Latest Safe Routes Scoop!

Check out the New Jersey School Zone
Design Guide — just released!

The New Jersey School Zone Design Guide is a new resource which provides guidance for schools, local government and community members involved in efforts to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.  The guide was prepared for the New Jersey Department of Transportation by The RBA Group and Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc.The design guide is to be used as a resource for school boards, school administration, police, parents and engineers to advance the goals of the NJ Safe Routes to School program.  Physical improvements to the transportation infrastructure and environment around schools can improve safety for children and parents who walk and bicycle to school. Examples can range from simple sidewalk replacement/repair to more complex traffic calming such as speed humps and curb extensions. Illustrations of best practices were gathered from school communities across New Jersey.  It’s a tremendous resource — be sure to check it out!For more information and to read the full scoop article, click here.To see a listing of Safe Routes Scoop articles, click here.

Risky Cross To Be Fixed

A 50-foot diagonal crosswalk leads pedestrians across Springs-Fireplace Road from School Street to Gardiner Avenue-and it is dangerous.

Street signs, meant to slow down traffic, have been pushed to the very ends of the crosswalk, or even cast off to the grass, Pedestrians have to quickly cross so as not to get hit, and often vehicles get too close before they realize someone is in the street.

A woman crosses the street quickly to avoid being hit at the intersection of School Street, Spring-Fireplace Road and Gardiner Avenue.

Springs School President Elizabeth Mendelman said many of their students have to cross that sidewalk to get to school every day. And during arrival and dismissal cars back up on School Street, Old Stone Highway and Gardiner Avenue.

Now Spring School is set to fix the problem with $554,000 in federal grant money it was awarded in January 20i3. The Springs School Board and East Hampton Town officials, in the summer of. 2012, began championing for assistance from the National Safe Routes to School Program, which was launched by Congress in 2005. The State Department of Transportation administers the program in New York.

The School Board, through a bidding process, has selected an engineering firm, Melville-based RBA to design the project and guide them through the process. Once the town retains RBA, the project can begin.

Ms. Mendelman said RBA has a lot of experience dealing with the federal aid process, traffic calming and roadway design. RBA has completed other Safe Routes programs on Long Island and in Riverhead and Centereach, as well as a traffic calming projects in Sag Harbor and a roundabout in North Haven.

RBA has released a preliminary illustration of what the intersection of Gardiner Avenue, School Street and Springs-Fireplace could be once the Safe Routes to School Project is finished.

In its preliminary report outlining solutions for a traffic issue at the three-way intersection in Springs, RBA found that expansive pavement poor sight lines, a lack of visual cues or signs, and a radius that is conducive to speeding are all part of the problem. There is also an absence of sidewalks, including ADA-compliant sidewalks, on Springs-Fireplace Road.

RBA plans to fix those issues by removing the diagonal crosswalk and replacing it with a crosswalk going across Gardiner Avenue and another going across Springs-Fireplace Road, as well as installing rapid flashing beacons to alert drivers that there is a crosswalk, sidewalks with buffers and curb extensions to create a safer walk, in-street signs, Hi-Viz crosswalks featuring reflective paint, and driver feedback devices telling drivers how fast they are driving.

The intersection of Gardiner Avenue and Springs-Fireplace Road floods during heavy rains.

The intersection also floods heavily when it rains and the Accabonac tide rises, Ms. Mendelman said. To address the flooding issue, RBA also proposes better drainage there.

Additionally, the School Board is requesting a new 1,805—foot sidewalk along the western side of Springs-Fireplace Road, from Woodbine Drive to Gardiner Avenue. They also want to reduce the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph between Abraham’s Path and Harbor Boulevard, and reduce the speed 250 feet north of Copeces Lane on Three Mile Harbor-Hog Creek Road from 35 mph to 30 mph. The board is also requesting six speed monitoring devices to be placed within a two-mile radius from the school to collect data and help the East Hampton Town Police Department better patrol the area.

