By Bill Parry
The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is the focus of the city Department of Transportation’s plans for a $100 million redesign of Queens Boulevard. The concept was unveiled during a slide show presentation for Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee Tuesday night.
Construction of the first phase of the project will begin this summer between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street, a 1.3-mile stretch where six people were killed between 2009 and 2013. The entire 7-mile corridor, one of the most dangerous in the city with 38 traffic fatalities and 448 severe injuries from 2003 to 2013, will follow.
“After decades of crashes, many of them fatal,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said, “this corridor has been re-imagined and will be redesigned to become a safer, greener and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses, suitable to traverse through the world’s borough.”
The DOT held a comprehensive public workshop on the thoroughfare’s safety needs in January and developed the project proposal based on the information gathered along with the study of traffic and safety conditions. Among the top issues were residents’ concerns about speeding, an uncomfortable cycling environment, conflicts at intersections between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, and unpleasant and dangerous-feeling pedestrian conditions.
The proposal includes adding a 5-foot protected bike lane incorporated into a widened service road median with new pedestrian space for a park-like experience, similar to Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
“This work represents a major advancement in the efforts to achieve Vision Zero throughout our city,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “Thanks to the work of the DOT, we are seeing significant improvements in traffic safety in western Queens, and we look forward to seeing Queens Boulevard safety improvements, thanks to this $100 million capital investment.”
The DOT wants to keep through traffic in the center lanes and reduce the tendency for drivers to switch back and forth with the service roads looking for less congestion, something the agency calls “road shopping.” Instead of using the slip lanes to transition between the main roadway and the service road, drivers will be forced to stop, which will slow speeds and allow for safer bicycle and pedestrian crossings.
The safe streets advocacy group Transportation Alternatives had dozens of members take part in the public workshop in January.
“For years, Queens residents have asked for safety improvements on Queens Boulevard, and now Mayor de Blasio has listened and delivered,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “His vision for Queens Boulevard, and the pace of this planned safety redesign, will set the tone for the transformation of dangerous streets across the five boroughs.”
Community Board 2 is expected to vote on the plan in June. The completion of the first phase is anticipated to be completed in August, according to the DOT.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr