Monday, July 5, 2010

Woodhaven Traffic Study Moves Along by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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NYC Department of Transportation official Andrew Lenton listens to public feedback on improving traffic flow on Woodhaven Boulevard. Photo by Bryan Yurcan

The city Department of Transportation conducted another public input meeting last week in its continuing study of potential traffic flow improvements on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The session, which took place in the sweltering basement of a building in the Forest Park Cooperative, was the third overall public meeting since the study began in 2008, and the first this year. A final report is expected to be issued in January.

Since 2008, the DOT has been collecting data and public input as part of its study to improve traffic flow and ease congestion on the much-traveled thoroughfare in preparation for its final report.

Queens DOT Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy said the purpose of the public meetings was to share the DOT's preliminary findings and use feedback from the public to make possible further changes.

“We analyzed existing conditions to get some ideas for improvement, and now we are coming back to the community to get some fleshed out ideas.” she said. “We are doing a lot of data collection.”

Andrew Lenton, a city planner with the DOT, said the agency has been studying 16 intersections along the 3.2-mile corridor for improvement. The intersections are Queens Boulevard, the eastbound Long Island Expressway ramp, Eliot Avenue, Dry Harbor Road, Yellowstone Boulevard/Cooper Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Union Turnpike, Park Lane South, Myrtle Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Rockaway Boulevard, Liberty Avenue and 94th Street.

Lenton acknowledged the potential solutions being presented at the meeting were the same as ones given in September.

“We're trying to get feedback from as many people as possible," he said. “We want to be thorough.”

Among the solutions that continue to be discussed are sacrificing a lane “here or there” in order to maintain a uniform number of lanes throughout, widening or extending turning lanes and creating bus-only lanes.

Those lanes could go toward implementing a bus rapid transit style system on the boulevard, complete with raised platforms for riders to exit and enter buses.

“We have heard from a lot of people who said they would take the bus if it didn’t go so slow,” Lenton said. “This may be a way to speed the buses up a bit, which may entice more people to ride them.”

Another item of discussion continued to be making Woodhaven Boulevard safer for pedestrians, which has long been a contentious issue.

Many residents, particularly senior citizen groups, have complained that there is not enough time allotted to cross Woodhaven Boulevard, which is as wide as 10 lanes in some areas.

Longtime Woodhaven Boulevard resident Leonard Bluman can relate; he has been a frequent critic of the short walk signal across the boulevard.

“You get halfway across and you have to stand on the island and wait (for the signal to change again),” Bluman said.“I can’t make it the whole way. You absolutely need more time to cross.”

Among the solutions put forth by the DOT were changing the timing of crosswalk signals and creating “pedestrian refugee islands” in the median area between the northbound and southbound lanes.

Maria Thomson, president of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp., said she will be keeping an eye on how any potential changes may affect the intersection of Jamaica Avenue, a major business artery in Woodhaven.

“What they do could have a big impact on that area,” she said. “They are still in the preliminary phase so the plans may still yet change. But we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it.”

The next scheduled DOT public meeting on the Woodhaven corridor is tentativley slated for this fall.