Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy told the audience that the reason the agency selected these areas for study is accidents. “The main purpose of this meeting is to improve safety,” she said.
The agency said that from 2004 to 2008 at Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue between 94th and 96th streets, there were a total of 207 injuries from accidents that included 13 pedestrians, 6 bicyclists, and 188 motor vehicle occupants. And in 2009, there was a child killed at the busy aforementioned four-was intersection,
DOT said the intersection is congested and difficult to navigate for all road users. It includes seven bus lines, an elevated subway train, high traffic and pedestrian volumes, and very complex intersection geometry.
“Through a series of road closures, signal timing changes, bus stop relocation, new turning lanes, new vehicle routing and expanded pedestrian space, this comprehensive redesign project aims to improve safety for all users, simplify the intersection, improve pedestrian crossings, relieve congestion for key movements and provide more public space,” said a statement posted on their website.
DOT is planning to install sidewalk extensions and medians to shorten crossing distances and improve current bus stop locations. Traffic patterns at intersections will be redesigned and signal phasing will be modified and renewed to reduce vehicles/bus/pedestrian conflicts and create simpler more navigable intersections for drivers and pedestrians. New crosswalks will accommodate pedestrians.
DOT is also proposing to close Liberty Avenue between Cross Bay Boulevard and 95th Street and expand the Greenstreets that currently exist, which will provide more public space. The agency is also planning to close 94th Street between Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue and convert the street into a pedestrian plaza. DOT will also provide 14 back-in angle parking spaces on the north side of Liberty Avenue between 93rd and 94th streets.
The four-mile study area along Rockaway Boulevard from Atlantic Avenue to Sutphin Boulevard is a wide corridor with multiple travel lanes. It is adjacent to eight priority schools. According to DOT, excess capacity at off-peak hours encourages speeding; approximately 59 percent of vehicles exceed the speed limit along this roadway. Long blocks, long signal cycles, and low volumes also encourages jaywalking. The agency said the proposed project will calm traffic by reducing lanes in some portions and adding left-turn bays and wide parking lanes.
DOT said that traffic calming improvements along Rockaway Boulevard will involve removing one through travel lane west of 104th Street (as feasible) and two through travel lanes east of 104th Street (except at junctions with the Van Wyck Expressway, Liberty Avenue, and Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard).
Flush center medians with left-turn bays will be installed to make turning easier and safer for drivers and improve traffic flows. According to the agency, this will also improve pedestrian safety by shortening crossing distances and reducing speeding.
McCarthy told the board members she and her staff were at the meeting to get their input on the proposal.
“It (the plan) may or may not finally look like what we are proposing,” she said. “We will be making improvements to this corridor because it is a dangerous corridor, I don’t know what the final product will be (but) we will get back to the board once we make our final design.”
Although DOT plans to start making the safety improvements in September, CB10 chairwoman Betty Braton asked McCarthy to wait until the developer for the Aqueduct casino is selected, expected to be in August, and has an opportunity to thoroughly review the DOT proposal.
Braton appointed board member Anthony Consentino, a professional engineer, to chair an ad-hoc subcommittee to prepare comments about the plan to be submitted to DOT by the end of June.