By TRISHA SAKHUJA
State and local officials held two rallies just days apart, pushing for traffic safety improvements in Western Queens.
Community members are calling on the City to implement traffic safety measures on the exit ramp of the Queensboro Bridge and at the intersection of 49th Avenue and 11th Street in Long Island City.
On Dec. 11, State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) stood with community leaders to demand a comprehensive solution from the Dept. of Transportation in the wake of another fatal crash that took the life of a mother during the early hours of Dec. 10.
Elisa Toro, 36, the latest victim in a series accidents and fatalities since 2011, was coming off the curve from the outside lane of the bridge before crashing.
In a recent letter sent to the DOT, Van Bramer, Gianaris, Maloney and Nolan asked the DOT to redesign the exit ramp before another tragedy occurs.
Although the DOT did install additional signage and barriers to the exit ramp on the bridge, the letter dated Dec. 11, states, “We believe nothing short of a complete redesign of the exit ramp will fully address this problem.”
“We stood here two years ago asking for a complete redesign of the off ramp, and instead we got new signs and a couple barriers. The time for half measures is gone,” Gianaris said.
“Cars are still flying off this bridge, into store fronts, and putting the lives of pedestrians and motorists in jeopardy,” Van Bramer said.
DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said, since 2011 this ramp has been equipped with a large variety of traffic management devices, including three 20 MPH word messages and “sharks teeth” markings on the roadway, 26 aluminum-backed reflectors, plus another 150 prismatic reflectors on the bridge rail uprights, four sets of rumble and an electronic sign that displays the speed of passing motorists.
Not too far from the bridge is the 49th Avenue and 11th Street intersection, adjacent to the off ramp of the Pulaski Bridge, which lacks clear crosswalk markings and stop signs or signals.
Van Bramer, who has advocated for safety improvements at this intersection for more than a year, said it is the DOT’s responsibility to maintain the safety of our City’s pedestrians.
The residents who live at LHaus Condominium and Hunters View say they fear crossing the hazardous intersection, as many of them are forced to dodge the speeding vehicles coming off the ramp.
Miguel Gonzalez, a resident of LHaus Condominium for four years, said it is hard to have a three old child while living at the intersection.
“It is difficult when you are crossing because the cars don’t see you and that puts you at risk,” Gonzalez said.
Linda Chow, secretary of the board of managers for the building, said they have been petitioning for safety improvements at the intersection since April.
“It is a very hazardous with all of the strollers that come across, especially at night, when [cars] are not adept to see pedestrians,” she said. “We have no right of way and there is nothing stopping them.”
Greg Smith, president of LHaus Board of Managers, said a building with 123 units and more than 40 children, it is imperative for this matter to be addressed immediately.
“Vehicles are allowed to speed, without stopping, coming off the Pulaski Bridge onto 49th Avenue,” Smith said. “We need a crosswalk as well as proper signage before we see anyone hurt.”
According to the DOT, the City agency did study the intersection for crosswalks and traffic control earlier this year, and while it does not meet the federal guidelines for installation, the intersection will be looked at for potential future safety improvements, such as signage in the area.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.