Sometimes we perceive our local governments as working behind closed doors. This opaque nature has a well deserved reputation developed in Albany’s history. Nonetheless, a good example of how an open government works was witnessed last week in Bethlehem Town Hall, as more than 100 residents gathered to participate in a planning study to improve one of the town’s major thoroughfares, Delaware Avenue.
The old Delaware Turnpike continues to be a well traversed road, connecting our town like a tether between Albany at our north and east and the Hilltowns to our west. Highways have long since made its toll days obsolete, but as anyone who drives on it each day, or tries to cross it, the road is no less busy. One resident at the Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting simply said you can’t cross Delaware Avenue. It’s a four-lane highway, and full of motorists. From our offices here at The Spotlight, it’s near impossible during the evening rush, and our offices are located on a stretch where it is only a two-lane street.
Delaware Avenue, and how to improve upon its safety and traffic concerns, has been the topic of discussion for several years. And, town residents sat inside the old elementary school to share their concerns, to speak with civil engineers and post their worries upon aerial maps. So far, engineers already see changes need to be made for pedestrians. Bicyclists, too, who use the neighboring The Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, need help accessing the new trail. Maybe placing the old road on a “diet,” trimming it down from four lanes to two may address a few of those concerns.
A skeptical eye need only look at the intersection of Delaware and Elsmere avenues, which lies just outside of scope of this project. The improvements made upon that corner within the past few years has made it a welcoming threshold into the heart of our community, before arriving at Four Corners. It, too, was placed on a road diet. Not to mention the landscaping and the improved road crossings for pedestrians — many of whom are elementary students making their way to Elsmere Elementary.
This is how government works. All it requires is an open door, and participants.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.