Students and residents alike can soon expect new sidewalks along Vestal Parkway.
This past week, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced plans to begin a $1.1 million project that will ultimately lead to a sidewalk system that will run alongside Vestal Parkway. Currently, the parkway is one of the busiest areas of the highway in Broome County, according to Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, and has essentially no pedestrian access.
The project aims to improve pedestrian safety and mobility on Vestal Parkway between Binghamton University and Main Street in the town of Vestal, according to a NYSDOT press release. The project’s construction is planned to have a minimal effect on commuters. Keeping in line with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Drivers First” initiative, sidewalk construction will be designed to minimize impact on traffic to adjacent businesses. The press release also said that no work will take place during the 2019 concert series or on federal holidays that occur between May and November.
The project will include eight sidewalks installed at busy locations where none currently exist, including Glenn G. Bartle Drive, Town Square Mall and near Memorial Park on Main Street in Vestal. In the press release, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said the new sidewalks will allow more people to safely move around the area.
“The safety of our residents is extremely important, especially in a highly traveled area like the Vestal Parkway,” Garnar said in the press release. “New sidewalks will help provide safe access for county residents, including Binghamton University students, to many businesses in the area.”
The sidewalk comes more than two years after junior Stefani Lineva died in a hit-and-run along Vestal Parkway. Lineva, who was found lying against the concrete median in the middle of the highway, was struck by a vehicle driven by Aizaz Siddiqui on Dec. 3, 2016. Siddiqui was convicted of a hit-and-run in September 2017. At his trial, prosecutors argued that although Lineva was lying in the middle of the road with a high blood alcohol content level, Siddiqui should not have fled the scene of the crime.
Ryan Yarosh, BU’s senior director of media and public relations, said the University supports the project and the safety improvements it will make for students and the community.
“We applaud any investments that enhance pedestrian safety, especially a project like this, which provides better safety for our students as well as the community,” Yarosh said.
Pamela Sharlach, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said she thinks the sidewalks will also improve transportation for students.
“I think the sidewalks are a good idea, and they will definitely make it easier to get around,” Sharlach said. “Being able to walk to places would be something very convenient and I could see myself using these paths.”
The project also aims to improve community health by providing residents with easier ways to walk places rather than taking a car, according to the press release.
“Pedestrian improvements along Route 434 and throughout New York state allow people to safely walk to their destinations, cutting down on carbon emissions and boosting their personal health,” Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul said in the press release.
Devon Close, a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, said she is glad the project is supposed to have a positive environmental impact.
“Today, more than ever, it is important we think about how our actions affect the environment,” Close said. “Hopefully the sidewalks lead to more people walking instead of driving, which will be good for the environment.”
The project is part of a series of ongoing infrastructure additions that NYSDOT is making across the Southern Tier region, and is expected to be completed this fall.