BY JON CRONIN
Already frustrated with the reorganization of lanes on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, the neighboring communities are now annoyed by the introduction of 24-hour bus lanes.
Although the city’s Department of Transportation stated that 24-hour bus lanes have always been the plan, some local leaders said that they do not remember it being part of the DOT’s public engagement process.
Kenichi Wilson, the chairman of Community Board 9’s transportation committee, stated that when the DOT first introduced the plan, the engineers were considering a 24-hour bus lane.
“We said absolutely not,” Wilson said, “That’s when they made them rush hour only.”
Wilson said that the DOT currently has “draft only” plans online and will release the final draft on Nov. 12 when all the construction is finished and Select Bus Service is officially implemented.
He said he was told that main lane buses will run 24 hours a day, but added that he was never informed that bus lanes on the service road would be 24 hours.
He said that the DOT plans to study the boulevards for one year and make possible adjustments in the spring of 2019. Wilson is also concerned that the DOT does not monitor the increased traffic on side streets and its impact on the community. He added that the agency told him that any concerns on noise pollution would have to be reported to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“From the beginning of this project, DOT’s plan has been that the offset and mainline bus lanes would be 24 hours a day,” said DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen. “Time-of-day restrictions are used in areas where the bus lanes are at curbside to allow parking and loading during off-peak hours.”
The DOT also announced that all of the major construction will be completed at the corner of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard this week.
Toby Sheppard Bloch, the transportation committee co-chairman for Community Board 5, said that he wasn’t surprised when the bus lanes went 24 hours. Bloch added that the DOT communicated to him that the rush-hour-only bus lanes were “too confusing for drivers.” He also noted that he could not recall, nor could he find evidence that the DOT said the bus lanes would be 24 hours during the public engagement portion of the project.
Bloch said that the three-lane restriction on Woodhaven Boulevard may decrease car crashes since the previous erratic integration of lanes caused crashes from merging.
“Eliminating one lane is part of rationalizing the roadway,” Bloch said.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said that he doesn’t believe the area needs a 24-hour bus lane.
“We’re going to revisit this,” he said. “Three months in, we’re going to have a list on how it effects our people.”
Bus lanes on the service road that run along the curb are a “killer to our businesses,” Addabbo added.
“They’re feeling a pinch already,” he said. “They’re not big, these are family owned businesses.”
He said that he has mentioned these issues to DOT Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia.
After a 60-day grace period starting Nov. 12, street and bus cameras will fine drivers $150 for driving in the bus lanes.