DOT begins work on Northern Boulevard bus-priority project

Work has begun on the Northern Boulevard bus priority project and the DOT announced bus lane pilots on Jamaica and Archer Avenues will be made permanent. (Photo courtesy of NYC DOT)

Just two weeks after safe streets and transit advocates rallied on Northern Boulevard in Corona calling for Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to move faster in the construction of bus lanes across the five boroughs, the city’s Department of Transportation on Nov. 14 announced that work has begun on new bus-priority lanes on Northern Boulevard.

DOT also announced that busway pilots on Jamaica Avenue and Archer Avenue in Queens and one on 181st Street in Manhattan’s Washington Heights will be made permanent.

“The changes to Northern Boulevard will not only make bus service safer and more reliable to thousands of riders, but they will also make this stretch much safer, enabling us to meet our Vision Zero goals,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said. “We understand that strong bus infrastructure is a necessity; that is why we have also made busways permanent on three critical arteries in Manhattan and Queens. We will continue collaborating with the MTA and our community partners as we tackle these important projects.”

Just weeks after transit and safe streets advocates rallied on Northern Boulevard in Corona, calling on the Adams administration to fix Northern Boulevard, DOT announced the work is already underway. (Photo by Ben Brachfeld)

The Northern Boulevard bus-priority project will deliver 4.6 miles of bus lanes from Corona to Woodside, offering proven street improvements along a Vision Zero priority corridor. The affected bus routes — Q66, QM2, QM3, QM20, and QM32 — also connect to the M, R and 7 subway lines with 17,000 weekday riders. The project came about through a robust public engagement process with dozens of stakeholders and community groups over the last four years.

“When buses have dedicated space on the street separated from general traffic, they move faster,” said MTA New York City Transit Senior Vice President for Buses Frank Annicaro. “And when buses move faster, riders benefit and more people choose buses. The MTA is extremely pleased to be working closely with the Adams administration to improve bus service for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on buses every day, and to attract more riders to this environmentally friendly, congestion-busting form of transportation.”

DOT said the project came about through a robust public engagement process with dozens of stakeholders and community groups over the last four years. DOT has hosted an online feedback portal as well as conducted surveys at on-street pop-up sites, building on years of public outreach for safety improvements. DOT has also held three public workshops in 2018 with discussions and visioning for the capital project and, in February 2020, the DOT and state Senator Ramos solicited feedback from businesses on Northern Boulevard. Most recently, DOT presented to Queens Community Board 3 this past summer.

“Because my district is the home of many essential workers and commuters, we need safe and reliable public transportation. I’m proud of the work my office did to solicit input from small businesses and community members,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “My neighbors have been asking for improved bus service since long before I became an elected official, and it is a good feeling for all of us that our needs are being prioritized. MTA ridership and small business recovery is happening at an accelerated pace in Queens post-pandemic, and I am excited to see these improvements to a central transit artery sustain that recovery.”

Through public meetings, the agencies heard major concerns about Northern Boulevard, including the need for faster, more reliable service, as well as better connections to local transit and bus service.

“The Northern Boulevard bus-priority project will ensure that our neighbors in Woodside have access to faster, safer and more reliable bus service,” Councilwoman Julie Won said. “Thousands of New Yorkers take these buses every day, and building 4.6 miles of new bus lanes along Northern Boulevard will provide more alternatives to driving and help us to create a greener city.”

The project will complement a suite of pedestrian safety improvements DOT previously installed along the corridor, including pedestrian islands, Lead Pedestrian Intervals and painted curb extensions.

“With nine pedestrian deaths since 2015 and an average of 13 people killed per mile, Northern Boulevard has sadly become Queens’ new ‘Boulevard of Death,’” Councilman Shekar Krishnan said. “Stopping these needless deaths starts with safe streets and safe, reliable transit. I applaud Commissioner Rodriguez and the Department of Transportation for launching the Northern Boulevard bus improvements, which will improve transit times for our neighbors while saving lives.”

DOT expects to finish the Northern Boulevard bus priority project in the spring.