Gateway to Binghamton:
Mayor Ryan and Partners Break Ground on Court Street Gateway Project
Improvements include the street’s first repaving in 25 years, multi-faceted streetscaping, reverse angle parking, traffic calming devices, water main valve replacements and a modern roundabout at the Court/Chenango Street intersection
$2.7 million Phase I investment funded 95% by federal and state funds and will support 23 local jobs; roundabout feature will improve traffic flow, accounts for just $37,500 in City funds and will save more than $260,000 over 20 years
Project one of many City has undertaken in recent years with federal and state funds; despite strong advocacy by Congressman Hinchey, Senator Gillibrand and others, such projects have slowed in last two years due to budget cuts in Washington and Albany
BINGHAMTON, NY—Mayor Matt Ryan and community partners today broke ground on the Court Street Gateway project, which will upgrade Court Street between Water Street and Chenango Street.
The project will include the street’s first repaving in 25 years, multi-faceted streetscaping, reverse angle parking, traffic calming devices, water valve replacements and a modern roundabout at the Court/Chenango Street intersection. The $2.7 million project is 80% federally-funded, 15% state-funded and 5% locally-funded, and will support 23 jobs between now and completion this coming November, including 20 jobs in construction, two in design and one for inspection.
“This project is an important part of downtown’s revitalization,” said Mayor Ryan. “These long-overdue infrastructure improvements will improve traffic flow, beautify the area and attract additional residents, visitors, businesses and other investment, and the project itself will support more than 20 good jobs. This is the type of work that is moving Binghamton in the right direction, and we’re looking forward to making more progress.”
The federal and state funds are available exclusively for this project. In other words, law prohibits the City from using this money for any other purpose whatsoever, be it street paving, sewer repairs or otherwise.
“Some have said that we should funnel these funds to other projects, but that’s simply not an option under the law,” said Mayor Ryan. “The federal government stipulates that these funds are available for this gateway project and nothing else. Instead of missing out, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to renew the public assets along Binghamton’s central business corridor. That’s what responsible government does, and we’re proud to deliver.”
Streetscaping and New Parking Spaces
The project’s streetscaping portion will include period style lighting, sidewalk repairs, 24 benches, 44 tree plantings, more than 1,000 flowers and shrubberies and two new kiosks featuring information on the downtown historic district’s shopping opportunities, restaurants, entertainment venues and parking options. The project also will create a total of 12 diagonal parking spaces on the north side of Court Street, between Water Street and Collier Street.
“The Court Street Gateway Project is another step in the right direction for downtown, and we are happy to be part of it,” said Marc Newman of Newman Development Group, which this fall will open the Twin River Commons student housing project off of Riverside Drive. “We are very optimistic about Greater Binghamton.”
Nicole Howard, Chair of the Gorgeous Washington Street Association and Catering Manager at the Lost Dog Café, added, “As a group whose focus is to bring things both pleasing to the eye and to the soul to Downtown Binghamton, Gorgeous Washington Street Association is ready. We eagerly await the start and completion of the Court Street Gateway Project. We are excited to not only visually enhance our Downtown, but also make it easier for our visitors to get to the numerous art galleries, shops and restaurants. Talk about Big Art in a Little City!”
Traffic Calming Devices and Water Valve Replacements
The project will help calm traffic with islands running down the middle of the street. In addition, the City already has taken advantage of the opportunity to replace several aged water main valves along the route.
“I would like to applaud the efforts of all the partners involved with this gateway project, especially our departments of Public Works and Engineering,” said City Councilwoman Lea Webb, whose district includes downtown. “Our city’s infrastructure is an essential component of improving neighborhood safety and the aesthetics of our community. I support and will continue to partner on efforts to improve the quality of our downtown for residents and small businesses. Investments in downtown play an important role in attracting development for our entire city.”
In replacing the signals at the intersection of Court, Chenango and Exchange Street, the roundabout will improve traffic flow in several ways. For one, it will allow westbound traffic on Court Street to make a left-hand turn onto Exchange Street, which currently is prohibited. The roundabout also will eliminate the need for motorists to stop for long periods at the intersection, thereby reducing idling, pollution and wait times.
In addition, replacing the signals will eliminate approximately $8,000 per year in operating, maintenance and equipment costs, and another $100,000 every 20 years to replace the signal. In sum, the roundabout will save City taxpayers about $260,000 every 20 years.
“The roundabout is a ‘win’ all the way around,” said Mayor Ryan. “It not only will streamline traffic flow, but also reduce gas use, improve air quality and save public dollars. That will benefit motorists, pedestrians, area businesses and all taxpayers. This is a small upfront investment that will pay significant long-term dividends. The roundabout’s benefits definitely outweigh the costs.”
The roundabout portion of the project will cost a total of $750,000, of which the City will pay just $37,500. Once again, the federal and state portion of the total amount is available only for the roundabout. Law prohibits the City from using this money for any other purpose.
“The roundabout’s savings will pay off its costs in just under five years, and save us even more down the line,” said Mayor Ryan. “This amenity was the right call from all angles.”