According to Police Chief Michael Sarlo, the hope is that by making the area safer and providing the many families who live north of Springs-Fireplace Road a more secure crossing point, the number of kids walking and biking will increase.

New Sidewalks and better sight lines, along with added speed monitoring, should be a big improvement,” he said this week “Additionally, with the planned improvements in parking on Springs School property, hopefully, the traffic, parking and safety will all accommodate the growth the Springs School has been experiencing.”

The School Board formed a Safe Routes to School Team in 2012 to find the hazards schoolchildren face on their way to and from school, document, driver patterns and behaviors, and find solutions by working with town officials. Based on numbers collected from 2012, almost 300 students lived off Springs-Fireplace Road within a two-mile walking distance to the school. Approximately 130 of them lived under a mile of the school.

More than 100 students could walk or ride their bikes to school using a sidewalk, and nearly 100 students had to cross Springs-Fireplace Road. Approximately 73 students had to cross the diagonal crosswalk to School Street.

Three crosswalks – at Copeces Lane, Harbor Boulevard and Woodbine Drive – are not guarded, while the Gardiner Avenue crosswalk is guarded during arrival and dismissal times.

Ms. Mendelman said the school is planning to hold training sessions for its students on walking and biking to school safely. The school is considering holding a community information session about making it safer to walk to school. The PTA will also sponsor “walking buses” and “bike trains,” where parents walk students to and from school along the same route that a school bus would drive them to school, with a fixed route and designated stops and pickup times.

The school district plans on taking another tally of how many students are walking and biking before and after construction, Ms. Mendelman said. She said she suspects the project, which will be completed before fall of 2015, will not only make it safer for the students and the public, it will get a number of cars off the road.

“If we do this project, we could get many kids walking to school,” she said. “In Springs, there’s not one solution to fix the congestion problem. But walking and carpooling will be a benefit for the community.”

Fjord Trail Route Takes Shape

Infrastructure work could start in 2015

Article courtsey of

Joined by public officials from three localities, on a rain-splattered night last week about 125 members of the public gathered indoors beneath Breakneck Ridge for the debut of a route map for the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a pedestrian and bicyclist track intended to link Cold Spring and Beacon.
At an Oct. 23 forum held at the Chalet on the Hudson, consultants from the RBA Group presented the trail’s preferred course between the Cold Spring and Beacon train stations, though the actual inch-by-inch and mile-by-mile siting and way the trail hugs the ground or river (or rises above them) remain to be determined through more nitty-gritty work.

Jackson Wandres, left, of RBA explains the proposed Fjord Trail Route to participants at an Oct. 23 forum

“This is a really, really challenging place to try to put the trail. There is very little land to work with and the land that’s there is pretty darn steep,” said Jackson Wandres, RBA director of landscape architecture and urban planning. “We looked at all sorts of things,” he explained as he led the audience through PowerPoint slides on the projected route. “The final design of the trail is going to be interesting, to say the least.”
Wandres estimated the total cost of the multiuse trail at $15.5 million, excluding a shoreline section from Little Stony Point, a New York State Park site just beyond the Cold Spring boundary, and Breakneck Ridge, about a mile north.
Snaked between the mountains on the east and Hudson River on the west, the trail would parallel the Metro-North Railroad tracks and Route 9D, a busy and narrow, twisting highway. Currently, throngs of hikers walk along 9D to reach paths winding up the hills, while cars overflow small lots and park in long lines along the scant verge.
A coalition of governmental, private and citizen interests advocates the Fjord Trail as a safe way to bring pedestrians and bicyclists, including present residents, from Cold Spring and Beacon to the mountain paths and allow them to walk or bike all or part of the 9-mile distance between the two towns, enjoying the vistas, boosting the local economy, promoting a form of ecotourism and decreasing auto congestion.
Intense trail discussions began in 2013, and last week’s public meeting followed two others this year on the initial “trail-blazing”: creation of a master plan that — after tweaking — could be finalized by December. Beyond that lie improvements to the existing parking lots; repairs to Cold Spring sidewalks leading from the village’s train station and extending to Little Stony Point; applications for grants and financial aid as needed; new signage; fulfillment of regulatory requirements; and, if all goes well, construction and completion of the trail itself.
Parking lot and sidewalk work could begin in 2015. In addition, trail supporters want to hold a Fjord Trail race next spring. Wandres said that along with a sidewalk running out Fair Street–River Road from the heart of Cold Spring to Little Stony Point, improvements at the southernmost end of the trail would likely include a reconfigured River Road–Route 9D (Morris Avenue) intersection, currently a dangerous and sharp Y.
Likewise, the limited-use Breakneck railroad stop, which takes hikers close to the highly popular Breakneck path, would get upgraded. The northern end of the trail would wind through Beacon.

