Some plans for Four Corners in Hartsdale are slowly making their way into the limelight, two years after White Plains-based engineering and planning consultant AKRF was selected to perform an infrastructure analysis and redevelopment plan for that area.
At a Greenburgh town board work session Aug. 24, Commissioner of Community Development and Conservation Garrett Duquesne provided updates on multiple traffic and pedestrian-focused projects in Hartsdale. Only hints of AKRF’s traffic and pedestrian analysis for planned improvement were presented, but Duquesne said the engineering consultant would meet with the board in September to present a fully fleshed out traffic control mitigation plan and the strategy for traffic improvements on E. Hartsdale Avenue. He said the consultant would present an analysis on area flooding in either October or November.
Beacon at Central and Lawton avenues
After two pedestrians, ages 11 and 14, were hit by a car in the crosswalk on Central Park Avenue at Lawton Avenue in October 2019, discussions began regarding ways to make the crosswalk safer. In March 2020, the town board unanimously approved a $150,000 contract with AKRF to expand the scope of its pedestrian safety and traffic signal analysis to include infrastructure improvements to the crosswalk.
According to Duquesne, the town received a $160,000 multimodal grant from New York State to build a high intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) beacon and other pedestrian enhancements at the site. He said the design was approved by the State Department of Transportation, which holds authority over Central Avenue since it is a state roadway. According to a preliminary design by AKRF in October 2020, the sidewalk on either side of the current crosswalk on Central Avenue bumps out further into the roadway to reduce the distance pedestrians would have to cross. The pedestrian-activated signals would be installed at the intersection in both the north and southbound directions. Unlike a flashing warning yellow beacon, the HAWK system signals cars to come to a complete stop while also signaling pedestrians when it is safe to cross the road. According to a video Duquesne shared with the Inquirer to explain the system, once pedestrians activate the HAWK signal, they have a limited amount of time to cross the street just like any normal crosswalk at a traffic signal. Duquesne said the town looked at installing a full-on traffic signal at the intersection, but it didn’t meet the threshold requirements by the state.
Duquesne said the HAWK system didn’t require a traffic study prior to installation because it is only activated sporadically. When asked whether the proposed enhancements would encourage more people to use the intersection, and thus, increase the number of pedestrian crossings, Duquesne said although more people might be more comfortable crossing with the enhanced safety features, he didn’t believe it would be an issue.
“We did have to send [the state] information in support of the HAWK and it did have pedestrian counts. So that analysis was really fleshed out with the state,” he said. “If they had a concern that the system was going to be thrown off in terms of timing, they certainly wouldn’t have approved this.”
The town board is set to vote to approve the project’s contractor at a board business meeting this month. If passed, Duquesne said he expects the signal to be installed sometime in early 2022.
Central Avenue sidewalk
A project to build approximately 3,400 linear feet of sidewalk from Marion Avenue to Four Corners on the west side of Central Park Avenue is coming to a close. The three-year-long planning project which is now four months into construction is expected to be completed in about another month, according to Duquesne, who called it “probably one of the most difficult sidewalks that will ever be constructed in the town of Greenburgh.”
The approximately $1.5 million project was funded through $1.05 million in grants, with the remainder funded by the town. Duquesne said the project was operating about $30,000 under budget.
The town hit a roadblock though when excavation revealed a significantly deteriorated pipe in the private driveway between the Fountain Diner and Safavieh Home Furnishings. Duquesne said the town received a $99,000 quote to repair the pipe and driveway and he said the contractor wouldn’t build a sidewalk in front of the area without guaranteeing that the pipe and driveway were fixed.
“Without this sidewalk portion, the project will not be deemed a full success,” said Duquesne, who requested that the town board approve additional funds to fix the issue so the project could move forward.
Duquesne said the town was working with the property owners, who are legally required to maintain the infrastructure on their property, to share the cost of the additional construction.
The board members supported a motion to allocate an additional $100,000 for the project. In addition, if both or one of the property owners didn’t agree to share the cost with the town, then the board would ask the property owner who disagreed with the match to cover 100% of the cost and put a lien against the property to recover the funds.
“We can’t hold up a major project like this because there’s a collapsing pipe under their driveway,” said Councilman Francis Sheehan.
North Washington Avenue sidewalk
According to Duquesne, the town has received positive feedback and constructive comments from Westchester County on its $250,000 community development block grant application to construct 2,200 linear feet of sidewalk on North Washington Avenue. In May 2021, the town voted unanimously on a resolution to match the grant.
Duquesne said he felt confident the town would receive the grant.
W. Hartsdale Avenue sidewalk, E. Hartsdale traffic improvements and updated traffic signal
The town has submitted paperwork to the state during its pre-application process to request a $5 million grant for several projects around East and West Hartsdale avenues: a 6,000-linear-foot sidewalk on the southern portion of W. Hartsdale Avenue from Four Corners to the Leffell School near Pat Capone Road, update the E. Hartsdale Avenue traffic signals from the Hartsdale train station to Four Corners and add traffic-calming and pedestrian improvements to the E. Hartsdale corridor. If accepted, the grant would be an 80/20 match by the town.
The traffic light improvements (also known as an adaptive traffic control system) is set to respace traffic lights across the avenue to sync their function with the corridor’s volume. The new system would be synced with the traffic signal at Four Corners and give priority to vehicles on E. and W. Hartsdale avenues during peak hours in the morning and afternoon.
Because the lights will prioritize E. and W. Hartsdale avenues during peak volume, cars on Central Avenue will queue for a longer period of time, though Duquesne told the Inquirer there was value in having cars on Central Avenue wait longer to relieve east and westbound congestion.
AKRF is set to present other pedestrian and traffic safety improvements to E. Hartsdale Avenue this month.
Hartsdale Neighbors Association president Eric Zinger was disappointed with the slow pace of Four Corners revitalization. He thought earlier discussions about improvements to public safety in Hartsdale during the August work session had been fruitful.
“The only time that Four Corners was a priority was when I was a candidate for town council,” said Zinger. “The proof is evident in the speed at which things are being done.”