By Yvette Brown
Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) on July 23 to announce the arrival of a new bike lane on Queens Boulevard, part of the Vision Zero initiative to turn the boulevard from the “Boulevard of Death” to the “Boulevard of Life.”
The $100 million project was approved by Community Board 2 to help bring safer crossings and more crosswalks for pedestrians, as well as protected bike lanes, expanded medians with trees and plantings and reconfigured intersections that reduce speeding and other dangerous behavior.
“We don’t accept that streets like Queens Boulevard have to be dangerous, that children and grandparents have to be taken from their families year after year,” said de Blasio. “And so, shoulder-to-shoulder with this community, we are taking action on one of the most ambitious and complex overhauls ever undertaken by the City. This street has earned the name ‘Boulevard of Death.’ Today, we begin work on the ‘Boulevard of Life.’”
Since 1990, 185 New Yorkers have lost their lives on Queens Boulevard, most of them being pedestrians. Between 2009 and 2013, six people were killed on the roadway, 36 suffered severe injuries and 591 were hurt in crashes.
The first phase of the project targets 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in Woodside.
“Dozens of injuries and a handful of fatalities have occurred in just over a mile of the roadway, and the numbers are disturbing when looking at the entire boulevard,” said Crowley. “Walkers and bikers are at every corner, and they have that right to travel as is most convenient for them. It is my hope that the Great Streets Initiative, once fully implemented, will make it safer and easier for all New Yorkers to navigate our bustling streets.”
This stretch is only one of four corridors that is being redesigned under the $250 million Great Streets initiative, which was funded in this year’s budget along with 50 priority intersections and streets overhauled by the DOT. The redesign process to Queens Boulevard began in January. It will route through-traffic on the main line roadway so that it can reduce motorists’ switching repeatedly between the main line and the service road through slip lanes, this allows for slower traffic by reducing the highway-like design and helps pedestrians cross the roadway.
“After decades of crashes, this corridor will be redesigned to become a safer, greener, and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses,” said Trottenberg.
The improvements that are being made by the DOT include pedestrian islands constructed at 65th Place and 50th Street in stages to prevent pedestrians from having to run across. A midblock crossing will be constructed between 72nd and 73rd streets and high visibility crosswalks and new signals will be constructed at the ramps to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at 66th and 68th streets.
Queens Boulevard will also receive bike lanes with buffers and pedestrian space along the median near the service lanes. A raised bike path, separated from traffic will be constructed under the overpass on the eastbound service road from 67th Street to 69th Street. The pedestrian ramps will be upgraded for New Yorkers with disabilities.
The 54th and 56th streets slip lanes will be closed, and the 59th Street, 59th Place and 61st Street slip lanes will become “STOP” controlled turn lanes. The main and service road at 64th Street will contain a new slip lane closer to the entrance to the BQE. The service roads will be reduced to one moving lane along certain stretches and the main line will continue to have three moving lanes. Lastly, the access to the BQE tunnel will be reconstructed at the 65th Place to help organize traffic flow.
After the work is done, the capital improvements will begin in 2018 and the DOT will soon begin work to redesign Queens Boulevard from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and then from Eliot Avenue to Jamaica Avenue.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext. 128, email@example.com or @eveywrites.