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Revitalizing a historic New York State community

The city of Olean set out to convert the four-lane car-oriented commercial district of North Union Street to a two-lane “complete street" that would revitalize the neighborhood.

Our consultant team developed four concepts that reallocate the existing street width to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, reduce stormwater inflow and infiltration, and enhance the overall street experience to stimulate economic growth.

Opportunity

With a population of 15,000, Olean is the largest city in New York’s Cattaraugus County. The city was founded in 1804 by Major Adam Hoops, who hoped its location at the confluence of Olean Creek with the Allegany River would help make it a major urban center.

That never happened, but until the completion of the Erie Canal, Olean was said to be better known than Buffalo. Olean became a regional railroad hub, and enjoyed a period of prosperity.

Olean's North Union Street Transformation

“In its heyday, North Union Street was thriving — day and night,” said Dan Burden, cofounder of the Walkable and Livable Community Institute.

“Store, theaters and restaurants lined the corridor and taxes collected here supported city services for every neighborhood in town. But roles have reversed. North Union Street is hollowed out. Today, it is the residential property taxpayer who carriers an inordinate burden for municipal services.”

The city of Olean set out to convert the four-lane car-oriented commercial district of North Union Street to a two-lane “complete street” that would improve mobility and accessibility for all users, increase economic vitality, provide a welcoming destination for commerce, and improve the environment with innovative stormwater treatment.

Solution

Mott MacDonald presented design concepts at a series of community “summits.” As Mayor Linda Witte said: "The consultant team has developed four concepts that reallocate the existing street width to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, reduce stormwater inflow and infiltration, and enhance the overall street experience to stimulate economic growth. Their concepts reflect input from stakeholders, inspiration from successful projects in other cities and villages, and consideration for North Union Street’s unique attributes."

The consultant team has developed four concepts that reallocate the existing street width to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, reduce stormwater inflow and infiltration, and enhance the overall street experience to stimulate economic growth. Their concepts reflect input from stakeholders, inspiration from successful projects in other cities and villages, and consideration for North Union Street’s unique attributes.

Each of Mott MacDonald’s proposed designs replaced the four vehicular lanes with two lanes for traffic and two bicycle lanes. Each one included green spaces, and each one replaces traffic signals with modern roundabouts.

By April 2013, a final design had been chosen and refined, and the project was one of five out of thirty recommended for approval by the local Department of Transportation.

Outcome

The “complete street” design is expected to encourage pedestrian and bicycle use, calm traffic, and spur economic activity.

The replacement of traffic signals with roundabouts will improve traffic flow, reducing fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.

Stormwater treatments are designed to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Permeable pavements, landscaped bioretention areas, and stormwater tree trenches will reduce stormwater runoff, help protect local waterways, improve air quality, and improve the appearance of the street.

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