OLEAN — A day of congestion should help clear up a busy — and confusing — intersection today.
This morning, workers will begin re-striping the westbound lanes of West State Street, correcting confusion over whether there are two straight lanes or one. DPW officials cautioned that the work will cause delays, and recommended motorists seek alternate routes.
Officials have been fielding complaints since West State was taken from two to one lane in each direction earlier this summer, said Bob Ring, director of public works. Vehicles can often be seen speeding up at the intersection, jockeying for the lead position in lines of traffic.
“That can cause a dangerous situation,” he said, with similar concerns over speeding vehicles the reason for taking the entire road from four to two lanes.
Compounding the issue is traffic flow — around 16,000 vehicles travel West State Street just east of the intersection every day, according to a state Department of Transportation study. Meanwhile, traffic on Route 417 just west of the intersection sees around 10,000 vehicles a day.
“They could be turning either way, but 40% of the traffic is turning there,” Ring said. “There’s a ton of traffic down there, and there is obviously a lot of people going to the shopping centers.
“You have to have a certain number of cars turn right in an hour,” to create a turning lane, he added, “and there’s more than enough.”
Work will begin in the early morning, and should be done by the end of the day.
“We’ll start at around 6:30 a.m.,” Ring said. “A couple of divisions are going to be working on it — Electrical and Streets. Electrical will be using a bucket truck to put up signs.”
The restriping of West State created three lanes of traffic — one in each direction plus a left turn lane. Shoulders were widened to decrease the chance of hitting sunken drains and to give a buffer to sidewalks. The street had the highest number of traffic accidents in the city before the project.
“Speed is the biggest factor in collisions,” Ring said, with speed increasing distances traveled during a person’s reaction time, as well as increasing kinetic energy involved in a collision.
The city will review collision data next summer to see how the new traffic pattern affects accidents along the street, he added.
“I’m very data-driven — and it should be,” he said. “We have to weigh it. It’s not the be-all, end all, but it’s a piece of the puzzle.”
The restriping had been long discussed, but was left unfunded until recently. In 2014, the Common Council approved the move, but aldermen never set aside funding to cover the painting. Only in April 2018 did the council approve funding as part of the 2018-19 budget.
The street was last repaved as a stimulus project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Ring said, and officials hope it will not need repaving for another decade.
For more information, call the DPW at 376-5650.