Students traveling by foot, bicycle or skateboard may soon be able to travel between campus and Downtown Binghamton using a designated “greenway.”
The planned $18.8 million greenway will run alongside eastbound traffic on Vestal Parkway from Murray Hill Road at Binghamton University’s main campus to Pennsylvania Avenue, where it will connect to an already constructed greenway segment that goes across the South Washington Street Parabolic Bridge to the University Downtown Center and Downtown Binghamton.
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will be sponsoring an open house and public hearing to provide information and answer questions about its design for the continuous greenway. The open house will kick off on at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the MacArthur Elementary School gymnasium. It will be followed by a public hearing scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., consisting of a formal presentation followed by an opportunity for public comment.
Sarah Khalil, a second-year graduate student studying public administration and student affairs administration, supported the proposal, citing safety reasons.
“I have seen students walking alongside Vestal Parkway, which is very dangerous,” Khalil said. “There’s not much of a median for people to walk, and cars are traveling 50 to 60 miles per hour, so I think it’s a good idea to have a walkway to allow people to get back and forth safely.”
Dylan Nicholson, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said he embraces the plan.
“I think it’s an awesome idea,” Nicholson said. “A couple of my friends who have missed a late bus from State Street have had to walk back to campus, and I think this would definitely be a safer way to do it.”
George Christoforou, a senior majoring in biology, envisioned multiple benefits from having a greenway transportation option.
“I think it will bring a whole new aspect to the area,” Christoforou said. “I think it will encourage exercise, and it will definitely be safer getting students back to campus. It will also connect Vestal with Downtown better. I think that would be nice.”
Ryan Walsh, a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, said the current lack of a safe travel option is an ongoing hazard that has already cost at least one student’s life, referencing the death of Stefani Lineva in December 2016. Lineva, a junior and a member of the BU women’s tennis team, was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Vestal Parkway.
“I know of people who have walked back to campus taking that route and it’s very dangerous,” Walsh said. “A girl died about a year ago trying to walk that route so it’s definitely a concern, and I really like the idea for this greenway.”
Despite support from students, a small cluster of homeowners on Binghamton’s Southside have installed lawn signs that feature messages expressing opposition to the greenway plan, reading “Save the Southside, Stop Greenway Trail.” Eight signs were observed near the intersection of Vestal Avenue and Ivanhoe Road this week, where NYSDOT is proposing to construct an access path from Vestal Avenue to the greenway. Some wooded land between the two roads will be claimed by eminent domain to accomplish this.
Scott Cook, public information specialist for the NYSDOT Region 9, said the land that will be taken to build the access path is undeveloped forest land on the north side of Vestal Avenue leading to Vestal Parkway, across the avenue from homes and yards.
“Nobody’s home or yard will be taken,” Cook said. “We’re looking at little strips wide enough to build the path.”
Jillian Newby, NYSDOT’s project manager for the greenway and the person responsible for conducting the public hearing, said the hearing is being held specifically to give interested parties an opportunity to have input before a decision is made to proceed with the preferred design.
“We’re accepting all the comments at the public hearing before finalizing any decision,” Newby said.