HUDSON — The city received approval for a project to improve pedestrian safety and accessibility throughout the city, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, said.
In 2019 the state Department of Transportation awarded Hudson a grant of $100,000 to install solar-powered crosswalk signals.
“Any Hudson resident will tell you that the best way to explore the city’s historic architecture, distinctive shops and enticing eateries is a leisurely stroll,” Barrett said. “This grant will help make Hudson more pedestrian-friendly and ADA-accessible, ensuring more people can safely experience its vibrant culture.”
Fifth Ward Alderman Dominic Merante is the program coordinator for the Independent Living Center at 802 Columbia St. in Hudson, which provides peer advocacy, benefits advisement, support groups, transportation and advocacy, among other services, for people with disabilities and their families.
A local citizen brought the issue of pedestrian safety at crosswalks to the attention of the Common Council at a meeting, so Merante decided to do some research. Nearly 10 months ago, the city requested funding for the project, which was verbally approved in October and officially announced Feb. 6.
The signals will be added at crosswalks not situated at traffic lights throughout the city. Sixteen units will be installed at eight crosswalks, most likely starting with the Columbia Street crosswalk by the emergency room, in front of Hudson Hall, and at 4th and Union between the courthouse and post office.
“Working with people with disabilities and visual impairment, they kind of work their safe passage with what’s available,” Merante said.
“The hospital crosswalks on Columbia Street and Prospect Avenue will certainly be considered as well as the dangerous crossings of the truck route on Columbia,” Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said.
Moore said traffic safety and pedestrian signals had been discussed frequently at Police Committee meetings in the past couple of years.
“Alderman Dominic Merante was particularly active in searching out grant money to fund our various ideas,” Moore said. “His recent request and approval to purchase pedestrian signals can only further increase safety within the city. We have met several times in order to identify those crosswalks that seem the most problematic and generate the most complaints. Alderman Merante has taken this issue to heart and deserves credit for his ability to get it done.”
Merante researched pedestrian crosswalk signals for installation near the high school in a high foot-traffic area. Traffic calming measures have since been installed, including a solar-powered speedometer. He is hoping that eventually sidewalks will connect the high school to town.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Rob Perry said now that the city has an executed contract with the DOT, the next steps are creating an account to purchase materials and supplies, deciding which units to procure, issuing a Request for Proposal for the desired units, receiving the equipment and associated hardware and initiating installation.
Perry said the bid process will take about a month and delivery time will be another month, but the sooner a decision is made regarding which units are most desirable, the sooner the project will advance.
“It’s important that people feel safe walking in Hudson and crosswalk signals can make an intersection safer,” ADA Coordinator and Mayoral Aide Michael Chameides said. “Safe streets make a more just city, a better quality of life and improve our economy.”
The award is a reimbursement grant, which means the city would have to pay for the project up front and then be reimbursed from the DOT.
“I am grateful to Assemblywoman Barrett for her work and commitment,” Mayor Kamal Johnson said. “This grant is one of the first steps addressing some of the traffic concerns here in Hudson. We have a lack of crosswalks, and dangerous intersections that make it hard for parents with strollers, people using wheelchairs, and all of us alike. Our thoroughfares are traveled by large trucks. As a collective of elected officials, we need to prioritize a more walkable, bikeable city, with safe streets that are accessible to all.”
Hudson has been plagued with ADA noncompliance in recent years. The city reached a settlement with the federal government on Oct. 23, 2019 after being sued under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 due to a complaint from three unnamed citizens that there was no ADA access to public gathering spaces such as City Hall at 520 Warren St. and Promenade Hill Park, as well as inaccessible sidewalks throughout the city.
Other locations were also investigated:
Property owners are responsible for maintaining their sidewalks. The city’s Code Enforcement Department is tasked with holding them accountable.
Merante said the crosswalk project is not related to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, but it will improve ADA conditions because the buttons will be at wheelchair level, the times can be customized, and it provides audible cues to alert pedestrians when to cross.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Complete Streets Act in 2011, requiring state, county and local agencies to take into account convenience and mobility of all users when new transportation projects are developed using state or federal funding.
A “Complete Street” is one designed to consider safe mobility to drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation riders, including the elderly, children and those with disabilities.
Merante said the new signals will use solar energy, eliminating the need to run electricity to new signs in areas that may not have it, and will meet the Complete Streets Act’s goal of a “cleaner, greener transportation system.” He said he hopes the next step is coming up with a comprehensive plan for tackling the city’s sidewalk issues.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect new information.