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Mt. Kisco Mulls Planning Firms to Assist in Complete Streets Study

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The Mount Kisco Village Board interviewed three planning and engineering firms last week in its quest to make the municipality a more walkable village by improving pedestrian safety and slowing traffic.

A work session was held last Monday where representatives from BFJ Planning, the firm that was retained by Mount Kisco for its Comprehensive Plan update in 2019, Sam Schwartz Pedestrian Traffic Management Services and AKRF each highlighted their qualifications, prior experience in the region and the approaches they would consider. Each outfit had answered the village’s Request for Proposal to do the work.

The company that is selected will be expected to complete a study and propose strategies that would put Mount Kisco in contention for the 2024 Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) federal grant funding. The firm would also comply with New York State’s Complete Streets Act, which requires communities to consider all people and forms of transportation in its analysis.

Anticipated time frames to complete the study for the three companies range from about six to nine months.

The board posed several questions to each firm, most notably about the public sessions, access and understanding for seniors and the village’s large Spanish-speaking population and how to navigate the state Department of Transportation. A decision on which firm to retain is expected in the coming weeks.

Georges Jacquemart, principal at BFJ who specializes in transportation work, said the company will complete a detailed safety analysis, obtain the crash data from the village for the past five years to learn where the community’s dangerous locations are and devise a plan that is consistent with what village officials hope to achieve.

“So this is a very important component that will help us getting this draft, and it’s also an important component to figure out where we should focus on, where are those intersections where we have safety hazards,” Jacquemart said.

As part of its responsibilities, BFJ would also conduct walking and bicycle audits, he said. There would be two public engagement sessions scheduled; the first would be held in the third or fourth month followed by a second one about three months later.

Samantha Donovan, senior transportation planner with Sam Schwartz Pedestrian Traffic Management, said they would also schedule two public meetings, with one of them held virtually, along with analyses of data, including crashes.

Other factors taken into consideration would be demographic data and how many zero-vehicle households there are in the village, Donovan said.

The company has had extensive experience over the past 27 years helping communities obtain grants and reconfigure traffic, bicycle and pedestrian flow and safety.

Its personnel will be in the village and be actively involved in learning about the community, which will help it make its recommendations, said Lian Farhi, the firm’s director of planning and urban design.

“We need to be here. We need to be in the field and learn from you and your experiences and the challenges that you’re seeing and look at a lot of data sources in order to complement that and have a robust analysis,” Farhi said.

“It will help us understand the demographics, understand the challenges, understand your priorities in the community, what are the sticking points and try to balance a lot of different needs that you have here,” Farhi added.

AKRF Technical Director of Traffic & Transportation Elaine Du said all modes of transportation and all people’s needs will be included in the study. That would mean concentrating not just on vehicular traffic but bicycles and pedestrians as well.

“We want to look at improvements that serve Mount Kisco,” Du said. “We don’t want things that aren’t appropriate for Mount Kisco. We want things that are designed for your village, for your people.”

Mike Beattie, AKRF’s senior vice president, said they look to enhance the pedestrian experience and perform traffic calming, which are strategies to force drivers to slow down. They also like to encourage visitors in the downtown park once and walk.

Other potential improvements could include improved connection to parks and green space for pedestrians; better circulation near the train station; upgrading pedestrian crossings; and exploring angled parking, he said.

Even if the village doesn’t get the grant funding in 2024, the study can be used to obtain SS4A in subsequent years or other money.

“We want you guys really to get the grants for future work,” Beattie said. “It’s not a guarantee. So, this plan, while we’re making it so you can check that box, it still can be used for other grants.”

The village budgeted $100,000 for the study in its current fiscal year budget.



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