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    KINGSTON, NY
    ROUNDABOUT NEWS

    for pictures of this roundabout, click here.

    Date sent: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 08:52:45 -0500
    To: "ITE Traffic (E-mail)"
    From: Jim Mearkle
    Subject: RE: itetraffic FW: Roundabouts

    What surprised me was the WSJ article ignored the success of the Kingston Roundabout in NY's Hudson Valley, which is about 100 miles away from NYC, not 1000. If you follow roundabouts at all, you've probably seen the aerial photo of the roundabout being constructed in the infield of an old traffic circle. That's the Kingston Roundabout, nee Kingston Traffic Circle.

    After one year, total accidents are down 60%, injury accidents are down 80%, and delays have gone from over 1 minute to under 10 sec/veh. Despite a less than perfect design and some signing troubles the first few months.

    The Kingston Freeman ran this article:
    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=2791115&BRD=17



    New roundabout safer than old circle, state official says

    The Kingston Freeman
    January 20, 2001
    By Hallie Arnold, Freeman staff

    TOWN OF ULSTER - A state Department of Transportation official says the revamped traffic circle at Thruway Exit 19 - which has drawn considerable criticism from local drivers - has met the department's intent of slowing down traffic and reducing accidents.

    "Even though the new circle is far from complete, the early safety benefits achieved this December hold great promise for even more potential when it's fully operational," wrote Robert Dennison, director of the department's regional office.

    A spokeswoman for the department said that as of the beginning of the month, accidents at the new circle - officially called a "roundabout" - are occurring at a lower rate than on the old circle.

    "Under the old circle, there was an average of eight to 10 accidents a month," said Colleen McKenna. "That's been cut to five a month, and we only expect it to get better."

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Studies, a recent study found that roundabouts reduce all crashes by 39 percent; injury-producing crashes by 76 percent; and fatal or incapacitating crashes by 76 percent over more traditional intersections.

    Lt. Donald Short, the officer in charge of the town of Ulster Police Department, said that in the last 30 days, there have been only four accidents reported on the roundabout. Short is among those who does not think the new design is safer than the old one, but he said that perception may change once the project is complete. (Among other things, the circle still is awaiting exit signs and permanent lighting - both of which are to be ready next month.)

    "I think part of that may have to do with the fact that the proper signage isn't up yet," Short said. "Maybe once they get that in, and your attention isn't taken away by the large piles of dirt and construction materials that are there, maybe it will be a little more worthy of the residents of Ulster County."

    The Freeman has received dozens of letters and online comments about the new roundabout, several of which have been integrated into news coverage. Dennison said the feedback has been helpful in fine-tuning the new circle.

    "Articles and reader comments are invaluable and have already helped alert us to some items that needed adjustment," he wrote.

    One online commentator referred to the new circle as "malfunction junction."

    State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, said he receives calls regularly from people who want to comment or complain about the roundabout. Cahill said he has been assured by state transportation officials that many of the problems will be remedied by work yet to be done, which, besides signage and lighting, is to include removing old pavement and road stripes and installing curbs and guide rails.

    State Sen. William Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, said his office had received two or three complaints about the roundabout, while Langdon Chapman, a spokesman for state Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, said no calls have been received at his office.

    The new roundabout is smaller than the old circle - and has a lower speed limit - and access roads have been created so that drivers who merely need to move from one spoke to the next need not enter the roundabout.

    the original article




    Roundabout achieves goal: fewer accidents

    The Kingston Freeman
    March 24, 2001
    By Hallie Arnold, Freeman staff

    TOWN OF ULSTER - State transportation and local law-enforcement officials say the new roundabout at Thruway Exit 19 is accomplishing its intended goal: reducing accidents.

    "It's working. It may not seem like it is, but it is," said Colleen McKenna, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

    The old, larger traffic circle averaged eight accidents per month, McKenna said. But since being reduced from 600 feet to 200 feet in diameter, the junction that brings together Washington Avenue, Col. Chandler Drive, the Thruway exit and state Route 28 has had fewer crashes: five in the first month after the Dec. 6, 2000, opening, and only two in the second month.

    "We are well below the average," McKenna said.

    Law-enforcement officials agree. Paul Watzka, the newly appointed police chief in the town of Ulster, said that since Jan. 1, his officers have handled only six accidents at the roundabout.

    The new roundabout drew considerable criticism from drivers in the period immediately following its opening, but McKenna says the number of complaints has decreased as drivers have become more accustomed to the new setup.

    "We still get 'rip it up and put the old one back' occasionally, but for the most part, we have gotten more positive responses, which we're happy about," McKenna said.

