Parsells Avenue is, at its heart, a neighborhood street. But the street – a former trolley car route – is wide and straight with no stop signs, so drivers feel comfortable going faster than they should.
The speeding is an obvious problem. Two different churches along Parsells have been struck in recent years by cars that careened off the road, says Joe Di Fiore, a board member of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition. And a couple of years ago, a 2-year-old boy was killed when a truck struck him at the curb.
"It's not uncommon for people to be going 50 miles per hour," Di Fiore says.
Beechwood neighborhood leaders are working with Reconnect Rochester, the City of Rochester and several other partners on a project they hope will slow down drivers on Parsells. The groups held an event on September 9 where community members painted a mural at the intersection of Parsells and Greeley Street, installed a colorful sculpture made of boxes, and hung yarn art.
The visual changes are meant to create a "sense of place" at the intersection, Di Fiore says. The improvements are intended to make the area attractive to residents, business patrons, and visitors, and they're meant as a signal to the drivers passing through.
"We want them to slow down and think 'Oh, hey, something's happening here,'" Di Fiore says. "'What is this? There's activity.'"
The project also includes big changes to the street layout. Participants installed temporary curb extensions at all four corners of the intersection. The intersection's corners were sweeping, not sharp, which allowed drivers to take corners at higher speeds. But the temporary extensions bring the corners closer to a 90-degree angle, forcing drivers to make sharper, slower turns.
And as part of the effort, the city will install speed cushions on Parsells. Speed cushions are similar to speed bumps, but they leave channels that allow for large vehicles, such as buses and fire trucks, to pass unimpeded.
The project was part of a Reconnect Rochester effort to start addressing some of Greater Rochester's problematic roadways. Earlier this year, the transportation advocacy group asked communities to nominate trouble spots, one of which it would pick for a redesign. It received 90 nominations, covering 39 city locations and 11 suburban ones. Reconnect Rochester representatives reviewed factors such as crash and speed data as they picked a location for the redesign.
Beechwood neighborhood leaders nominated three locations, but it was the Parsells-Greeley intersection that Reconnect picked. They saw in it a chance to demonstrate how communities can do simple things to make their streets safer, says Renee Stetzer, the organization's vice president of community outreach and the chair of its pedestrian safety committee.
"These are things the city can do in other areas as well," Stetzer says.
Community Design Center Rochester led a community meeting to get input on the project, and Stantec developed designs based on that feedback.
City, county, and neighborhood representatives will monitor whether the temporary improvements have an effect on traffic. The Monroe County Department of Transportation collected data before the improvements, and it'll work with the city to collect data afterword. Residents and Reconnect Rochester representatives hope the data will show that drivers are travelling slower through the Parsells-Greeley corridor.
"We're hoping the city is going to work with us to make it permanent," Di Fiore says of the improvements.
On other streets: As part of Reconnect Rochester's Complete Streets Makeover effort, Stantec is also developing redesigns for the area around Lake Avenue and Phelps Street, as well as the Monroe Avenue-Canterbury Road-Dartmouth Street area. Reconnect Rochester will present those plans, and a short documentary on the Parsells Avenue project, during its November 14 Street Films event.