By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
The Central Business District Streetscape Improvements Plan, funded and approved by Rye residents in 2012, is now in the final phase. While construction and related traffic patterns have made maneuvering the downtown area quite challenging of late, residents and business owners should be relieved to hear that the wait is almost over – weather-permitting, the construction should be in the next several weeks.
The main objectives of the project are to preserve and enhance the Central Business District character and reinforce the downtown as a place of social gathering, replace deteriorated infrastructure, enhance the overall pedestrian experience, preserve traffic flow, and minimize parking loss.
The construction commenced on Smith Street in September 2016, and since that time the City has completed all curbs, sidewalks, curb extensions (also known as “bump-outs”), drainage, street lighting, and tree installation. The final phase of the project, reconstruction and repaving of Purchase Street, Elm Place, and Smith Street, is now in full force.
Despite rumors, Purchase Street is not being changed to a one-way street. During the current construction, which includes adding a raised traffic-calming intersection at Purchase and Smith streets, northbound traffic on Purchase between Locust Avenue and Elm Place has been detoured. All other streets (with the exception of Smith Street, where it intersects with Purchase) remain open. This phase includes final paving of Smith between Purchase and Boston Post Road.
Joey Forgione, construction foreman on the project, said they are currently laying the Belgian block in the center of Purchase Street, and that, weather permitting, the east side of the street should be paved on June 12 or 13. The detour will then be moved so that work can be completed on the west side of Purchase. Forgione anticipates this last phase, which includes final paving on Elm, will take one to two weeks.
The community can look forward to several new features, in addition to the bump-outs already in place: a raised intersection at Purchase and Smith (with no stop signs at this intersection), a new “all-way” stop at Purchase and Elm, and left turns now permitted from both Smith and Elm onto Purchase. While there is no parking on Purchase opposite Elm, new spots have been added on the west side of Purchase, south of Elm. Overall, about four parking spots were lost due to the project.
On Memorial Day morning, spectators lined Purchase Street, confident that it wouldn’t rain too hard on the annual parade on its way to City Hall, where the official and solemn ceremony was held.
All ages waved flags and cheered as veterans, emergency vehicles, newly awarded Eagle Scouts, members of Rye’s treasured community organizations, and City officials passed by.
At the ceremony, Rye American Legion Post 128 Commander Fred deBarros introduced Mayor Joe Sack, who walked to the podium carrying a mock-up of the front page from The Rye Chronicle published on Memorial Day 1946. The paper reported that the 1,400 Rye residents who served and the 46 who gave their lives “served with distinction to themselves and their city.”