By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The town and city of Plattsburgh recently collaborated on a project to promote safe access to roadways for walkers and bicyclists.
James Woods, Town of Plattsburgh highway superintendent, began work on a section of Upper Rugar Street earlier this year to repair some severely cracked pavement and drainage issues in the area.
As work began on fixing the road, highway crews also widened the paved shoulders to allow for safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
“I had planned on doing this project for a while,” Woods said as he walked along the recently completed roadway. “Adding the bicycle paths (on either side of Rugar) seemed like a natural thing to do.”
Woods had participated in Complete Streets training prior to the Rugar Street project. The nationwide program promotes the use of sidewalks, bike lanes, widened shoulders and plenty of crossing opportunities to provide safe access for cyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s something we can consider whenever new projects come up,” he said.
The widened shoulders from the intersection of Kennedy Avenue to Ampersand Avenue are only the beginning of a project that will eventually offer an unbroken route from Plattsburgh State to the Walmart shopping complex and also along the Route 87 overpass to Hammond Lane, Woods added.
“The Complete Streets concept is now a law,” said Laurie Williams of the Clinton County Health Department. “All communities must consider the Complete Streets concept when rebuilding roadways.
“It’s a way to incorporate safety along our roadways while providing improved access for bicycle and walking access,” she added. “Every time we add a new project (to the Complete Streets concept), we’re creating a safer walkable and bikeable community.”
What makes the Rugar Street project especially satisfying is the joint effort the City of Plattsburgh provided. A several-dozen-foot section of unpaved walkway stretched between the newly widened shoulder and existing sidewalk further down Rugar Street heading onto city property.
Woods contacted city representatives, and Superintendent of Public Works Mike Brodi agreed to put in a new sidewalk to connect the bike path with the existing city sidewalks.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Williams said. “Whenever you have municipalities working together like this, it’s a benefit for the entire community.”
The Town of Plattsburgh paves about 5 miles of highway each year, and Woods said the Complete Streets concept will always be considered as new projects approach.
The National Institute of Medicine recommends fighting childhood obesity by encouraging the construction of sidewalks, bikeways and other places for physical activity.
A recent study funded by the National Institute of Health found that people who live in walkable neighborhoods get 30 to 45 minutes more exercise each week than those living in low-walkable areas. They are also less likely to be overweight or obese, the report found.
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