State, City Officials Talk Washington Street Redesign

Within hours of announcing it as a 2017 priority, Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, was contacted by officials from the state Department of Transportation about the potential redesign of Washington Street.

In January, Teresi released his 2017 State of the City annual report that details 2016 accomplishments and 2017 goals and initiatives. One of the 2017 goals is to work with the state Department of Transportation to launch a comprehensive effort to analyze, rethink and possibly redesign the entire Washington/Fluvanna arterial corridor from West Second Street in the downtown to the city line near Clifton Avenue.

In February, Teresi said he meet with officials from the State Department of Transportation Region 5, which includes the counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties, who were receptive and understood concerns about the arterial highway.

”They were very open. Within hours of announcing it (Washington Street redesign as a 2017 goal), a meeting was set up in Buffalo,” Teresi said. ”They pledged they would take a look at it as soon as they have the staff time to do so. The Region 5 office in Buffalo has a full plate of responsibilities for (four) counties in Western New York. They will look at it once they have the staff time to do so.”

Teresi said state officials have pledged they will be willing to look at long-term initiatives as well as short-term adjustments to address the concerns of city officials.

”They will look at easily implemented things first. Short-term prescriptions will be pursued. I would image from that standpoint that would include traffic light timing, improved signage and crosswalks,” Teresi said. ”The ball is in their court. We will wait for the first opportunity for it to be on their agenda.”

As far as what would an ideal Washington Street look like, Teresi said he will not announces his vision, but will let the experts at the state do their jobs.

”The best thing I can do is to allow the process to move forward with no upfront preconceived notions,” he said. ”The best approach will be left up to the professionals.”

Teresi did say there are concerns over vehicles and pedestrians, given the unfortunate accidents that have occurred along the highway. He said there is also concern over the speed of traffic through the entire length of Washington Street. He added that a complete streets look, with pedestrian and bicycle paths, is something he would like to see added to the highway.

No matter what is done, Teresi said a redesign cannot interrupt the main purpose of the highway, which is to be the primary truck traffic route through the city.

”All aspects have to peacefully coexist,” he said.

In the State of the City report, Teresi states the high volume, north-south state highway serves a variety of roles. He said it is vital access road to the city’s central business district and its emerging world-class visitor attractions. He added that Washington Street is also both a feeder and collector road to all of the Northside numbered streets that are residential neighborhoods.

The mayor said by redesigning Washington Street, it could possibly eliminate the pedestrian barrier that, with increased west end development during recent years, has increasingly separated the central business district into two distinct business neighborhoods. He also said the street is a barrier and public safety threat to pedestrians who live in the numbered streets neighborhoods who are trying to access Chadakoin Park and businesses on the west side of Washington Street.