Curb Extensions in Rural Village

Fort Plain, New York
Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


A more pedestrian-oriented design was desired for the downtown area of a rural village, particularly along two state highways with heavy truck volumes.


Fort Plain, New York is a small village along the Erie Canal between Utica and Albany, New York. The village is located within the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor, a region that is redefining its local economy with an emphasis on tourism. The downtown includes the crossing of two State highways, Route 80 and Route 5-S. Both have a posted speed limit of 30 mi/h (48 km/h). Route 5-S runs down Main Street, has an average daily traffic volume of about 6,000, and carries a high percentage of truck traffic. Route 80 has an average daily traffic volume of about 10,000. Since the construction of the interstate system in the 1960s and 1970s, rural main streets like Fort Plain have been effectively bypassed by a majority of motor vehicle traffic. This has provided an opportunity to revisit the design of these streets from a more pedestrian-oriented perspective. Since Main Street is a part of the NY State touring route system, maintenance of the street is shared, with the village responsible for sidewalks and NY State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) responsible for the roadway.


Curb extensions provide significant increased sidewalk space on Main Street.

When Route 5-S was programmed for reconstruction in the early 1990s, NYSDOT's Region 2 office saw the opportunity to incorporate a series of pedestrian enhancements. NYSDOT and the community worked together on a recommendation that created wide sidewalks, new marked pedestrian crossings and a new fountain set in recycled brick pavers in the village green. What looked like a relatively simple project, when completed was actually the result of a complex effort that involved the relocation of utilities, new street lighting, sidewalks and new pavement within the context of a historic village.

One of the key elements of the project requiring a design compromise was the use of curb extensions at pedestrian crossings. While a common feature in many New York State communities, curb extensions were new to Fort Plain. NYSDOT snowplow operators were concerned about hitting the extensions during the winter season. Even with extensive training and participation in snowplow rodeo competitions, a design compromise was needed before the extensions could be installed.

Recycled brick pavers from Main Street were used in sidewalk setbacks and for the paving surface around the restored fountain on the village green.

The recommendation in Fort Plain required the curb extensions to be designed approximately 2 ft less than the full width of the adjacent parking bays. This allowed snowplows to drive parallel to the rows of parked cars without coming into potential contact with the leading edge of the curb extensions.

Benefits of the curb extensions included shortening the crossing distance and reducing the amount of time pedestrians were exposed to traffic when crossing the street. The curb extensions also provided additional sidewalk space. Within this additional space, curb ramps and period street lighting were installed, which otherwise would have intruded on the sidewalk because of adjacent front steps at various building entrances.


The installation of curb extensions has provided simple, but important, benefits to Fort Plain. The total cost of the project, paid by NY State transportation funds, was approximately $3.2 million. The Village was responsible for maintaining the sidewalks and street lighting. Traffic volumes and large vehicle movements have not been adversely affected by the new design, and pedestrian movements are enhanced by the improvements provided. One resident who was interviewed during a recent field visit said he was a disabled veteran who liked to go the post office each day, and that the new sidewalks and curb ramps allowed him to do so.

New design guidelines not in place at the time of this project would suggest a few minor modifications, such as an improved pattern for ladder-style pavement markings, the use of separate ramps for each side of the pedestrian crossings and the addition of tactile warnings for pedestrians with visual impairments. It is also possible that a more aggressive traffic calming treatment could be applied in a community of this scale, possibly including a median and pedestrian refuge islands. However, knowing the budget, location and conditions of this street prior to the project, the pedestrian enhancements provided on Main Street in Fort Plain are a significant achievement.


Paul Evans, Regional Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator
New York State Department of Transportation, Region 2, Utica
Utica State Office Building
Genesee Street
Utica, NY 13501
Phone: (315) 793-2433

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