Delaware Avenue Complete Streets 2016-2021

Feasability Study

The Delaware Avenue Improvement Group served as the Study Advisory Committee for the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Feasibility Study, sponsored by the Town of Bethlehem to identify and analyze the feasibility of appropriate complete streets elements for Delaware Avenue between Elsmere Avenue and the Normanskill Bridge. The study included corridor specific traffic operations and crash analyses, development of feasible alternatives based on a complete streets framework, and strong stakeholder and community based outreach, education and input. The primary goal of the study is to create a plan for a more balanced transportation system along Delaware Avenue to enable safe and comfortable ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant access for users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and motor vehicle drivers, otherwise known as Complete Streets. A major objective of the study was to examine the feasibility of a road diet.
During the development of the Study, there were five Study Advisory Committee meetings, two public meetings, a business owner meeting, and three presentations provided to the Town Board. The results of the technical analysis and public input show that a road diet is feasible, and the majority of people who provided input are willing to accept the additional 50 seconds of motor vehicle travel time (on average) from end to end in the corridor, in exchange for a calmed Delaware Avenue that is more user friendly to other modes (bicyclists, pedestrians, transit users).

Study Purpose/Scope of Work

Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Feasibility Study Final Report

Key Findings

Meeting Summaries

October 11, 2016 - Study Advisory Committee Meeting 1

October 13, 2016 - Presentation to the Town Board

January 12, 2016 - Study Advisory Committee Meeting 2

February 16, 2017 - Public Meeting 1

May 10, 2017 - Study Advisory Committee Meeting 3

June 22, 2017 - Study Advisory Committee Meeting 4

July 26, 2017 - Business Stakeholders Meeting

September 26, 2017 - Public Meeting 2

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What will the complete streets project do?

In December, 2017, the Town Board approved redesigning Delaware Avenue between Elsmere Avenue and the Albany town line to have:

  • one lane in each direction;
  • a two-way center turning lane;
  • wide shoulders with room for bus stops, right-turning vehicles,  and cyclists;
  • improved sidewalks;
  • crosswalks with pedestrian safety islands;
  • a gateway landscaped median near the bridge from Albany; and
  • a lower speed limit (40 mph down to 35 mph). 

These features are a proven safety countermeasure to reduce the types of car accidents occurring along the road, make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and make the area more attractive to new businesses.  In fact, the Federal Highway Administration strongly recommends this approach to improve traffic safety on roads with fewer than 20,000 car trips daily.

2. Is it reasonable to slow down commuters just for cyclists?

Actually, the complete streets project is not about cycling.  The new traffic pattern would reduce the number of car accidents, allow pedestrians to safely cross Delaware Avenue (which they can only do now at Elsmere Avenue and Delaware Plaza – ½ mile apart), and make businesses along the corridor more accessible to customers.

3. Why not just lower the speed limit?

The state DOT strongly advises against lowering speed limits without making physical changes to a roadway. Even with increased enforcement and education, results across New York have shown that lowering a speed limit has little effect on actual speeds, with the Cherry Ave Extension in Slingerlands and Feura Bush Rd in Glenmont as local examples.  To achieve slower speeds, physical changes to the roadway are a must.

4. Isn’t this a bad time for a major road project?

The pavement on this stretch of Delaware Ave is in bad shape, so the state DOT (who owns and manages the roadway) will need to rebuild it sooner than later.  Because the road is in such poor condition and will need to be rebuilt, the Town will first upgrade the underlying water and sewer pipes, which were put in just after WWII.  As such, there will be major construction on this section of Delaware Ave regardless of whether Complete Streets safety improvements are made to the roadway, sidewalks, and crosswalks.  The projected start date is 2024.

5. Is Delaware Ave Elsmere’s Main Street or a high-speed commuter corridor?

  • A core issue explored during the study process was whether our community’s priority for this section of Delaware Avenue was to (a) move traffic as quickly as possible between Albany and Bethlehem, especially during peak commuting hours, or (b) provide a safe local travel corridor between neighborhoods and local businesses.  In other words, is this portion of Delaware Ave a commuter corridor (like the bypass) or part of our neighborhoods (like the rest of Delaware Ave east and west of the 4-lane, 40 mph corridor)?
  • The majority feeling at public forums and on the Town Board in 2017 was that the priority should be allowing people to move safely between their neighborhoods and local businesses, even if this imposed some delay for commuters traveling out of or into town.  The study by Creighton Manning engineers projected that changing from 4 lanes to 2 lanes with a center turn lane would add an average increase of 50 seconds to travel through the corridor, but only during the morning and evening peak travel times:
    • 15 seconds due to lowering the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph, and
    • 35 seconds due to longer waits at the Elsmere Avenue and Delaware Plaza traffic signals.


6. Are there any places where I can see a “complete street”?

  • Albany implemented a complete street program on Madison Avenue between South Allen and Lark St.
  • Menands recently implemented a complete street project on Van Rensselaer Blvd between Northern Blvd and Menands Rd.

One note:  The Albany complete streets project included on-street parking.  The Delaware Ave Complete Streets project will not add or remove on-street parking.  Instead, it will create a center turn lane and wide shoulders with room for bus stops and cyclists.

7. How have residents and businesses been involved with and informed about this project?

  • The complete streets project has benefited from extensive public input at 2 public forums, a business owners meeting, comments in 3 Town Board meetings, and extensive input by mail and email. 
  • The public forums were announced through 2 mailings to neighborhoods along the corridor (each to approx. 800 residences and businesses), the spring/summer and fall editions of Bethlehem Town News (which were each sent to about 16,000 residences), and several times in the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce’s e-newsletter and the Town of Bethlehem e-newsletter.  The project was also highlighted in a display at the Bethlehem Public Library throughout September, 2017 (with information, maps, and a comment box), and in 11 articles in the Spotlight and Times Union.