By Connor Adams Sheets
Business owners on 40th Road in Flushing got their way Monday when the city Department of Transportation announced it will not be reversing traffic and rerouting buses to the narrow downtown street as part of its new traffic mitigation plan.
The plan, which the DOT’s Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy announced last week will be implemented at the beginning of July, is aimed at comprehensively addressing the downtown area’s traffic woes.
Originally slated to make traffic on Main Street one-way in addition to other changes, the blueprint is now being billed as a “modified two-way” plan in which turns will be restricted or barred entirely onto and from some of the most heavily trafficked streets.
One change in the proposal will make it illegal for buses to turn from Main Street onto Roosevelt Avenue. In the plan revealed this past February, traffic would have been reversed on 40th Road, allowing buses to use the short stretch as a detour.
But the street’s many merchants howled at the plan, saying the estimated 40 buses an hour the proposal would bring to the block at peak times would cripple their businesses by blocking on-street parking, creating unsafe situations for drivers as well as pedestrians and causing intense traffic jams.
“The main concern is public safety. This block is very short and narrow and there’s truck-loading all day and also passenger cars moving back and forth, so every time a bus comes through there’s going to be a big problem,” said Raymond Chen, who has owned Maxines Bakery on 40th Road for eight years. “If walking traffic is so heavy and all the traffic is so heavy, there are going to be accidents.”
The merchants quickly collected 200 signatures in opposition to the detour, which they presented to City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and the Flushing Chinese Business Association, which brought their concerns to the DOT.
The new plan will instead detour buses to nearby 37th and 39th avenues, which already handle bus traffic.
“The Council member, the Flushing Chinese Business Association and the community at large were very loud and clear in their opposition to reversing traffic on 40th Road,” McCarthy said, adding that “nothing goes as smoothly as we may hope, so we anticipate that we’ll be tweaking the plan over the next several months.”
McCarthy also said the DOT is working with police to ensure drivers are not unfairly ticketed in the days immediately following the changes, while people are still getting used to them.
“The goal is to get the traffic to flow better, not to give out thousands of tickets,” she said.
Koo is currently setting up a downtown Flushing traffic task force to evaluate the traffic plan and make suggestions about any needed changes. It will include Koo, representatives from Borough President Helen Marshall’s office and others and will be implemented at the same time as the new traffic plan.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.