Councilors voted 5 to 1 against the change, citing the impact it would have on the surrounding area and the potential to increase hazards rather than decrease them.
“I don’t think we’ve thought through the risks clearly enough to warrant a change,” Councilor Amy Valentine (D-Ward 5) said.
Councilor Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 1) said changing the traffic would actually force more cars to travel in front of the Oval residences.
Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6), who lives on Oak Street, a one-way street, said people tend to speed more on one-way streets.
Councilor George Rabideau (R-Ward 3) said the existing bike path already serves as a recreation area for non-motorized traffic.
Councilor Amy Valentine (D-Ward 5) said she was concerned about how much it would cost to convert the road and how it would be enforced.
Councilor Timothy Carpenter (D-Ward 1) wanted to know if emergency vehicles would be hampered by one-way traffic.
Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem James Calnon (I-Ward 4), who was chairing Thursday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Donald Kasprzak, who was out of town, noted that few accidents occur on the oval. Link
Oh well, it was worth the effort and the fight will continue.
WHY A ONE-WAY WORKS
By Luke Cyphers
The Press-Republican yesterday gave its thumbs-down to a proposal before the Common Council to make car traffic on the U.S. Oval one-way, with the inner lane devoted to non-motorized recreation. While I applaud the paper for its candid rationale—citing convenience for cars going to the Oval on business—there are several other reasons that make a one-way a good idea for the neighborhood and the broader community.
The U.S. Oval is zoned as an RC3 district, devoted to recreation and related use, making it unique in the city. The Oval is already one of Plattsburgh’s main parks, serving the entire city and county. Youth soccer players cover the fields every spring and fall, law-enforcement and ROTC trainees do drills on it throughout the year, toddlers clamber over its playground equipment, and it’s a place where fathers and sons (and mothers and daughters) play catch. An interior recreation lane for walkers, runners, bikers and in-line skaters—usable at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m., in summer or winter—not only fits within the guidelines of city zoning rules, it is perfectly suited to the area’s lawfully ordained purpose. The PR effectively says commercial uses in the neighboring RC2 zoning district should override the recreational uses.
Supporters of a one-way believe there should be a balance.
The Oval was built for exercise and fitness. For a century, the area provided for training of troops, rigorous exercise and competitive sports. The fact that the Oval is exactly a mile around is no accident. One lap is literally a milestone, making it easy to measure one’s fitness and set goals. The space is an irresistible lure for anyone interested in healthy recreation. Rather than try to override the original design and the current zoned uses, the city should embrace and enhance them.
TRAFFIC, SAFETY AND HEALTH
The Oval was designed and built long before cars were a part of mainstream America. And speed limits on the Oval during its years as a military base were far lower than the current 30 mph. Oval residents have been told current traffic codes mandate a minimum speed limit of 30 except in school zones. We got a grim reminder of how fast that is several months ago when a neighbor’s dog darted into the road chasing a squirrel, was hit by a car, and died. It wasn’t the driver’s fault. But it did reinforce the need to do something to limit potential disaster, especially with the inevitable traffic increase from dozens of new condos being developed near the city gym. One-way traffic will help people, especially young people, because they’ll only have to look,well, one way to cross the street.
Beyond that, the benefits of encouraging exercise in a safe, free location are obvious. Exercise decreases heart disease and diabetes, which results in lowered health-care bills for individuals and society.
Last year when my wife, Lisa, collected more than 80 signatures (in less than a week) in support of a one-way, she found a great deal of diversity among users. People from around the city, employees on the base on their lunch hour and residents from as far away as Rouses Point all signed the petition. The place is already a fitness destination.
And the Oval can be part of a broader strategy to attract new residents to Plattsburgh. It always irks me to see Burlington lauded as one of Outside Magazine’s top places to live for fitness and recreation enthusiasts. Plattsburgh is in many ways better situated, with lower housing costs, a more laid-back attitude and access to water and mountains that is nearly unparalleled. Plattsburgh can cultivate those assets and amenities to attract not only more residents who enjoy bike rides along the path, or fishing in the Saranac, or kayaking on the lake, but also more sports-related businesses such as kids’ summer sports camps and tournaments.
Common sense says the conversion of the U.S. Oval to one-way traffic decreases the probability of a tragic accident. A one-way will also get out in front of future development to balance the needs of the area’s zoned residential, commercial and recreational uses. But another byproduct is that it will send a positive message that this community values fitness, sports and health, and that the city welcomes those who value the same things.
Luke Cyphers is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine and lives on the U.S. Oval.
Contact your city councilor and make your opinion known.