Speeding and Parking

Audience members asked about potentially hazardous vehicle maneuvering along 9D and the trail; parking difficulties (even with lot improvements); and why, given the numerous pedestrians on Route 9D and the road’s inherent dangers at present, its speed limit has not been reduced, despite repeated calls for action.

A Fjord Trail route drawing shows an elevated walkway for pedestrians in the Breakneck Ridge area.
“It’s been discussed. That’s up to the state,” the Department of Transportation, Wandres replied. “They don’t like to reduce speed limits where they really don’t think it will be obeyed.”
The trail could enter Little Stony Point via the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks and proceed along the waterfront — a feature that caught the attention of Cold Spring resident and architect James Hartford, the president of the Little Stony Point Citizens Association.
“I’m just a bit concerned about it being a little heavy-handed in some places, that the experience of nature could be obliterated” in areas such as Little Stony Point, Hartford said. “I feel that place is special by itself and what you’re proposing is a pretty heavy impact on what is a forest preserve.”
Wandres responded that “we didn’t actually get into any details as to what we propose,” beyond bringing the trail into Little Stony Point and along the shore.
The forum drew Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, Fishkill Town Supervisor Bob LaColla and Beacon Mayor Randy Casale, all of whom welcomed the audience and the concept of the trail.

Thinking Regionally

“We’re super-fortunate to live where we live and we’re super fortunate to have this” range of interest and support, Shea said. He added that the trail “has forged a partnership that is really powerful — between state and local officials [and] between public and private. And everybody knows when they see a great idea.”

Fjord Trail Proposal

Casale tied the name of Beacon as “a shining light” to wider illumination emanating from the trail effort. “We’re going to be, and the Fjord Trail should be, the beacon that leads people [to see] that if we work together good things can happen,” he said. “Instead of thinking small and just locally, we have to think regionally.”
LaColla mentioned the “energy” and sense of the “positive” the project generates. “Almost anybody that has touched on this has liked the idea. They love the idea and want it to happen,” he said. “Speaking as somebody involved in government a while: it’s unusual when everybody comes together like this.”
Various stakeholders have participated in the trail preparation, including the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Scenic Hudson, Open Space Institute, Hudson River Foundation, Hudson River Valley Greenway, Putnam and Dutchess counties, towns of Philipstown and Fishkill, Village of Cold Spring, City of Beacon, Friends of Fahnestock & Hudson Highlands State Parks; NY-NJ Trail Conference, Little Stony Point Citizens Association, three New York state government departments, Central Hudson Gas & Electric and Metro-North Railroad, as well as residents.

RBA Partners With The City of Hoboken for the Redesign of Washington Street

The RBA Group presented the final concept plan for a proposed $14 million “complete street” design for the City of Hoboken’s main street.  RBA’s plan focuses on implementing the priorities identified by the community, local stakeholder groups and key City and agency representatives throughout this year-long design process.  Multimodal transportation, green infrastructure and smart technologies are featured in the plan, and address civic, safety, economic and cultural  goals that preserve and enhance the vitality of this great street.  This collaborative design project also included the involvement of representatives from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), who contributed review comments and input. The City is pursuing funding for the construction of the project through grant monies and local bonds.  Underground utility-related upgrades are already underway as part of scheduled independent efforts, and other related streets projects and a city-wide wayfinding signs program will further complement the plans for Washington Street.

