By Bill Parry
Drivers will have to slow down on two of the borough’s most dangerous roadways beginning next month.
The speed limit on Northern and Queens boulevards will be reduced to 25 mph from its current 30 mph when the city Department of Transportation begins installing slow zones at part of the Vision Zero initiative.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg joined elected officials at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 39th Avenue to make the announcement May 1.
“I am pleased to bring the Arterial Slow Zone program to Northern Boulevard, where long crosswalks and high speeds have been an unnecessary reality for too many Queens residents,” Trottenberg said.
In addition to the lowered speed limit, traffic signals will be re-timed to make speeding more difficult and new signs will be installed along 4.2 miles of Northern Boulevard from 40th Road to 114th Street near the Grand Central Parkway.
That stretch of road has seen five fatalities, all pedestrians, since 2008.
The new slow zone on Queens Boulevard will stretch 7.4 miles from Jackson to Hillside avenues beginning in July.
The Vision Zero initiative became a focal point for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration following the death of 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, who was hit and killed by a tractor trailer on his way to school at PS 152 in December.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who was able to secure a crossing guard for the dangerous intersection at Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, said, “We have looked into the eyes of Noshat Nahian’s mother, and if you have done that once — looked into the eyes of a mother who has lost her child as a result of a traffic collision — you know that we have to do everything we can.”
Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) shared a pledge to publicize each traffic collision since Noshat was killed in a campaign to bring Vision Zero to their districts.
“We were out here in freezing weather, the seasons change but the mission has not,” Gianaris said. “I am thrilled to be here on Northern Boulevard with Commissioner Trottenberg announcing safety improvements rather than with a grieving family begging the city to take action.”
Will the reduction of the speed limit of just 5 mph really save lives?
Dr. Kaushal Shah, of the Elmhurst Hospital Center’s Trauma Unit, which tends to many of the pedestrians who are killed or injured in traffic collisions on the two boulevards he calls hot spots for tragic accidents, says yes.
“It is absolutely true that your chance of survival after being struck by a motor vehicle is directly correlated with the speed of the vehicle upon impact,” Shah said. “At 25 mph, you have a greater than 95 percent chance of survival, at 30 mph you have an 80 percent chance. Driving a little slower makes a big difference — literally — the difference between life and death.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.