Assemblyman Tom Abinanti has made it possible for the Village of Dobbs Ferry to apply for an $80,000 grant, through the state Department of Transportation, to develop a capital project promoting pedestrian safety. The undertaking must be pre-approved by the State, and though the Village isn’t required to provide matching funds, it must implement the project and then apply for reimbursement. 

At the Oct. 26 village board meeting, Russell Scott of the Village’s consultants, Nelson Pope Engineering, aired a conceptual plan to address the intersection and Ashford Avenue and Storm Street. The four-way intersection has no traffic light, and no pedestrian-operated flashing lights. In addition, Ashford widens at that point, and its curve at the crest of a hill can obscure drivers’ sightlines. There are crosswalks across Storm Street and across Ashford. At times a crossing guard is on duty at the latter crosswalk.

At 43 Ashford Avenue, the Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church houses the Christian Pre-School. Since the church has no parking lot, only street parking is available for drivers dropping off and picking up children. On foot, parents or caregivers — sometimes with children in tow — dash across the portion of Ashford Avenue that has no crosswalk. 

The intersection has been scrutinized. During a Jan. 26 village board meeting, PTSA Safe Routes Committee members Teresa Williams and Betsy Lynn called for “pedestrian refuge” or “refuge islands” as well as curb extensions. During a Sept. 30 walking tour led by Our Streets, a citizen advocacy organization, County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, Ellen Hendrickx of County Executive George Latimer’s office, and Dobbs Ferry Mayor Vincent Rossillo were in a group that stopped at that intersection. 

In an Oct. 21 memo to the village board, Interim Village Administrator Richard Leins included Scott’s notes, which stated, “There is a heavy right-turn movement from Ashford Avenue to Storm Street and the vehicles use the extra roadway width to drive around cars that are backed up waiting for the traffic signal at Walgrove Avenue. This creates a dangerous condition for the pedestrians and crossing guard crossing Storm Street.”

Vehicles turning right from Ashford onto Grandview Avenue create a similar danger by driving around other vehicles queuing to allow pedestrians to use the crosswalk across Ashford. 

Scott also noted that vehicles exiting Storm Street onto Ashford have limited sight distance, and therefore pull up past their stop sign and its stop bar to see traffic, creating unsafe conditions for pedestrians. 

Scott presented two versions of a conceptual plan for discussion. One proposed painting striping to narrow Ashford Avenue in front of the church; building pedestrian curb extensions (“bulb-outs”); installing pedestrian-operated push-button solar-powered Regular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) lights at the ends of the crosswalk that spans Ashford; and installing a pedestrian crossing warning sign alongside the Little White Church Cemetery on Ashford Avenue.

An alternative plan made the lane narrowing more obvious by having the Ashford lane center stripe expand into a narrow crosshatched area in front of the church. 

Both plans included the same bulb-outs, three crosswalks, RRFBs, a pedestrian crossing warning sign, and a defined lane striping between the intersection and the Walgreens parking lot entrance/exit.

The board discussed which aspects of the plans would be feasible within the $80,000 budget. 

The Traffic Committee believes a crosswalk at the nursery school is necessary; Scott doesn’t recommend a fourth crosswalk. “Two additional rapid flashing beacons would add $25,000 to the project.” He also noted that “People who are coming east on Ashford, they park mostly on the other side, where it’s really wide there, and they just cross over, so those people are probably not going to use the crosswalk anyway; they’re probably just going to go across the street.” 

“Putting a stop sign there is an option,” Scott add, “but it’s going to be backing up the traffic. It’s a capacity versus a safety thing. When there aren’t people on that crosswalk, now you’re stopping traffic from flowing freely 24 hours a day. It’s a big free-for-all there.”

If the board approves a concept plan, the next step will be for a full design. Rossillo wants to include bike lanes in that design. 

Trustee Larry Taylor wants a village representative, perhaps Scott, to visit the nursery school when people are coming and going, “so we can have an observation of how much risk is being taken when someone is going across there.” Trustee Donna Cassell and the mayor agreed that a visit to the school is important, but that the plans seem to take care of all the issues. Rossillo favored going forward with the plans, with some tweaks, before settling on a final proposal to submit to the State for approval. 

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