Detailed plans, graphic renderings, and project deliverables are available on the City’s website.

RBA Authors Successful TIGER Grant Application for Waterbury, CT

RBA is proud to announce that the Waterbury Active Transportation and Economic Resurgence (WATER) Project has been chosen by FHWA to receive a $14.4 Million TIGER grant. RBA conceived of the project, produced preliminary plans and illustrations and wrote the winning grant application. The City of Waterbury has committed an additional $10 Million in local matching funds for the proposed $24.4 Million dollar multi-modal transportation improvement project. The project will build a new waterfront greenway trail and reconstruct several local streets as active ‘complete’ streets.

For additional information please visit The Governor of Connecticut’s website.

RBA Involved in Rebuilding Rockaways Boardwalk

At a lecture on resilient waterfront design at the Center for Architecture in New York, two projects now in the works show how public spaces can still be created on shorelines, even in the era of the monster storm: the Water Institute Headquarters, Research, and Interpretive Center proposal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by SuperMass Studio; and the Rockaways Boardwalk Reconstruction Plan in Queens, New York, from CH2M HILL, with The RBA Group and WXY. Both use green buffers to protect the shoreline and add biodiversity, but are designed to ensure easy public access.

The challenge, said Jackson Wandres, director of landscape architecture and planning at The RBA Group, was to design a new boardwalk that was not only structurally sound but also maintained the public space and beach access of the old boardwalk. To accomplish this, RBA Group proposed rebuilding the boardwalk along its original route, but raising it up between three and eight feet, as appropriate, to match the height of the Army Corps berms. In essence: “one giant earthwork with a giant public esplanade running along top of it – that’s the public open space we’re creating.”


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RBA Works on a Master Plan for Downtown Westport

The results are in and show that Westporters generally agree on the future of downtown.

Of approximately 3,100 responses to the “Your Downtown” online survey, there was a broad consensus in several areas, most significantly, that future downtown plans should strive to maintain its “small-town character,” according to data reported Monday night.

Survey participants also want to see greater focus on the Saugatuck River, including a waterfront park. And, also of importance, is dealing with parking.

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RBA’s Work on Staten Island’s North Shore Public Access Park

Permeable pavers have been a key addition to a different kind of park: the North Shore Public Access Park on the Kill Van Kull, a tidal strait between Staten Island, NY, and Bayonne, NJ.

This waterfront park will transform a former industrial marina into a graceful passive-use park for local residents.

“It definitely was an underutilized piece of open space that needed to be developed as a waterfront park,” says Alex Berryman, RLA, principal landscape architect at The RBA Group, an engineering and landscape architecture firm in Manhattan, who oversaw most of the landscape design.

“The intent was to provide public waterfront access, a place where people could take in the sights of the Bayonne Bridge in the distance while watching the huge container ships glide by on the Kill Van Kull. It’s one of the few areas in the northern part of Staten Island where people can get close to the water.”

Two refurbished channel markers stand at the entrance to the 2.65-acre waterfront park. The park includes a flat recreational lawn, native vegetation, an ADA-accessible perimeter path paved with asphalt and concrete, and two parking lots paved with concrete Unilock Eco-Priora pavers. The edge of the park is fenced off with a semi-transparent grill panel fence to prevent visitors from accessing the abandoned docks and shoreline.

One of the parking lots holds eight cars. The second, a 12-car lot with a turnaround, is on the park grounds and can be gated off and used as a plaza to host public events. The RBA team chose permeable pavers for both parking lots to minimize the impervious surfaces and to mitigate excess runoff. The project complies with the state stormwater requirements, Berryman says.

“The reason we used the Unilock Eco-Priora is because they’re designed for plazas as well as to take the weight of vehicles. The narrow [three-eighths of an inch] gap between them is compatible with pedestrian use, so the surface is very smooth for pedestrians to walk on.”

