OSWEGO — A project aimed at creating a more pedestrian and bike friendly West Seneca Street could be completed before the end of the year after the common council approved a construction contract Tuesday night.
The so-called West Seneca Street Bikeway project, which officials say would both aesthetically improve the streetscape and increase safety by instituting traffic calming measures, received final approval from the Oswego Common Council after more than three years of planning. Councilors approved a $724,622 contract with Hannibal-based W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating to complete the work before Dec. 31.
Port City officials have said the Bikeway project would create a better physical connection between SUNY Oswego and downtown, calm traffic, improve safety and create a more appealing visual aesthetic in the area.
“It is an initiative that should promote and encourage walkability and neighborhood activity in the area,” the mayor said. “We really need to focus on accommodating pedestrians and recreational neighborhood activity, just the same way we’ve accommodated vehicular traffic over the last thirty years.”
Officials said with the implementation of bike lanes, the city hopes to encourage pedestrian and cycling traffic along the corridor, which directly connects the college to downtown.
As part of the project, contractors are planning to install new curbing, sidewalks and curb bump-outs along with enhanced landscaping on West Seneca Street, from West Second Street to West Seventh Street. Roadway painting and enhanced crosswalks to slow traffic heading up and down the east-west running Seneca Street hill are also included.
Port City officials were awarded a $245,077 state grant in December 2016 through the state Regional Economic Development Council, and city officials earlier this year hired Liverpool-based Barton & Loguidice to complete design and engineering work for the project. Barlow said the city ran into several issues related to the sewer separation project in 2018 that delayed the Bikeway construction.
Earlier this year, Barlow said recent growth — and a desire to see continued growth — in the historic Port City neighborhood led officials to push for the Bikeway, but without significant safety measures put in place it could create an unsafe environment for cyclists.
“The high volume, high speed traffic is not conducive to neighborhood growth so we believe if we reduce the traffic and speed, we will only add to the revitalization efforts in this area of the city,” Barlow said at the time.
Councilor Ron Tesoriero, R-6th Ward, who ultimately voted against the project due to high costs, said a project with similar objectives to calm traffic on Syracuse Avenue achieved its goals.
“It drastically reduced the speeds down through there, which is good for the health and safety of everybody,” he said at last week’s committee meeting. “I think it’s a good project and I think it’s worthy. I think anytime we can slow traffic on some of these main roads it’s a bonus.”
Tesoriero said the Bikeway project would likely calm traffic and beautify the area, but called the city’s roughly $500,000 cost an “awful lot of money” and “a little exorbitant” for the scope of work.
The initial cost estimate for the project was $490,000, according to Barlow, who noted only two bids came back and both were well above the initial estimate. Barlow said the council could send the project back out to bid or attempt to scale back the project to cut costs, but councilors ultimately decided to move forward with W.D. Malone’s bid despite Tesoriero and Councilor John Gosek Jr., R-5th Ward, voting against the measure.
“The residents have been waiting since this first plan was unveiled in spring 2016 that we were going to apply for the grant,” Barlow said.
Members of the council, including Council President Rob Corradino, R-7th Ward, and Council Vice President Kevin Hill, R-3rd Ward, said funding for the project is in place and noted residents have been waiting for the project for more than two years. Councilor Susan McBrearty, D-1st Ward, who represents the area in which the project would be completed, said her constituents are “very excited” the project is progressing.