Accommodating Downtown Businesses, Workers, Residents and Visitors
Despite ongoing construction, the route and access to area establishments will remain open to pedestrians and motorists at all times, although the number of available lanes may be restricted and some detours may be necessary. To enable citizens to plan trips downtown, the City will announce any restrictions ahead of time through news releases, a dedicated page on the City website, Facebook and Twitter.
The City and Shumaker Engineering also have coordinated with area stakeholders to ensure that annual downtown events can proceed as usual, including the Greater Binghamton Bridge Run, Memorial Day Parade, July Fest/Jazz Fest, Parlor City 5-K Race and construction of the Green Man Park on the corner of Court and State Street.
“The Downtown Binghamton Business Association thanks the City and its contractors for undertaking this project in a way that allows all our businesses to remain open and our community events to take place uninterrupted,” said Ron Sall, President of the Downtown Binghamton Business Association and owner of Sall-Stearns. “The Court Street Gateway will make downtown even more attractive and dynamic, and fits very well with the other downtown investments and events now on the horizon, including our 50th annual July Fest.”
“We see the Court Street Gateway Project as having a very positive impact,” said Roger Luther, President of the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier (PAST), which worked with the City to design Green Man Park. “We support this bold project and look forward to its completion. This will prove to be a very exciting spring and summer in terms of improving our city now and for future generations, and PAST is very pleased to contribute to the effort with the upcoming construction of Green Man Park, a monument in commemoration of Binghamton’s architectural heritage.”
Infrastructure Improvements Citywide, But Slowing Due to Federal and State Cuts
The Court Street Gateway Project is an example of how the City is improving municipal infrastructure across Binghamton by tapping federal and state grants. Other major projects of this sort include the City’s successful efforts to repave all of Main Street, Glenwood Avenue and Park Avenue; repairs to all three parking ramps; and the full reconstruction of Robinson Street, East Hampton Road and Snow/Sumner and Cleveland Avenue.
Despite strong advocacy for public investments by Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Senator Kirstin Gillibrand and other officials, projects with federal and state funding have decreased considerably in the last two years due to budget cuts in Washington and Albany.
Congressman Hinchey said, “Mayor Ryan and I have been fighting for years to restore Binghamton’s downtown to greatness. I secured funds to create a new intermodal bus hub and improve the Front Street gateway. We’ve worked to bring student housing and Binghamton University to downtown, and we’ve begun to remove the blight and decay that was allowed to occur in previous years. Now we’re taking another step with federal resources I helped secure to beautify Court Street and Chenango Street. This project is one of many efforts that taken together will make downtown Binghamton more inviting to families and businesses, and help usher in a new era of growth.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “During these tough economic times it is important that we make the necessary upgrades to our infrastructure. Not only do these improvements create jobs, but they help our communities to thrive and grow. The downtown Binghamton streetscape improvement will improve our small business districts and help revitalize our local economy.”
Later this spring, Mayor Ryan will announce the 2012 Street Rehabilitation Program, which will feature additional infrastructure improvements.
The Court Street Gateway Project grew out of the City’s Access Study and subsequent Gateway Vision plan, which was guided by the Binghamton Metropolitan Transportation Study (BMTS). The City’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan also identified the Court Street Gateway Project as important to making downtown more walkable, drivable and attractive to residents and businesses.
“BMTS looks forward to the completion of the Court Street Gateway Project,” said Cindi Paddick, Executive Director of BMTS. “The project was initiated as a result of several planning studies and extensive community input that realized the importance of improving the ‘Gateway’ streets into the City of Binghamton. Our hope is that this project will act as a catalyst to further improvements and economic activity in downtown Binghamton as well as improving traffic flow for all modes of transportation.”
Phase II of the Court Street Gateway Project spans from Chenango Street to Chapman Street, but federal and state funding for this work has yet to receive approval. Other City projects in the Gateway Vision Plan include the Washington Street Gateway Project, the Front Street Gateway Project and the Front/Clinton Street Reconstruction Project. These projects also are on hold pending approval of funding.
“We need Washington and Albany to reinvest in our public infrastructure,” said Mayor Ryan. “That is a key to strengthening our economy. The need is there, and it’s growing worse every day, both here in Binghamton and nationwide. I commend Congressman Hinchey, Senator Gillibrand and our other leaders who are calling for reinvestment in our local communities, and I call on all our leaders to take up the effort to rebuild America’s Main Streets, create jobs and support our small businesses.”
Shumaker Consulting Engineering & Land Surveying, P.C. stated, “We are excited to see the City of Binghamton providing this type of initiative to our City’s landscape. We appreciate the substantial public input that has assisted our firm and the City government in arriving at this enhancement to the primary downtown business corridor of the City. Once this first phase of the City’s gateway program is completed it will foster the continued redevelopment of the City. Enhancement projects such as this demonstrate the City’s dedication to the downtown area in continuing to attract people and businesses to the heart of the region. It is crucial to improve the perception of the City and increase mobility so that economic benefits are realized by the entire community. Court Street is the primary gateway to the City and this project shows the City’s commitment to the businesses located along the Court Street corridor.”
The City is covering its portion of the Court Street Gateway Project by bonding.