RBA to Design New Phase of Tookany Creek Trail

Plans are progressing for Phase III of the Tookany Creek Trail.  According to the master plan completed in1999, the four-phase project will create a 2.2-mile trail running along Tookany Creek from Central Avenue in Cheltenham Village to High School Park in Elkins Park.

Phases I and II created the existing trail that begins near Central Avenue and ends just before New Second Street in Tookany Park.  Phase III will extend the trail from that point to Harrison Avenue in Elkins Park.

Federal and state grants totaling $663,000 along with a 20 percent match from the township were used to finance the first two phases, according to township manager Bryan Havir.  Phases III and IV will be financed by a $500,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and a $125,000 township match.  Havir said he’s on the lookout for additional grant funding.

Phase III will run through an area of little used public land along the creek. The project’s designer, The RBA Group, presented a revised plan to the commissioners in April.  It includes a 10 foot paved path with a bioswale (vegetated water retention area) to help control runoff and a 135 foot prefabricated footbridge bridge crossing the creek near New Second Street.  An ADA-compliant crosswalk with flashing beacons at New Second Street will connect the trail sections.

The revised plan also includes a path realignment that was needed because the original path was in the creek’s flood plain. The Cheltenham Little League Association agreed to remove their T-ball field at Gimble Park and move a fence at their baseball field to allow for the changes.

In response to neighbors’ concerns voiced at a February public meeting on the project, the township agreed to provide additional security along the path, provide warning signs for flood prone areas, remove heavy debris from the creek, and address the elimination of invasive plants.

Final project designs are expected by September.  The construction start date, which will be influenced by the timeline for area sewer improvements, is uncertain.  More details are available here.

Article by Edie Cerebi, courtesy of citizenscall.net

Long Beach Safety Initiative – The City Lowers Speed Limit to 25 mph on Residential Streets

By JOHN ASBURY of Newsday

A new 25 mph speed limit sign sits at the corner of Park Ave. and Neptune in Long Beach, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa.

The Long Beach City Council has voted to reduce the city’s speed limit to 25 mph on residential and side streets and to synchronize stoplights to keep traffic on its main thoroughfare under 30 mph.

City officials agreed earlier this month to lower the speed limit, unless otherwise posted, to 25 mph, which is the lowest speed possible without state legislation. Some streets — such as the “canal streets,” the “president streets” and parts of the West End — have been lowered to 15 mph.

The council’s move is aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists as part of “The Long Beach Safety Initiative.” The ordinance takes effect as soon as new signs are made and posted, likely in the next few weeks, officials said.

Speed limits had been set at 30 mph on most city streets.

Auto collisions with pedestrians and bicycles have fluctuated in the past three years. There were 27 bicycle crashes and 20 pedestrians struck last year, resulting in two deaths. There was one fatality in 2013, 11 pedestrians hit and 31 bicycle collisions.

The city’s main corridor of Park Avenue will remain at 30 mph, but will now have synchronized stoplights on the street from Riverside Boulevard to New York Avenue. The stoplights were originally set to 35.

Roadway in New York City’s Washington Heights is Being Replaced by a Pedestrian Plaza with Playfully Meandering Paving

New York City recently broke ground on a 14,000-square-foot public plaza in Washington Heights with a very wavy paving design. The Plaza de Las Americas  is intended to reference town squares found in the Caribbean, Central and South America. It was designed for the city by the RBA Group, a landscape architecture and engineering consulting firm.

The plaza’s design does feel reminiscent of the monochromatic wavy designs of the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx like the 1970 Copacabana Promenade, itself influenced by the Portuguese paving patterns of the 1930s. In more modern times, the design also reminds us of Bjarke Ingels‘ Superkilen park in Copenhagen.

Plaza de Las Americas will replace a block of roadway between a grocery store and an old theatre. The city says the plaza is designed to enhance the local markets that currently operate on the site by offering water and electrical system to vendors’ booths. The plaza will also include new trees, benches, “pedestrian scale lighting,” cafe seating, an information kiosk, and an artsy fountain by Ester Partegás.

When completed early next year, the space will host public events including concerts, dance shows, art and craft fairs, performances, and poetry readings.

Article and photos courtesy of NYC DDC & DOT

2015 New Jersey Bike & Walk Summit

The RBA Group is proud to have contributed as a sponsor for the 2015 NJ Bike & Walk Summit.  Over 200 attendees participated in this annual event.  Two RBA panel sessions, on bicycle stress-level mapping and complete streets for vibrant downtowns, were well attended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

RBA Leading the way with an Innovative Approach to Coastal Resiliency Design after Hurricane Sandy

Article By Tom Stabile featured on http://newyork.construction.com

Superstorm Sandy’s direct hit in 2012 on Broad Channel in Queens made the coastal community a poster child of the storm’s devastation, with nearly every house on the tiny island in Jamaica Bay swamped by several feet of water. But when New York City’s Department of Design and Construction started a $28-million roadway reconstruction and bulkhead project there last spring, it was targeting a more chronic and crippling problem—regular flooding of community streets at high tide.

