DOT Pitches Glendale Plan To CB 5 Cmte.
Seeking to address concerns voiced by residents regarding pedestrian safety at a Glendale intersection near a local public school, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a preliminary improvement plan for the location to members of Community Board 5′s Transportation and Public Transit committees last Tuesday night, Apr. 24.
During the panel’s session at the community board’s Glendale office, the DOT’s Queens borough commissioner, Maura McCarthy, and director of pedestrian projects, Randy Wade, outlined a few concepts for the intersection of Cooper Avenue, 73rd Place and 78th Avenue designed to make it safer for all to cross.
Attendees at a January public meeting regarding the Cooper Avenue underpass reconstruction project informed DOT officials about safety hazards at the three-way intersection, claiming that many passersby-including students traveling to and from P.S./I.S. 119, located a block away- jaywalk away from designated crosswalks on a regular basis.
The problem came to light after the DOT proposed converting nearby 74th Street between Cooper and 78th avenues from a one-way road for southbound traffic into a one-way road for northbound traffic. Many residents at the January session voiced their opposition to the plan, charging that the change would add to traffic on 73rd Place and increase the risk faced by pedestrians and drivers.
Many of the changes proposed at last Tuesday’s meeting, McCarthy stated, were formulated after she and other DOT officials joined board members and local residents on a walking tour of the intersection on Friday, Apr. 20.
Wade presented the rough draft of the proposal for the panel’s consideration. She noted that the changes were made not only with pedestrian safety in mind, but also considering that 73rd Place serves as a truck route linking eastern and western sections of Cooper Avenue.
“Any design solution has to accommodate excessively large vehicles,” Wade said. “The biggest goal is to get that crosswalk fixed.”
One of the ideas in the preliminary draft, she explained, is the installation of a new traffic island at the western intersection of Cooper Avenue and 73rd Place. The island will serve to separate traffic turning from Cooper Avenue eastbound onto 73rd Place, with one lane heading northbound and the other heading southbound. The yellow dividing line on Cooper Avenue will also be realigned at this location to provide easier turns for large vehicles.
In addition, the DOT is also considering widening the curb at the northeastern corner of 73rd Place and 78th Avenue and installing a new pedestrian crosswalk, Wade stated.
Asked about changing the timing of stoplights at the location, she indicated that the agency is examining its options. One of the potentials that could made is implementing a leading pedestrian interval (LPI), a modified signal to allow pedestrians a head start in order to cross the street safely.
“With an LPI, there would be a walk phase where cars would all be held a little bit,” Wade said. “Then eastbound traffic would go, but at that point, the kids would have gotten across. The slower pedestrians would be right in front of the driver.”
Arcuri noted that during the walkthrough, committee members talked about making traffic move easier. One idea suggested is the elimination of parking at the southeast corner of 73rd Place and 78th Avenue (daylighting) during school hours to make it easier for drivers to see other vehicles and pedestrians at the crossing.
Committee members agreed with many of the ideas suggested by the DOT. At the agency’s request, the panel voiced no objections to the DOT’s efforts to create a final improvement plan for the intersection; Wade indicated that the department would present the final draft to the committees once it is created.
“I think this will bring about a safer route for kids,” said Richard Huber, a committee member and Glendale resident.
No set timeframe for the project was provided, but Arcuri stated that “if everything works out, it would be implemented as soon as possible.”
Regarding the ongoing Cooper Avenue underpass project, Fern Weinreich of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) reported that the work remains on schedule.
The DOT is also in the process of designing the long-delayed reconstruction of streets in southern Middle Village, according to McCarthy, but it may take up to two years to complete.
The borough commissioner stated that in reviewing the project, the DOT discovered that some sections of roads in the area were not owned by the city and would need to be acquired before work can begin.
“For a lot of the streets, the title is unclear,” McCarthy said, explaining that in certain antiquated deeds, some of the neighboring properties actually have sections of the roadbed included within its boundaries.
She estimated that it would take two years for the design and acquisitions to be completed. While the funding for the entire project-which includes the installation of new sewer and water mains and roadbed reconstruction- has been “pushed out of budget,” McCarthy hoped that the city would have the resources to move forward with the project by that time.
Arcuri added that the Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project has been approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a “design build project,” which would result in work beginning in 2013. Crews will erect a new bridge adjacent to the existing span; once the new crossing is open, the current structure will be demolished.
The co-chairs of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), Mary Parisen and Mary Arnold, thanked the committees for its support of their grant application for a new air quality study of locations near freight rail lines in Glendale and Middle Village.
Should CURES receive the grant, the air quality study would help establish a “baseline” of air pollution to examine the capacity of local rails and the impact of additional activity on the lines on the health of neighbors.
Parisen stated that train activity at the Fresh Pond Railyard is increasing almost by the day, as three diesel locomotives are being used to pull very long trains of container cars full of debris. It is anticipated that the usage of the yard will only increase with the opening of the new waste transfer facility operated by Waste Management in Long Island City and additional rail hubs opening in Long Island.
She also noted that the group needs to convince the MTA to abandon the use of diesel locomotives which are over 40 years old and spew heavy amounts of noise and air pollution while in use. While the equipment is used at the railyard by the New York and Atlantic Railway, the MTA leases the engines to the operator and is ultimately responsible for its replacement.
Arcuri suggested that CURES work on assembling a meeting with the MTA, the LIRR and Federal Railroad Administration to consider the replacement of the older engines with newer, more fuel efficient models. He also noted that Governor Cuomo should also be contacted and brought into the negotiation process.
McCarthy also announced that the DOT is in the process of gathering traffic data to review the impact of the Maspeth Truck Bypass enacted last fall. Once the information has been compiled and analyzed, she noted, the agency would report back to the committees at a future meeting.
Public Transit Committee Co- Chair John Maier noted that the MTA has announced 21 bus schedule changes on 17 routes throughout the city, including along the B13, B20, B26 and B54 lines which service Ridgewood.
Though there will be more frequent service on the B13 line during evening rush hour periods, Maier stated, the MTA is curtailing Sunday service along the B20, B26 and B54 lines, each of which stop at the Ridgewood Intermodal Terminal.
The committees opted not to take action on a request by City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to rename 60th Drive between Fresh Pond Road and Mount Olivet Crescent in Maspeth in honor of the late George Gibbons, a local bar owner who was killed in a hit-and-run accident last October.
The committees also agreed to ask the DOT to study the potential installation of no standing (daylighting) restrictions along the northeast corner of Menahan Street and Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood and converting 62nd Avenue between Dry Harbor Road and 80th Street in Middle Village from a two-way street into a oneway road.
The next Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit committees meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the board’s Glendale office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. For more information, call 1-718- 366-1834.