Hoping to boost pedestrian safety, the Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled on Tuesday night its $17 million capital project proposal for a long-awaited redesign along Thomson Avenue in Long Island City.
The DOT and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held a public presentation at LaGuardia Community College on May 29, where they discussed preliminary plans for changes to key areas on Thomson Avenue. Sidewalk widening and repair, signal improvement and other redesign plans for the three-way intersection of Thomson Avenue, Queens Boulevard and Van Dam Street were discussed as part of the DOT plan.
DOT project manager Dan Wagner gave an overview of their proposal for top-priority short and long term changes. The short term plans included adding pedestrian connectivity through crosswalks, pedestrian ramps and signals on Thomson and Van Dam streets and several improvements to the Thomson Avenue corridor, which they estimate could be implemented as early as fall 2018.
The longer term changes in the capital project include upgrading traffic patterns at Thomson and Van Dam and installing raised and high-visibility crosswalks that are ADA compliant at on the northeast side of Thomson Avenue. Wagner estimated that planning and development for these changes would take place from 2019 to 2022 and construction would begin at the end of 2022.
The DOT added that the plans for redesign are in the preliminary stages, but their hope is to expand Vision Zero initiatives in the specified areas.
“The visuals from Tuesday night’s meeting are concepts in development. We were happy to have the opportunity to go to LaGuardia Community College for this discussion, from which we gained valuable insights, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with all community stakeholders. We are evaluating ways to expand Vision Zero treatments along this corridor, including rapid response safety enhancements to the intersection of Thomson, Van Dam and Queens Blvd. We are looking at corridor-wide safety and streetscape enhancements adjacent to LaGuardia Community College as well as exploring capital improvements at intersections with high crash histories, including the intersection of Van Dam/Thomson/Queens Boulevard and the intersection of Thomson/Skillman Avenue,” said the DOT.
According to the DOT, there have been an estimated 13 deaths or serious injuries between Thomson Ave. and Queens Blvd. over the past five years, one of the driving factors for the redesign. One of the victims was 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak, who along with four other people, was struck by a minivan near the intersection of Thomson Avenue and 30th Street, as reported by QNS.
Drudak was a student who attended Applied Communications High School located inside one of the LAGCC buildings. The other four surviving victims were LaGuardia students.
Helen Ho, the director of external affairs at LaGuardia, said that streets on Thomson Avenue and others surrounding the school have always been dangerous. She said that student clubs came together following Drudak’s death, and put out a survey to evaluate changes that needed to be made.
Anthony Tellez, a current student at LaGuardia, expressed his concerns about problems areas and lack of protected bike lanes to the DOT. He said that he heard that the DOT were originally going to scrap plans for extended sidewalks, but emphasized the importance of those sidewalks for pedestrians.
“I’ve seen students trying to avoid congestion on Thomson Avenue and getting too close to the road,” Tellez said.
He also mentioned the problem area on Van Dam Street where the flashing yellow light allows cars to make a right turn while pedestrians simultaneously have the walk light.