Queens Road Project Takes the Unconventional Path Flooding In: When wind, barometric and tidal conditions all align unfavorably, West 11th, 12 and 13th roads can flood with up to 2 ft of water. Photo by Island Swann Studios

“The water went up 8 feet in the street and halfway up the first floor of the houses in Sandy,” says Joseph Branco, president at EIC Associates, the project’s Springfield, N.J.-based general contractor. “But this is going to fix the everyday tidal situation. At high tide, half of those streets can get flooded.”

The project is elevating three streets that stand below the mean high tide level and flood with up to 2 ft of water when wind, barometric, and tidal conditions all align unfavorably, says Ahmed Bashjawish, DDC deputy director. That occurs all too often on West 11th, 12th, and 13th roads, he notes.

“The federal government is granting people money to raise the foundations of their homes,” Bashjawish points out. “The city wants to solve the street flooding problems for the long term.”

But the flooding problem has resulted in a complex project that goes beyond just adding a few feet of pavement. It involves an array of tasks that require careful orchestration—including building large bulkheads, outfall structures and erosion barriers; installing underground retaining walls and a new storm sewer; replacing utilities above and below ground; and incorporating a unique “shared street” design. DDC is handling the work on behalf of the city’s transportation and environmental protection departments.

The project is set to run through June 2017, with the battery of excavation, pile-driving, utilities placement, outfall construction and road paving taking about a year on each street. DDC and the project team have been studying ways to accelerate the schedule by completing some tasks simultaneously, Bashjawish says.

“We’re looking at various methods and means to see if there’s a way that we could finish quicker,” he says, noting that a second project that will conduct similar improvements on other Broad Channel streets is now in design.

Raising the Road

The current project’s end result will be quite different from a standard city street reconstruction, says Joseph Menzer, senior associate at RBA Group, the project’s design architect. The crowded, 700-ft-long streets in the waterfront neighborhood already are atypical.

Residents “use their streets in a very suburban sort of way, where kids are out in the streets playing,” he says. “These are dead end streets [with] local only traffic … that are almost like an extension of the front yards of the homes.”

The flooding problems, parking needs, narrow streets half the width of normal New York City roadways and quaint usage have all fed into a design solution that will have no local precedent. Starting with the core need to raise the road elevation by 2 ft, RBA decided to tap the “shared street” concept from Europe, which blends street and sidewalk into a single, flush surface, Menzer says.

“It’s going to be the first installation of such a type of system in New York City,” he says. “It’s almost like a pilot program.”

The idea centers on creating a communal “driveway” for residents and will allow

Queens Road Project Takes the Unconventional Path Current Conditions: The project is elevating three streets—West 11th, 12th and 13th roads—in Broad Channel, Queens, that stand below the mean high tide level. Rendering Courtesy of RBA Group

parking on both sides of these roads for the first time. But the design achieves the right road height by shedding standard curbs and sidewalks, which tend to be 6 in. higher than the pavement and would have been misaligned with driveways, stoops and entrances to houses. However, not having a curb line, which typically serves as the catch basin for rainwater that drains off the center of a slightly arched roadway called for another odd facet on the project—inverting the streets to instead dip inward.

“The center of the street becomes a drainage swale, with the water collecting in the middle and flowing into the storm sewer,” Menzer says.

The simple-sounding street design is a significant departure, Branco adds. “I’ve been doing this work in the city for a long time,” he says. “This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.”

Beneath that flush, inverted surface will be busy infrastructure, with the design calling for new water and sanitary sewer mains and the new storm sewer system. At the ends of each street, the plan is for large bulkhead and stormwater outfall structures. The design also calls for detailed modifications to nearly every private property on all three roads in order to smooth their transitions to the raised roadways.

Construction Puzzle

The project team’s first major construction task entailed using a barge to erect three cofferdams in the bay at the end of each street, sandbagging between the houses and installing water pumps—all in an effort to keep the site dry for excavation and drilling work, Branco says.

However, with tidal water still seeping through the crawl spaces of houses into the construction zone, the team was studying this winter whether to try additional containment measures or simply limit work to hours when tides are lower.

The team also has removed utility poles and replaced them with temporary

Queens Road Project Takes the Unconventional Path Piling It On: Excavation, pile-driving, utilities placement, outfall construction and road paving will take about one year on each of the three key streets. Photo by Ssland swann Studios

structures in order to allow equipment, including a 90-ft pile-drilling rig, to access the site, Bashjawish says.

The next big task on each street will be installing piles at the mouth of the storm sewer to support the outfall structure. The team will also drill piles 50 ft to 65 ft below grade to support the new storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water pipes. It will install up to 300 10-in.-dia minipiles on each street for that task because of the poor soils.

