Pearl City Showdown Part II: Traffic, Transportation and Safety
*Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories asking incumbent Mayor Eddie Sundquist and Republican challenger Kim Ecklund, Republican At-Large member of the City Council and chairwoman of the council’s Finance Committee, on several issues.
1. What is the most important transportation project needed in Jamestown and how would you address it in a four-year term?
Mayor Eddie Sundquist: “To me, the most important transportation projects focus on safety and ease of movement for all in our community. I have been fortunate and proud to oversee the largest budget for roads and sidewalk work in Jamestown’s history. We need to continue the work of investing in our roads to keep them pothole free. I think it is evident that the quality of our roads has increased thanks to taking on more street projects.
It is also important that we continue to invest in making the city more pedestrian and bike friendly as well. This includes investing more into fixing heavily damaged sidewalks, increasing the amount of dedicated bike lanes, and, most importantly, focusing on ensuring our students have safe routes to schools.
We have worked closely with NYSDOT on key projects in Jamestown, bringing money to improve roads, increase safety for both motorists and pedestrians, and. Examples include such as the recently completed $4.7 million Washington Street and Fairmount Avenue redesigns, as well as other large projects, including a multi-million dollar resurfacing of Second Street, which has been plagued with potholes for years. We also have increased our collaboration with USDOT, recently winning a nearly $300,000 planning grant for ensuring we have safe routes to school.
Kimberly Ecklund: The most important transportation project is not just one project but the fact that we need a comprehensive plan for streets that provides for a safer redesign that will encompass all modes of travel including pedestrians, bikes, mobility devices, personal vehicles, and public transportation.
The increase in CHIPS funding coupled with major State DOT projects have enabled the city to reconstruct and redesign many roads in Jamestown. We just finished a major redesign on Washington Street/Fairmount Avenue and are in discussions with NYS on plans for Second Street as well as preliminary discussions for Baker Street.
We are a victim of our environment here in Jamestown and need to stay on top of the road maintenance as well as considering these things when doing street design and reconstruction. It is very important for us to continue to work with the state and county on combining projects that will give us the best improvement while combining workload and taking into consideration all modes of transportation and safety. With comprehensive planning, cost and efficiencies could be improved upon when any major street reconstructions occur so that all utility and infrastructure work is completed at the same time.
2. Jamestown has adopted a Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries. What investments and or policy changes do you believe are most important for Jamestown to fulfill its commitment to Vision Zero?
a. Can Vision Zero work in Jamestown where infatuated is already built and limited by space?
b. What are your thoughts on speed cameras in school zones and elsewhere?
Mayor Eddie Sundquist: Vision Zero is an incredibly important goal to me. We have seen tragic accidents in our city over the years, and it should be our shared goal that children are kept safe as they walk and bike throughout Jamestown. Aligning all of our departments to create, design and implement projects using the same Vision Zero mindset is a policy I have implemented, and I will continue to push all of our departments to think about their project implementation.
We have a walking school district, which is something that we should continue to encourage, but it is vital to make investments into increasing the safety of children on their way to and from school. I do believe that we can utilize Jamestown’s existing infrastructure to achieve this goal in a cost-effective way and save lives as a result.
My administration has made critical investments in the enforcement of traffic laws throughout Jamestown. As Mayor, I will always continue to provide increased patrols in our school zones and high accident areas. Over the past two years we have actively worked to secure funding through the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to increase those patrols, and we will continue to prioritize those areas in the next four years. We also are currently rolling out the stop arm bus camera program, which will start this fall and automatically ticket those who pass stopped school buses. Our DPW, alongside our state and county partners, will continue to look at redesigning roads around schools to slow down traffic.
I am incredibly supportive of school zone speed cameras and have been proud to work in a bipartisan fashion with Assemblyman Goodell and Senator Borrello to put forth new model legislation on school zone speed cameras that ensures due process but allows municipalities more freedom to set their own rules to ensure that the program isn’t merely used as a revenue generator, but as an actual asset in keeping children safe. As a community where nearly half of all children walk to school, we will use all means accessible to us to keep our children and community safe.
Into the future, we have already been awarded of the Safe Streets for All planning grant, which is allowing us to put together a plan for specific action items to increase student safety. We can then apply for an implementation grant, which would fund the necessary improvements to ensure our Vision Zero goal at minimal local taxpayer expense.
Kimberly Ecklund: We need to take all things into consideration for Vision Zero as I stated above. Where space is limited, we need to prioritize safety for pedestrians and individuals with disabilities who require mobility devices as their primary mode of transportation. It is also a matter of bringing people to the table and working with not only our internal team but also our county, state, and federal leaders if applicable to address how we can improve overall pedestrian and traffic safety. We must also add an education component as well when implementing changes and plans. People walking/running with ear buds in, looking at their phones, etc. and not paying attention to the environment around them is also a risk for not having success with Vision Zero. Older roads and traffic patterns should be reviewed periodically as times have changed and travel changes. Education coupled with appropriate signage when necessary as well as speed reduction and other safety measures when applicable can all be utilized to achieve success in Vision Zero. An example of this notion of using the education component is the sharing of the purpose of the green lanes after they were painted on Washington Street when that should have been done prior to the completion.
While I am a proponent of safety around school zones and elsewhere, we must pay attention to the recent failures and challenges faced in other communities for the usage of these items when implementing and deciding on our future usage. Cameras can be used for traffic patterns, safety reasons, etc. but we must make sure that NYS Legislation will allow for due process as well as freedom of the municipalities to make sure the program is doing what it is intended for and that is safety and not revenue building. The mess created in Buffalo NY and then later rescinded by the Common Council is not what we want here. The Jamestown Public Schools has implemented the use of cameras for people passing school buses and this is a much better safety measure than speed cameras. The discussion about “school hours” and its inclusion of holidays and after school activities must be considered and could lead to failure much quicker than planned if not addressed. Jamestown needs to possibly improve the flow of traffic between close schools (i.e. Washington and Ring) and improve the signs at the beginning and end of school zones before any cameras should be used. As I mentioned before, we are a community of walking and children are a large part of that number and their safety is very important. We also need to work with the school district to make sure that their school drop off and pick up are safe for the arrival and dismissal of students as well as parents. Since the City of Jamestown was awarded the Safe Streets for All planning grant and it is in the process of developing, I hope that a plan is put together to address all these things. I personally hope that the program is successful, and should the city be successful in this process we will be able to apply for grant funding to help some of the costs and not put it on the back of the taxpayers. Safety should be priority one and not the fines and fees as a revenue item for the city at the expense of residents and taxpayers.
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