Why Wasn’t Traffic-Calming Built on Third Avenue?

DOT has gotten back to me with some answers.  

As Streetsblog reported Monday, New York City’s Department of Transportation failed to follow through
on a 2004 pledge to build potentially life-saving pedestrian safety
improvements along the Third Avenue corridor where a 4-year-old boy was
run over and killed last Tuesday.

Streetsblog asked DOT why the pedestrian safety recommendations were never implemented despite a March 19, 2004 announcement by DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall
that DOT would make an "immediate review" of the Third Avenue corridor
and accelerate "$4 million in funding for capital improvements
associated with the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming… from Fiscal
Year 2009 to Fiscal Year 2006."

Here is a reply, from the agency’s press office:

DOT has acted on many of the recommendations of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Report since it was published in June 2004 and improved conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. On several streets in Downtown Brooklyn, DOT has reduced the number of travel lanes, added medians and left turn bays, adjusted signal timings, converted one-ways to two-ways and added parking, all to slow vehicles down and discourage through traffic. Miles of bike lanes have been installed, including a physically separated path on Tillary Street. Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) were installed at 9 locations and LPI studies will begin shortly at 3 more intersections.

Capital work was delayed because the construction was more complicated than initially anticipated. Preliminary plans for all 250 recommended neckdowns were completed by DOT in March 2005, but underground utilities issues led to the need for more complex designs. The project has been divided into two phases to be handled by the Department of Design and Construction. The first phase, in the capital plan for fiscal year 2008, is fully funded at $5 million and includes the construction of neckdowns at 101 locations at 43 intersections.

To put the 2008 date in perspective, the public demonstrations that led to the creation of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project began in 1996.

  • Dan

    Talk about inertia. Can someone explain how this process is supposed to work? I really don’t have any idea why it takes ten years to get some concrete poured and some curbs fabricated, but I imagine it’s pretty easy to become defensive when you work for a city agency that gets attacked all the time in the press and by community leaders(not that they don’t deserve it).

    The thing that’s missing here, and from every agency involved, is leadership at the top. If the mayor was a real civic leader he would be holding a press conference announcing that he’s fast-tracking all improvements for third avenue today and that they’ll be done in six months. That’s leadership. The mayor is a good organizer of information and he’s a good person. But is he a good leader? Not so much.

    What do we get instead? We get people like Moses, and Doctoroff who just wind up as unaccountable czar’s of government and are rewarded as great makers of cities. We should have a civic leadership that respects the city and it’s citizens enough to both accomplish important goals and be accountable for their failures. Instead we have unaccountable traffic engineers and feckless politicians, neither of whom really care enough about the quality of life in this city.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    This is actually good news. I’m not an accountant and I think this is weird, but Fiscal Year 2008 starts on July 1, 2007. So we could see improvements on Third Avenue installed this summer.

    In the spirit of our own local Machiavelli, it might not hurt to “prepare the ground,” politically speaking, for the coming neckdowns/bulb-outs. In my experience, people can get very upset if they think that DOT is moving without their consent. In the next few months it would probably be a good idea to get some of the community boards and local civic/business/block associations, political clubs and co-op boards to pass resolutions in support of the sidewalk extensions. Even if they supported the Traffic Calming project back in the 90s, there may have been some turnover, and many people may not be expecting them.

    Finally, since the ball will be going into the DDC’s court, they’d probably like to know that there’s grassroots support for the project. They might even have some kind of cash fund that they can borrow against so that they could make the improvements before July. They might also be able to move them up on their schedule. After all, it’s a matter of life and death.

    Once work starts, a photo-op where politicians get to have their pictures taken protecting the lives of small children would probably be appreciated and help to ensure support.

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