traffic and pedestrian friendly . . . but it would be made beautiful, so the stop would be pleasant. If it is necessary to reduce traffic through the circle,  then route Oriskany Blvd. beneath the park (like Connecticut Ave. goes beneath Dupont Circle in Washington).

With street connections restored, Whitesboro Street could move some of the arterial traffic to New Hartford via Champlin Ave., or via a new connection with York St. . . . or it could move some Oriskany Blvd. traffic.  Connect Champlin Ave. with Oriskany Blvd, and more alternatives will be created. There are many possibilities.

The key to this idea is that a place that once was the site of a lot of activity, but now is only good for certain traffic, could be made amenable for reuse as a vibrant part of the city.

A New Oriskany Circle is worth considering.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is off topic but you and your participants may want to address and comment on Utica's latest public housing project. It appears as though 36 units of public housing in Cornhill are being built at a cost of over $248,000 per unit! Yet no one is explaining the numbers nor being asked by the OD. There are many layers of explanation in this one project, all interesting.