Putting safety first, the Department of Transportation is looking to redesign a Richmond Hill intersection and reroute several bus lines to reduce vehicular accidents and resulting injuries.
Representatives from DOT and NYC Transit reviewed the plans for the intersection of Hillside Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue and 127th Street during the Community Board 9 meeting on Feb. 9. The DOT has prioritized these two corridors in terms of safety for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The changes are being made to an original design that was approved in October 2014. The new adjustments are targeting issues concerning turning, speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians.
The updated design includes making the block of Metropolitan Avenue between 130th and 131st streets a one-way street eastbound to allow full access to the neighboring Trade Fair supermarket parking lot. Any cars continuing on Metropolitan Avenue westbound will need to make a right onto 131st Street and then left onto Hillside Avenue before continuing onto Metropolitan Avenue. A pedestrian safety island will also be installed on 127th Street and Hillside Avenue adjacent to P.S. 54.
The Q54 bus route that currently travels primarily on Metropolitan Avenue from Jamaica to Williamsburg will be shifted as a result of these changes. According to representatives from NYC Transit, the new plans will cause westbound Q54 buses to continue west down Jamaica Avenue to 131st Street, rather than turn west at Metropolitan Avenue. The buses will head northbound on 131st Street from Jamaica Avenue to Hillside Avenue, then turn west onto Hillside Avenue before returning to its regular Metropolitan Avenue route.
The route will return five parking spots on Metropolitan Avenue while removing three to four on 131st Street. One additional westbound Q54 stop will be added on 131st Street. The route will improve local access to the Trade Fair and Jamaica Hospital. Two additional connections will be made from the Q54 to Q56 bus stops on Jamaica Avenue.
The project is expected to begin in late March then undergo four to six weeks of construction. The official Q54 route change will not be in effect until after the pedestrian safety island is built.
Attendees raised concerns over the impact construction might have on traffic. According to DOT representatives, traffic impediments should be minor because of their concrete crews who come up with Maintenance Protection of Traffic (MPT).
Questions rose from board members whether legal enforcement was practiced to ensure driving laws were being observed before resorting to traffic changes.
“Often we’re hearing about enormous changes to bus routes and to street directions and it’s not always clear if enforcement was attempted before this,” board member Alex J. Blenkinsopp said.
“We do work with NYPD,” a representative from DOT said. “When they have issues when they’re seeing a lot of high accident locations they will come to DOT asking that engineering changes be pursued.”