    Many Freeman readers complained in letters to the editor and in postings on the newspaper's Internet site that the roundabout was confusing and dangerous. One man even gave it a nickname: "Malfunction Junction." But negative feedback has dissipated as initial problems - including a lack of lighting and insufficient signs - have been corrected.

    And there still is more work to be done, McKenna said, including road striping and the removal of blacktop from the old circle. Both of those projects should be done by the end of May, weather permitting, she said.

    Landscaping also will be done throughout the spring and summer.

    Besides being smaller than the old circle, the new roundabout has a lower speed limit, and access roads have been created that allow drivers to avoid the roundabout altogether if traveling only from one spoke to the next.

    the original article




    New Kingston-Ulster annexation fight looms

    The Kingston Freeman
    May 27, 2001
    By Paul Kirby, Freeman staff

    KINGSTON - An alderman who supports the city annexing the area near the state Thruway roundabout in the town of Ulster plans a petition drive to determine whether town property owners want to become part of Kingston.

    Charles Landi, D-Ward 3, said he will seek out property owners for their signatures on a petition that requests city annexation of land from the city line on Washington Avenue to the roundabout. The area contains 24 commercial and residential parcels, including some homes off Sawkill Road.

    In the past, property owners have signed petitions that were later voided as improperly drawn. This time, Landi said, he's got "legally pure" petitions and will hit the pavement to get them signed.

    "I will be carrying the petitions and meet with people over the next couple of weeks," he said. "Hopefully, since they have signed petitions already, and now that we have legal petitions, we can get on with the process of annexation."

    Town of Ulster officials are against annexation, but Landi said the process can be carried out legally with or without the support of local elected officials. Landi said if property owners want city sewer services and the town cannot supply them, those properties ought to be a part of the city.

    Landi said successful annexations have been accomplished in the past, and town residents who became city property owners are happy with the change.

    The alderman has objected to recent proposals for an arrangement that would allow city sewer services to be delivered to the town residents without annexation. Landi said anything less than annexation would be unfair to city residents who have paid for upgrades to the municipality's infrastructure over the years.

    Kingston Mayor T.R. Gallo objects to Landi's petition drive. Gallo has tried to arrange talks between town and city officials in order to develop a more amicable plan that would lead to sewer service to the roundabout area. No specifics have been agreed to, nor has any plan been developed.

    Gallo said Landi's petition drive is likely to aggravate Ulster officials and slow, or perhaps even prevent, sewer service to the town.

    "It is like pointing a loaded gun at their heads before the process even starts," Gallo said. "I think that this would be terrible for our intergovernmental relationship."

    Gallo said Landi should hold off on such a push until movement can be made on sewer service talks without annexation.

    Ulster Councilwoman Barbara Wise, a Republican, said that although Landi has every right to seek signatures, she hopes the alderman will let property owners know that if annexation takes place, their taxes will dramatically rise.

    Wise said the town of Ulster is among the lowest-taxed municipalities in Ulster County.

    "It may be less expensive for the property owners to wait for (talks) and see what can be worked out," said Wise, who added it probably would "take years" for annexation to occur because town leaders are steadfastly against it.

    Town Councilman Joel Brink, who is opposed to annexation, said the town should call a public meeting to provide property owners with information on what would happen if the city annexed their properties.

    "I would hope that property owners would give the town of Ulster a shot at answering their concerns before they sign petitions," Brink said. "Just because he (Landi) is going around doesn't mean he has the answers."

    Kingston Common Council President James Sottile, who provided Landi with the petitions after the alderman requested them, agreed taxes probably would go up for the affected property owners. But, the council leader said, there would be a huge benefit, too:

    "The value of their property would go up in a much larger proportion, making the land worth more."

    the original article




    Roundabout now it gets a special look

    The Kingston Freeman
    September 03, 2001
    By Hallie Arnold, Freeman staff


    One of the new stone walls at the roundabout incorporates a circular area where a sculpture may be placed by local officials.


    KINGSTON - 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.

    The designers 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."

    The most 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," Agrasto said.

    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 town of Ulster officials have heightened over procedural issues in the proposed annexation of town land between the city line and the Thruway roundabout.

    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 petition.

    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 the certification.

    "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 formal request."

    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.

    Among other 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 territory."

    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 be annexed.

    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 the redesigned traffic roundabout at Thruway Exit 19 opened to a flurry of public resistance.

    It 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.

    The 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.

    McKenna said 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."

    McKenna 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 access roads.

    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 Poughkeepsie.

    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 million expense.

    "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


    printable and ada compliant version

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