Highways for Habitats #14: Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie

Raymond Ave, PoughkeepsieTransportation planning is tough. Roads have to serve a number of (sometimes competing) purposes. Roads whose primary purpose is moving people and goods quickly through a community often have a detrimental effect on the communities they bisect (see: the history of freeways in Detroit). Take state trunk lines for example, which you can recognize because they’re usually twice as wide to cross as the other roads in a neighborhood, and, of course, highways and interstates. We’re currently running a series of posts featuring creative solutions from around the globe to make these roads – roads that must run through communities – also work to serve those communities. Check out more about our inspiration here.

Raymond Avenue (state highway Route 376) runs through the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, abutting Arthur S. May Elementary, the post office, Vassar College housing, and many businesses. In the 1960s Raymond was expanded to a four-lane road. As Poughkeepsie grew and changed for the next few decades, however, the needs of Raymond Avenue’s surrounding community shifted. The needs of Raymond Avenue needed to shift as well, from a thoroughfare to a more pedestrian friendly and accessible environment.

The New York State Department of Transportation decided to redesign 1.5 miles of Raymond Avenue in 2006. The road was downsized to two lanes, and a landscaped median was constructed. Intersections were converted into roundabouts, slow traffic and increase safety. While numbers vary, it is reported that roundabouts reduce the number of accidents that result in injury by 78%. In addition, they are more efficient than traditional stoplight intersections during congestion as they keep cars moving. Read more about the benefits of roundabouts in our Highways for Habitats Post #8: Keystone Parkway. http://www.letssavemichigan.com/2013/07/09/highways-for-habitats-8-keystone-parkway-roundabouts/

Pedestrian infrastructure was enhanced with additional sidewalks and added crosswalks, and parking was made more consistent throughout the area.

Traffic studies completed since have proven the safety benefits of the redesign: average speeds along Raymond decreased by 24% and auto accidents by 51% (rear end accidents dropped by 80%). New business growth along the highway since the redesign shows the economic opportunities drawn by a more pedestrian-friendly district. Overall, the area is a safer and more attractive place that supports a growing business district in Poughkeepsie.

Photo from dougtone on flickr.com