By Connor Adams Sheets
Drivers beware: Starting Sunday, downtown Flushing will be a different place to drive when the city Department of Transportation’s traffic changes for the neighborhood go into effect.
The sweeping plan is aimed at alleviating some of Flushing’s heavy traffic in advance of a series of new development projects which are slated for construction in the congested downtown area.
Once the plan is implemented, no turns will be allowed from Main Street onto Roosevelt Avenue, left turns will be prohibited from Northern Boulevard onto Main Street and from Main Street onto 37th Avenue except for buses and left turns will be prohibited from Union Street onto Northern Boulevard.
Downtown Flushing has been a hazard and a headache for drivers and pedestrians for years. The intersection of Union Street and Northern Boulevard is the most dangerous in the entire borough for pedestrians, and the intersection of Main Street and Rooseveltï»¿ Avenue is tied with Manhattan’s 34th Street and Sixth Avenue for the third-highest traffic volume in the entire city, according to DOT Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy.
Only Times Square and 34th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan have more traffic.
Originally slated to make traffic on Main Street one-way in addition to other changes, the plan was changed into the current iteration — called a “modified two-way” plan by the DOT.
The one-way plan, which Community Board 7 and many other residents worked on with the DOT for years until the department announced earlier this year it would be modifying it, would have made Main Street one-way. That would have created a number of major problems, McCarthy said, so the department decided to re-evaluate its options and settled on the existing plan.
“The volume of right turns would be dramatically increased for vehicles and buses” under the one-way plan, she said earlier this year, “which gave us pause because for truck and bus drivers that is a blind spot.”
The plan will also extend curbs at some major downtown intersections in order to allow pedestrians to pass more safely and quickly through crowded areas and sidewalks.
The plan was originally slated to switch 40th Road from eastbound to westbound, but area business owners protested and with the help of City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), the plan was updated and will now instead detour buses to nearby 37th and 39th avenues, which already handle bus traffic.
“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,” Raymond Chen, who has owned Maxinesï»¿ Bakery on 40th Road for eight years, said in support of the change.
A Downtown Flushing Task Force, including Koo, representatives from Borough President Helen Marshall’s office and others, will evaluate the impact of the DOT plan after it goes into effect and make suggestions for any changes that might make it more effective.
McCarthy said the DOT plans to monitor possible tweaks or changes to the plan for six months after its implementation and said the department will be open to suggestions on how to improve it.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.