With the Select Bus Service (SBS) project inching towards implementation along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards on Nov. 12, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) is optimistic that these changes will improve traffic flow through the corridor, while Community Board 5 (CB 5) remains very apprehensive.
Jason Banrey, the DOT Queens deputy borough commissioner, visited the board’s Transportation and Public Transit Committees joint meeting on Oct. 24 at the board office in Glendale to address many of the board’s concerns as the SBS project nears.
One major cause for concern is the traffic nightmare that has developed as a result of DOT construction at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike.
“In my view, what is taking place at that intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike has been terrible for the neighborhood and this has gone on already for probably about a month,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5.
The project taking place aims to make the intersection safer by removing the service road mediums to create a simpler and safer central medium with passenger refuge along Woodhaven Boulevard from Union Turnpike to 81st Road. It also restricts southbound left turns from Woodhaven Boulevard to Union Turnpike, while creating a turn bay for U-Turns at 81st Road to allow access to Union Turnpike.
“That intersection is one of the most deadly intersections in the city of New York, if not the borough of Queens, which is why we are banning that south-bound left turn from Woodhaven [Boulevard] on to eastbound Union Turnpike,” Banrey said. “That will be ready to be implemented at launch, on Nov. 12.”
In addition, the forcing of drivers going eastbound on Union Turnpike to make a right turn onto Woodhaven Boulevard has “caused extreme chaos in the neighborhood,” Giordano added.
The reason for that turn is to protect the workers at the intersection while they complete construction and to allow people to continue to flow through, Banrey said. He also confirmed that this regulation will not continue once the project launches on Nov. 12.
“If this is what the traffic planners have done,” Giordano said. “Then I really am fearful that this plan for SBS, which Board 5 did not fight…I’m worried that if they did things like this, if their numbers are right for Woodhaven Boulevard for the SBS.”
DOT believes, however, that drivers will start to see some traffic alleviation at the intersection as they continue to remove construction barrels in the area as implementation of the SBS lanes nears, and the possibility to make a left turn is added on 81st Street.
As drivers look to avoid the headache at that intersection, they began to spill over onto residential streets, most notably 88th Street. Banrey says that DOT believes that once the project is complete, the spillover will also end.
Once implementation begins on Nov. 12, DOT’s work in the area is not done. Crews will be examining and studying how people are taking to the new regulations, and will be looking to add in slip lanes to the roads to help drivers access the residential side streets along Woodhaven Boulevard.
“If there are areas once we implement this project where you feel that would be appropriate to add slip lanes in an effort to get people into the residential areas, because that’s one of the things that we were hearing during the three-year community outreach process is that people won’t have access to the residential areas east and west of Woodhaven Boulevard,” Banrey told the committees.
Only time will tell if the SBS project will truly help fix the traffic nightmare at Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike.