When transportation engineers design a roadway or interchange, there are
scores of issues to keep in mind. Issues such as driving speed, traffic
flow, safety, and drainage.
of the new roundabout at the New York State Thruway interchange in
Kingston had a few more items on their punch list: drought-tolerant
plants, historically inspired stone walls, and a variety of trees that
provide year-round visual interest.
"We had our landscape group, which
includes some landscape architects and members of the community, working
to come up with a design that would enhance the area," said Mike Schaefer,
project designer for the New York State Department of Transportation. "It
was really up to our landscape designers to come up with something that
would look nice and enhance the Kingston entrance."
eye-catching features of the landscape design are the stone walls built in
and around the roundabout. In the center of the roundabout, a raised
hillock topped with a stone wall was built, according to Schaefer, to
block the sight lines across the traffic circle. This is done to prevent
drivers from being distracted by seeing too much of the various entrances
and exits on the roundabout, and to slow down drivers, who tend to go
slower when they cannot see what's in the distance.
While the state
Department of Transportation could have easily installed a concrete
barrier of some kind, a dry-laid bluestone wall is the focal point of the
center rise. Schaefer said this was done to pay homage to one of the areas
greatest historical industries. "I believe that Ulster County was the
leading producer of bluestone in the United States, and that led to the
choice of incorporating those features," he said.
In addition to the
center wall, two shorter walls are placed between the exits for Washington
Avenue and the New York State Thruway; and between exits for the Thruway
and state Route 28. Built more for aesthetic reasons than for engineering
purposes, these walls terminate in a round, stone platform that can be
used for artistic pursuits. "That was left open for the county and the
city or town to arrange if there was some sculpture or something they
wanted to place there," Schaefer said.
Around the center circle of the
roundabout is what appears to be a walkway. But Schaefer explains that it
is a truck apron, so if trucks need to go up on the curb, which may occur
when trying to make the turn on the inside lane of the roundabout, they
can do so without causing ruts in the shoulder.
As special as the
physical features of the roundabout's landscaping plan are the trees,
shrubs, flowers, and ground covers planted there. Senior Landscape
Architect Al Agrasto with the state Department of Transportation said the
design was based on three factors: hardiness, year-round visual interest;
and, of course, budget.
"You need to care for things that are alive,
but we try to chose environmentally tolerant trees and stuff that's a
little bit tougher than normal," Agrasto said. "Basically we're trying to
give four seasons of interest."
Year-round interest is provided in part
by the trees planted there, each chosen for their unique qualities. The
evergreens planted on the site are spruce and pine, which Agrasto said are
the hardiest of evergreens. Deciduous trees used in the design include
flowering pear trees and oaks. "We used the flowering pear trees for color
and seasonal interest, and they're also very hardy," Agrasto said. "The
pear also holds its leaves very late in the season." Crab apple trees and
shadblow, a native tree, were also used.
For those who have driven
slowly enough to notice the yellow flowers blooming in the center of the
circle, but not slowly enough to identify the species, they're day lilies,
chosen both for their hardiness and for their tendency to spread in clumps
if left to their own devices. "They're one of the toughest plants around,"
And for interested lawn aficionados, even the grass seed
is specially mixed for roadside use. Agrasto said the Department of
Transportation used a mix of bluegrass, rye grass, and fescue, each of
which performs well in a variety of situations.
the original article
Tempers flare in annexation dispute
The Kingston Freeman
November 04, 2001
By Paul Kirby, Freeman staff
TENSIONS between city of Kingston and
Ulster officials have heightened over procedural issues in the proposed
annexation of town land between the city line and the Thruway
Kingston Common Council President James Sottile, a Democrat, fired off
a letter to Ulster Assessor James Maloney, a Republican, criticizing the
town official's refusal to certify the names on a petition signed by town
property owners who favor annexation.
Maloney, for his part, said the
city did not act properly -first by not filing an official request with
his office to conduct the certification; and second by offering a flawed
Sottile also took Maloney to task in a letter to the town of
Ulster's attorney, James Kerr.
"There are certain non-discretionary acts
that an assessor must perform when requested in the normal course of
business," Sottile said. "The fact that the town's assessor refused to
certify the information when presented, in my opinion, indicates to me
that he is derelict in the duties of his office."
Maloney, a candidate
for the Ulster County Legislature, said he was presented with a request to
certify the petitions from city Alderwoman Mary Ann Parker, R-Ward 4, but
never received an official request from the city to review the petitions.
He said Parker came to his office unannounced, and he refused to conduct
"When I receive a formal request, on city letterhead,
I will confer with the town attorney and take appropriate action," Maloney
said. "(City officials) should act like professionals and put forward a
And for Sottile to claim he was derelict in his duties,
Maloney said, was "totally incorrect."
Additionally, Maloney said the
city's lawyer, Donna Hintz, ruled the petitions, submitted to the town by
Alderman Charles Landi, D-Ward 3, had a number of flaws. Maloney
questioned why he would certify petitions that are flawed.
things, Hintz said in a memo that the "petition fails to adequately
describe the territory under consideration for annexation (and) ... fails
to state the approximate number of inhabitants of the same
Hintz also said that because the petitions were flawed,
there would be no need for a public hearing.
But Landi said the entire
matter reeked of government stalling on the request by property owners to
Landi has argued that because city sewer users have
contributed to the operation of the sewer treatment plant over the years
and paid for its expansion, the only fair way to supply municipal
connections to town properties along Washington Avenue and Sawkill Road
would be through annexation.
"The reason that our taxpayers pay higher
property taxes is to get these services, and we should not be giving them
away," Landi said.
Landi also said it was not the city requesting the
annexation, but the town property owners, and he argued that no official
request from the city to Maloney is needed.
the original article
Roundabout has shed 'Malfunction Junction' stigma
The Kingston Freeman
December 15, 2001
By Hallie Arnold, Freeman staff
TOWN OF ULSTER - It's been a year since
roundabout at Thruway Exit 19 opened to a flurry of public
was, after all, a dramatic change. The old circle, 600 feet in diameter,
that people were used to whizzing around at 30 to 40 mph was reduced to
what seemed tiny - a roundabout measuring 200 feet across that slowed
drivers' speeds considerably as a function of sheer geometry.
interchange that joins some of the area's major thoroughfares - state
Route 28, Washington Avenue, Col. Chandler Drive and the Thruway - was
forever altered, a transition that state Department of Transportation
officials say was difficult but ultimately worthwhile because of a
dramatic reduction in the number of accidents there.
"The reduction in
the accident rate is 65 percent. If you want to talk about personal-injury
accidents, that's been reduced by greater than 85 percent," said Colleen
McKenna, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.
that during the three years prior to the redesign, an average of eight
accidents per month were recorded by local law-enforcement agencies at the
traffic circle. During the six months that followed the completion of the
roundabout and the installation of signs - from February to August 2001 -
there were only 2.8 accidents per month.
"We knew that once people got
used to it, this is what would happen, and it did and it's great," McKenna
said. "The average daily delay has also been reduced significantly. That,
of course, is because it's a constant flow of traffic now."
said the success of the roundabout is helping the Department of
Transportation promote this type of interchange as a replacement for large
traffic circles and multiple-entrance intersections. A significant change
from the old circle to the new roundabout is that drivers who merely need
to move from one spoke to the next - Chandler Drive to the Thruway
entrance, for example - can avoid the rotary altogether by using new
The Department of Transportation already has installed a
similar roundabout on Long Island, has had public hearings and design
sessions concerning proposals in Broome and Westchester counties and is in
the early stages of considering a roundabout in the Raymond Avenue area of
McKenna said the department learned some lessons from the
local experience that will help it improve future projects. "I think that
our public outreach was good, but it can always be better," she said. To
that end, the Department of Transportation's Web site now includes a
special section on modern roundabouts.
Local drivers who objected to
the new roundabout at the outset now say they're more comfortable
navigating the interchange, but they still question the need and $2.7
"If it's a lower accident rate the state wanted to see
there, they probably accomplished that, however, not by better design.
More by a higher 'fear factor,'" said Albert Bruno of Kingston, who last
year dubbed the roundabout "Malfunction Junction."
"While I have gotten
used to it over the last year, I still feel the state could have
accomplished the same end result, spending a lot less of taxpayers'
money," Bruno said.
Bruno suggested the speed limit on Chandler Drive
could have been reduced, stop signs at entrances to the roundabout could
have been better enforced and perhaps a traffic light system on the old
circle could have accomplished the same goal.
Traffic volume at the
interchange has remained constant at roughly 36,000
vehicles per day.
the original article