Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Woodhaven Blvd. Changes Studied ... and Studied, As Locals Ask Why City's Taking So Long to Act by Nicholas Hirshon - Daily News

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TRAFFIC ANALYSTS are studying whether outfitting Woodhaven Blvd. with reconfigured intersections, more medians and a right of way for rapid-transit buses would curb backups and accidents, city officials said last week.

A city Department of Transportation report expected next year on the north-south thoroughfare will also consider signal-timing changes and restrictions on where drivers can turn, agency spokesman Scott Gastel said.

"This study is going to have a major impact long term," said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach), who attended a closed-door meeting last Tuesday at which the city laid out its plans to community leaders.

DOT expects to host four more forums - some for the public, others just for community board members and elected officials - before pitching its final proposal to the boards in the spring.

Locals who attended last week's session blasted the city for dragging its feet on the study, which covers a 3.2-mile stretch of Woodhaven Blvd. from Queens Blvd. to Rockaway Blvd./Liberty Ave.

"They're procrastinating," said Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9 in Kew Gardens. "It really is idiotic. I would like to see it move."

The leaders of community boards in Forest Hills, Glendale and South Ozone Park also questioned why the city - which began collecting the data in January 2008 - still hasn't finished.

"I was disappointed," said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6 in Forest Hills. He said he expected more from the meeting.

Gastel blamed the delays on expanding the scope and cost of the study to add intersections based on community pleas.

Still, Vincent Arcuri of Community Board 5 wondered why the city didn't include traffic-clogged Park Lane South in its investigation.

Views varied on rapid bus transit, which aims to speed up service with a dedicated right-of-way and curbside payment, but would take away lanes for cars.

Ulrich warned it could become a "very explosive issue very soon," while Community Board 10 member David Quintana stressed its public transportation value.

"It would free up so much space if people had a more effective and reliable way to get up Woodhaven Blvd.," said Quintana, 52, of Ozone Park.