The funding for the park comes from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, through the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit dedicated to land conservation. The land itself is owned by the New York City Department of Parks, which will maintain the park once construction is complete. The TPL hired The RBA Group to perform both the design and the engineering of the project.

The entire project began in the fall of 2012 and was completed in September 2013.

The RBA team designed the site grading to maintain the existing stormwater surface runoff patterns to the Kill Van Kull, which avoided the need for costly subsurface drainage systems, Berryman says. They also mitigated the effect of the park’s asphalt and concrete paths without adding drainage pipe by designing the aggregate in the parking lots to be at least 14 inches deep.

“The aggregate layer provides space for water storage as well as spreads out the point load,” Berryman says. The paver systems in the two parking lots will be able to store approximately 6,300 cubic feet of runoff.

The general contractor, Fredante Construction Corp. of Cold Spring Harbor, NY, did a very good job installing the paver system, says Sean O’Leary, vice president with Unilock New York Inc.

Crews placed a geotextile drainage mat at the bottom of the excavation to strengthen the sub-base and improve the bearing capacity.

Above that, they placed an 8-inch layer of No. 2 stone, a 4-inch layer of No. 57 stone, then a 1.5- to 2-inch layer of No. 89 stone. They compacted each layer.

They laid a total of 14,000 square feet of the Unilock Eco-Priora permeable pavers with a Series 3000 (exposed aggregate) finish and put No. 8 or No. 9 stone between the pavers.

For maintenance, O’Leary says that sweeping the parking lots twice a year, once after the leaves have fallen and once in the spring, will lift up the particles on top of the pavers and the joints.

“The advantage of this system is if there’s a small amount of localized clogging, runoff is still going to flow through the adjacent and surrounding joints. We see a lot of permeable paver installations with little to no maintenance, and they’re still performing very well. If clogging worsens, you can wait and remove the top half-inch or inch of chip stone and replace the clogged stone with new material. Even with little maintenance, you can still have a new permeable system by replacing the joint stone without ever having to take the pavers out.”

Improvements on the way for Roberto Clemente State Park waterfront

RBA’s landscape architects and engineers have spent over a year designing and creating plans for the proposed renovated waterfront esplanade. In addition to storm protection from the new sea wall, the esplanade will have new rain gardens and bio-swales to capture and treat stormwater runoff. A new decorative sea rail (designed by RBA) will run along the edge of the sea wall providing more park space for bicycling, strolling, and taking in views of the Harlem River. New distinctive pavement, planting, lighting, seating and an amenity strip of permeable pavers will create a visually cohesive rhythm along the entire length of the esplanade, bookended by a viewing platform at the south end, and a new performance plaza at the north end, with other areas of interest in between.

All renderings were produced by RBA.

Read the article posted to the Daily News at:

Alliance for Action Award

On May 1, 2014, The RBA Group was presented with an award by The Alliance for Action in honor of its work efforts on the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Route 35 Restoration Project to rebuild a portion of the State’s shore area infrastructure damaged by Super Storm Sandy. RBA is responsible for a five mile section of Route 35 in Toms River, Lavallette and Brick Township, encompassing about ten miles of roadway, given the dualized nature of this section of roadway (five miles northbound and five miles southbound). This honor was bestowed at The Alliance For Action’s “New Jersey’s Leading Infrastructure Projects” awards ceremony at the PNC Bank Arts Center.

The particular aspect of the project that was recognized by the Alliance pertained to the American Water infrastructure that required replacement/rehabilitation of the water distribution system in advance of the roadway excavation and drainage installation. As part of RBA’s roadway project, extensive coordination with a number of utility companies was required. However, locating, avoiding and/or relocating the water facilities were critical to the progression of the road work, given the emergency nature of the project and the extensiveness of the water facilities. Unlike traditional projects, decisions regarding these utilities were made daily in the field in order to enable the roadway construction contractor to advance the work. RBA’s construction engineering staff facilitated this coordination by its daily presence on site. These efforts are continuing with the project expected to experience a two year construction duration.