BY DANIEL OFFNER
A long-awaited series of safety improvements to the treacherous “Boulevard of Death” are in the works, after members of Community Board 2 overwhelmingly voted to approve the city Department of Transportation’s planned redesign of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street.
The improvements look to make conditions safer for drivers, commuters, pedestrians and cyclists.
Nichole Altmix, a project planner with the DOT, said the first phase of the proposal focuses on one of the boulevard’s most lethal corridors – where there have been six fatalities since 2009 – with the goal of calming service roads, improving traffic flow, accommodating all users, connecting neighborhoods, eliminating highway-like features and reducing the number of people who maneuver between the main and service roads.
Altmix said the design principles include closing low-volume slips, extending left turning bays and installing wider crosswalks, installing new pedestrian space, a protected bike lane, wayfinding signage and stop signs at different problem intersections along the route.
“Our data also shows that in peak hours up to 200 bikes per hour use Queens Boulevard,” Altmix said. “So we know that regardless of whether or not there is a bike lane there people are using Queens Boulevard to bike.”
A bike path and pedestrian path will be constructed adjacent to each other between the service road and mainline, which Altmix said would “pave the way” for a $100 million capital project scheduled for 2018.
The first phase, replacing e temporary barriers for cyclists and pedestrians with ones built of concrete, is not slated to begin until the 2018 fiscal year.
The DOT presented members of CB 2 with two options for a section of the boulevard between 69th and 70th streets in Woodside. The first option would transition the protected bicycle lane onto the main road to accommodate the change in roadway geometry, while preserving parking. Meanwhile, option two would keep the bicycle lane on the service roads, continuing the protected route on towards 73rd Street.
Following the presentation, 14-year resident Bernadette Castro said bicycling in Queens is “pathetic” when compared to Brooklyn.
“I feel like I should have the right to use my bicycle to get where I need to go safely,” Castro said. “I have a family and they’re really scared for me. I think this is a really good thing.”
Patrick Ray, who said he walks and drives on Queens Boulevard every day, noted the speed cars drove on the boulevard, which was why he does not bicycle on the road.
“It is incredibly dangerous,” Ray said. “This project paints the future of a road safe enough to bicycle on.”
However, not everyone at the meeting was in favor of the proposal. Tom Ryan of Woodside said he feels there are already too many uses for Queens Boulevard, urging cyclists to use artillery roadways instead of adding a new bike path to the street.
“Putting bikes down the central boulevard is crazy,” Ryan said. “There are a lot of things we have to think about.”
Denise Keehan-Smith, chairwoman of CB 2’s Transportation Committee, said that since the committee did not have a quorum, they were unable to present a report on the proposal.
According to Smith, the committee was not informed by the DOT of the different options proposed for 69th through 70th streets, both of which would reduce 20-plus parking spaces from the area. Because of this, the committee motioned to table the vote, which would have delayed progress until September if the majority did not agree to vote on it that night.
Ultimately, members of CB 2 selected option 2 – to continue the bike path along the service road – before voting unanimously to approve the first phase of the project, on the condition that the Board will continue to work with DOT through its implementation.
The DOT plans to begin implementation of phase one in July and August.
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @DanielOffner.