Potsdam sidewalks in 'good' shape compared to other communities, says Clarkson survey
Friday, October 11, 2019 - 5:36 pm

POTSDAM – Clarkson University has completed its survey of the Village of Potsdam’s sidewalks, crosswalks and street lamps with GPS datapoints and condition reports, and presented it to village trustees.

And the board learned that its sidewalks, compared with those in nearby communities, are very good.

Village government received the report on the state of sidewalks and other Complete Streets information in a presentation by Clarkson Prof. Erik Backus, director of the Construction Engineering Management Program in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and William Olsen, an instructor in the same department.

Under their management, four students spent the summer taking photos and collecting and recording the data by walking through the entire village, noting items and locations with GPS.

For the comprehensive inventory, they counted and appraised existing structures within village limits related to pedestrian activity such as sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, signal lights and buttons, benches, and street lights.

They cataloged about 30 miles of sidewalks, 196 crosswalks, 441 curb ramps, 63 signal buttons, and 52 signal lights.

That data can be loaded into a geographic information system (GIS), database and application software that facilitates geographic data analysis, digital mapping and a variety of other presentation tools. The Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) has such a system it makes available for a fee to local municipalities that could not afford it on their own.

Backus said that compared with the other nearby communities they have inventoried -- Gouverneur, Watertown, Ogdensburg, and Massena – “Potsdam has had the most extensive quantity we have surveyed (most linear feet per square mile of the area surveyed) and that they have a higher average in good to excellent condition.”

But the survey has also revealed “of course, several ‘needs replacement,’ ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ sidewalks that make up a sizable amount of the walking infrastructure, but the majority are in a positive status,” Backus said. “This does not account for winter maintenance and clearance, which ... is a significant issue that is common across all communities in the North Country.”

The survey, “The 2019 Sidewalk Inventory for the Village of Potsdam,” was paid for with a $15,000 grant to Clarkson for the work. The money was channeled to the program through The Health Initiative in St. Lawrence County and its Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Project, which is funded in turn by the state Department of Health.

The inventory was intended as part of Potsdam’s Complete Streets program, but received extra impetus with complaints from people about the condition of some sidewalks and the lack of sidewalks in some places, plus the offer of the Health Initiative funding.

Complete Streets is a community planning concept where streets accommodate all users -- pedestrians young and old, and motorized and non-motorized vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, snowplows, bikes, scooters, and skateboards – and where sidewalks are similarly considered.

“This will give (Department of Public Works Superintendent) Jim Corbett a tool to use in deciding how to deploy DPW employees. It will save us a great deal of time and money,” said Fred Hanss, the village’s planning and development director.