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DOT unveils Select Bus route for Rockaways to Woodside

By Madina Toure

The city Department of Transportation unveiled the design concept for Select Bus Service to connect Rockaway with Woodside using designated lanes on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards this week.

The DOT and the MTA chose the second of three proposed design concepts, a transit-oriented boulevard in which buses travel in special lanes on the main roadway. The concept allows buses to travel without having to deal with turning or parking delays for an anticipated travel time savings of 25 percent to 35 percent.

Median transit stations with shelters, seating and real-time bus information would be constructed as well.

“Queens deserves better public transit and we’re excited to bring this innovative design for bus rapid transit to move New Yorkers efficiently while at the same time making the streets safer for all,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

This spring the DOT will hold block-by-block design workshops for the SBS route to get feedback on the design.

The DOT proposed implementing BRT in the 14-mile Woodhaven Boulevard corridor between Woodside and Rockaway Beach, which is expected to cost about $200 million.

The project would include designated lanes over most of the route, enhanced bus stops with shelters, seating and customer information, an off-board fare system, transit signal priority, branded SBS service including signage and vehicles and roadway improvements.

The service would operate in mixed traffic at the northern and southern ends of the route, where streets are narrow.

Residents in southeast Queens and the Rockaways have some of the longest commute times in the city, said City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).

Richards said the additional money would allow the DOT to get as close as possible to implementing a full-service BRT, noting its plans to pursue streetscape projects in Woodhaven and the Rockaways, for example.

“We have an opportunity to do something amazing for the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor going into the Rockaways and I am very grateful and happy to continue the partnership with DOT for better transportation,” Richards said.

The DOT submitted an application for New Starts funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, which gives out federal resources for local transit capital investments such as the Woodhaven BRT, with strong support from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

If accepted, the project could receive up to $100 million in federal funding.

We join the senator in supporting MTA and NYC DOT’s efforts to decrease congestion, improve safety, and provide a more reliable transit option for tens of thousands of underserved Queens’ residents along the corridor,” the BRT for NYC Coalition said in a statement.

The DOT applied for the project development phase of the New Starts program Feb. 4, according to a Federal Transit Administration spokesman. The FTA approved the entry of the project into the New Starts program March 20, the spokesman said.

Rockaway Park resident Phil McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee, criticized the DOT and MTA for not considering an unused train track two to six blocks away from Woodhaven Boulevard where the Rockaway Beach line formerly operated and the cost of the project.

“It would be a much more superior transportation mode than the bus rapid transit,” McManus said.

He also said the project would require the removal of one of four traffic lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard, which would increase traffic congestion on local roadways.

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio selected the Woodhaven BRT as one of four new routes for Select Bus Service. The city has committed $295 million to developing and implementing 13 new Select Bus Service routes through 2017.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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