Beacon council to address parking, congestion on Main
By Jeff Simms
With success often come challenges and, in Beacon, that may be evident on Main Street more than anywhere else.
It’s on Main — the city’s mile-long major artery — that business is thriving, for the most part, although some shops have closed in recent months and the owners of some that remain open say rents are becoming unsustainable.
But on most weekends, and increasingly during the week, customer traffic is up considerably from a few years ago. That, too, has led to challenges.
Parking can be scarce and, with cars on both sides of the street, there’s not a lot of room — 32 to 34 feet — for two lanes of traffic, bikers, pedestrians, city buses and delivery trucks.
The City Council has Main Street on its agenda for a July 29 workshop and Council Member Jodi McCredo has proposed some fairly radical changes to address congestion. She’s asked the council to discuss removing parking from one side of Main to widen the driving lanes and add a dedicated bike lane. Alternatively, Main Street could become one-way.
The state Department of Transportation recommends 5-foot-wide bike lanes on streets with parking, but in places like Beacon where the road is narrow, “shared-lane markings” are required to indicate that bikers and motorists should travel in the same lane, rather than side by side.
“Main Street is just too narrow,” McCredo said in an interview. “If a bus or a truck is driving [in one direction] and the cars aren’t parked right against the curb on the other side, you can’t get past them. I’ve heard so many stories of people getting their side mirrors taken off that they don’t park on Main Street anymore.
“As a parent, I’m terrified to have my kids riding their bikes down Main,” she added. “It’s not working for the drivers or the bikers. It’s not working for anyone.”
While wider lanes might solve some problems, Mayor Randy Casale said he believes they would just create others.
“People will go faster down Main Street because it’s not as narrow,” he predicted, “so it becomes a speeding problem.” And if parking is removed from one side of the street, “where are all those people going to go to park?” he asked.
Casale said he’d rather see designated hours for delivery trucks to stop on Main and enforcement of a 12-inch-from-the-curb parking regulation as well as a campaign encouraging people to park elsewhere.
By comparison, Main Street in Cold Spring is 38 to 40 feet wide, Highway Crew Chief Robert Downey said, with parking spaces 8 to 10 feet wide. Beacon’s spaces on Main are about 8 feet wide. “Older towns have narrower streets because they were built for smaller cars,” Downey explained.
(In its Urban Street Design Guide, the National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends driving lanes be 10 feet wide and parking lanes be 7 to 9 feet and notes that “narrower streets help promote slower driving speeds which, in turn, reduces the severity of crashes.”)
During a public hearing on a proposed building moratorium during the City Council’s July 15 meeting, resident Elaine Ciaccio urged the council to do something about Main Street because “it’s becoming unpassable.” She also described driving on Main when a city bus approached in the opposite direction.
“With the way people park, I’m lucky I didn’t lose half my car,” she said. “Then you come around the bend by Howland [Avenue] and if somebody’s getting a delivery, you have to drive blind around the truck that’s double-parked on the corner.”
McCredo said that since much of the evidence for congestion is anecdotal — the county’s most recent traffic data for the street, from 2015, was virtually unchanged from 2014, and Beacon Police report 64 accidents on Main so far this year compared to 75 during the same period in 2018 — she hopes residents will attend council meetings and provide feedback on her ideas.
“If there’s support, I’m willing to fight for it,” she said.