Another challenge involves the use of a lightweight slag material instead of conventional fill in order to prevent the soil from eventually settling, which would drop the street’s elevation and potentially reintroduce tidal flooding problems, Branco says. But the lightweight slag has a very loose consistency and even floats in water, so the team is installing permanent retaining walls under the street to keep the unruly material in place for the long haul.

“It is not an easy material to work with,” he says.

Capping the effort will be erection of the bulkheads and outfalls at the end of each block. The reinforced concrete outfall structures will encase 38-in.-dia storm drains and feature a 500-lb riprap stone apron at their headwalls.

The structures also will have a hard composite sheet pile structure that stands roughly 40 ft wide and 20 ft deep in the ground at the bay’s edge to prevent erosion. “We want to sustain the design life of what we are doing now,” Bashjawish says.

Community Coordination

Another signature aspect of the project is an intensive level of community outreach from DDC and its team— “like no other project I’ve ever worked on,” Menzer says.

“We met with every single homeowner one-on-one within the entire project area to understand specifically their concerns and explain to them exactly what we’re doing in front of their homes … and how we could mitigate that effect in our design,” he says.

The team also has a liaison with Broad Channel’s civic association and community board, who is fielding questions and complaints, Bashjawish says. “She is our eyes and ears in the community,” he says. “The solution is going to be different for each homeowner.”

Westport’s Downtown Steering Committee Receives Draft Master Plan

First Selectman Jim Marpe commented on the draft presented by the RBA group. Photo Credit: File

WESTPORT, Conn. — At a special work session held Thursday, the RBA Group, consultants hired by the town of Westport to prepare a Downtown Master Plan, presented a draft of the plan to the Downtown Steering Committee (DSC) for formal review.

The DSC had a chance to ask initial questions and submit comments to RBA. According to DSC Chair Melissa Kane, “The document the DSC reviewed today is clearly the result of RBA’s having listened carefully to what Westporters had to say about our downtown. While it is still in draft form, it is comprehensive, creative and worthy of thoughtful consideration, support and, ultimately, action. I believe the strength of this Plan is its integration of many various improvement ideas — over 40 recommendations in all, covering everything from streetscape to traffic and mobility, from parking to flood management. As such, it is best evaluated in its totality.”

The draft will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for its comment in a work session scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 15.

Public comment on the draft is encouraged and will be possible through the website, where it will be posted, and at a Public Open House which is scheduled for Wednesday ,Jan. 28, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Town Hall Auditorium. The Open House will include exhibits, multiple Power Point presentations of the draft at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and opportunities to comment and ask questions. The presentation sessions will be televised on public access Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 99 (ATT). Following review by the DSC, the Planning & Zoning Commission, and the public, RBA will prepare and present a final draft of the Downtown Master Plan to the DSC.

First Selectman Jim Marpe attended the meeting and had the following words of support, “The development of a Master Plan for Downtown has been a long time goal of the Town and is called for in our Town Plan of Conservation and Development. Having read the draft report, I find it to be both visionary and practical. It reflects and incorporates the values which Westporters told us were important to them: to maintain the ‘Small Town Character’ of Westport; to make Downtown more of a place for Westporters to enjoy; and to complete and improve Downtown where needed, rather than growing it.”

The DSC is providing guidance and technical assistance to the consultant team, led by the RBA Group, in developing a Master Plan for Downtown Westport. The full membership of the DSC can be viewed on the town’s project website www.downtownwestportct.com.

RBA Delivers a Comprehensive, Creative Draft Master Plan for the Future of Downtown Westport

 

 WESTPORT, CT — January 6, 2015 — Today, in a special work session, The RBA Group presented a draft of the Downtown Master Plan to the Downtown Steering Committee for formal review (DSC). The DSC had a chance to ask initial questions and submit comments to RBA.

 According to DSC Chair Melissa Kane, “The document the DSC reviewed today is clearly the result of RBA’s having listened carefully to what Westporters had to say about our Downtown. While it is still in draft form, it is comprehensive, creative and worthy of thoughtful consideration, support and, ultimately, action. I believe the strength of this Plan is its integration of many various improvement ideas – over 40 recommendations in all, covering everything from streetscape to traffic and mobility, from parking to flood management. As such, it is best evaluated in its totality.”

The Draft will be presented to the P&Z commission, for their comment, in a work session which has been scheduled for Thursday, January 15th.  Public comment on the Draft is encouraged, and will be possible through the website (www.downtownwestportct.com), where the Draft will be posted, and at a Public Open House which is scheduled for Wednesday January 28th, from 4 – 9 pm, in the Auditorium at Town Hall. The Open House will include exhibits, multiple Power Point presentations of the Draft (5:30 and 7:30pm), and opportunities to comment and ask questions. The presentation sessions will be televised on public access Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 99 (ATT).

Following review by the DSC, Planning & Zoning Commission, and the public, RBA will prepare and present a final draft of the Downtown Master Plan to the DSC.