By Gina Martinez
Queens elected officials and residents are calling on the MTA to make necessary changes to alleviate traffic on the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges.
State Assemblymen Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) are leading the push. The bridges are currently under construction as part of the MTA’s Open Road Tolling initiative, which will eliminate tolls and decrease traffic, but in the meantime the assemblymen said the MTA needs to come up with a feasible solution to fix the immense traffic caused by the project.
The current closure of toll booths and lanes across both bridges has caused a traffic nightmare for residents in both Queens and the Bronx, the lawmakers said. The cashless toll construction is set to be completed by the fall, but elected officials have called the MTA plan short-sighted.
“While the new tolling system will ultimately improve our roadways, the simultaneous construction on both bridges was not adequately prepared for, as evidenced by the massive delays,” Simanowitz said.
Braunstein said the MTA should have come up with a better plan to prepare for traffic jams.
“The MTA should have anticipated that commencing the construction of cashless tolling at the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges at the same time would result in significant traffic problems,” he said. “I join my colleagues in calling on Gov. Cuomo to direct the MTA to immediately make the necessary changes to alleviate traffic congestion occurring in both Queens and the Bronx.”
The assemblymen also raised concerns about life-threatening delays caused by traffic tie-ups that could potentially affect emergency service vehicles and commuters. They asked the MTA to work with city and state officials to create a traffic plan that gives safe access to first responders.
“Beyond the disruption created for our neighbors in Whitestone, residents of both boroughs who rely on emergency services are endangered,” Simanowitz said. “It is crucial that the city and MTA immediately coordinate on a plan to ensure safe passage and traffic relief for our first responders.”
According to We Love Whitestone President Alfredo Centola, as a result of the bridge traffic, Whitestone residents have had to deal with overflow traffic, which has started to spill onto residential streets.
“Communities like Whitestone and Throgs Neck are being assaulted with thousands of cars blocking traffic and causing chaos for residents trapped in their driveways, unable to move around their communities.” Centola said.
Kim Cody, president of “Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Association” said this traffic in residential areas is a danger for pedestrians and students.
“Vehicles looking to avoid the long lines on the Cross Island Parkway exit at Utopia Parkway and speed along the service road and residential streets of our community,” Cody said. “They show total disregard for traffic controls and pedestrians, mainly children going to school during the morning rush hours.”
The MTA has not given a public response, but told the Braunstein’s office they are looking at the issue and are in contact. Some suggestions are changing traffic patterns or widening lanes to allow free flow of traffic. Construction is scheduled to continue through September, and the community anticipates an aggravated traffic situation over the summer months if no plan is put in place.
For now, elected representatives have spoken with NYPD’s Traffic Bureau and have requested additional officers to help facilitate a traffic plan for motorists. In the meantime, the community has been working with the 109th Precinct, which under the coordination of Inspector Judith Harrison has provided additional officers to patrol and oversee problematic areas.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart