DOT Takes Steps to Improve Ped Safety Near Park Avenue Tunnel

park_ave_tunnel.jpg
The pedestrian crossing at Park and 33rd before the implementation of new safety measures.

Last night, DOT closed both lanes of the Park Avenue Tunnel to prepare for the construction of safety upgrades at Park and 33rd Street. That’s the intersection where southbound cars exit the tunnel, creating a dangerous blend of speeding vehicles and poor sight lines. From 1995 to 2005, 156 pedestrians and 10 cyclists were struck by cars there, according to CrashStat.

DOT is putting in sidewalk extensions and pedestrian refuges, which it expects to complete by Wednesday. Afterwards, the southbound lane of the tunnel will remain closed. DOT is billing the lane closure as a trial that may become permanent after the agency measures the impact on pedestrian safety and traffic.

"A combination of high speeds, bad sightlines and dense walking traffic
have made this a perennially hazardous crossing," Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley
Norvell said of the 33rd Street intersection, which sits in the midst of several subway entrances. "166 crashes in a 10 year period is an indication that this
intersection is failing, and we applaud the DOT for taking steps to
reduce the number of pedestrians struck here."

A pedestrian refuge is also being installed at 40th Street, the other tunnel entrance. More details from DOT about the improvements after the jump. 

Starting August 3rd at 10 p.m., the Park Avenue tunnel will be closed to traffic in both directions and barriers will be installed to direct traffic onto the surface lanes of Park Avenue and 40th Street. Work is expected to be complete on Wednesday, Aug. 6th, when southbound traffic will remain diverted to surface lanes at 40th Street, and a single northbound lane will reopen at 33rd Street.

At Park and 33rd, DOT will construct a nine-foot extension to the sidewalk at the southeast corner and a 10-foot pedestrian island at the south crosswalk, shortening the distance that pedestrians need to cross by 20% — from 94 feet to 75 feet. Pedestrian crossing on the north side of this intersection will remain prohibited.

As part of the project, DOT will build an eight-foot pedestrian island in the south crosswalk at the tunnel entrance at Park and 40th. And below 33rd Street, the southbound lanes will be restriped to account for the removal of the tunnel lane.

Image: Google Street View

  • Time to put the streetcars back … or maybe a cycle track? Looking forward to walking through it on Sunday, if not before.

  • Dave

    How many of the pedestrians were jay-walking and how many of the cars ran the light in these accidents? But instead of fixing the pedestrian issues the city takes away the southbound tunnel lane and will create traffic problems all along Park Avenue from 40th down to 32nd.

    The city seems to be on a campaign to make it so difficult to drive in the city (Broadway changes, the ugly mess created at 5th and 23rd, now this) that people will become disgusted and drive less. The problem is that it won’t work. Sad.

  • “From 1995 to 2005, 156 pedestrians and 10 cyclists were struck by cars there”… and the DOT waited until now to do anything about it!
    And Dave – God and/or your mother gave you a heart; why not try using it?

  • I like TA’s use of the phrase “walking traffic.” It implies that walkers are traffic too and therefore deserve to be taken as seriously as motorized traffic.

  • MrManhattan

    The city seems to be on a campaign to make it so pleasant and safe to walk in the city (Broadway changes, the new open space created at 5th and 23rd, now this) that people will become inspired and walk more. It seems to be working. Great!

  • What are your suggestions, Dave? Teach those 156 pedestrians a lesson on jaywalking and red-light running by having them mowed down? I assume, of course, that you’d never consider walking when it says “Don’t Walk” – or clip through a light that’s just a little past yellow?

    New York will be a much better place to live and more efficient place to conduct business with fewer cars. So why shouldn’t there be a campaign to reduce driving, like most other advanced cities in the world?

  • J

    Dave,
    You clearly value traffic flow over peoples’ lives. It is this type of attitude that shows the misplaced values of our society.

  • An underground cycle track would be neat–here’swhat it might look like!

  • Spud Spudly

    I love this:

    The city seems to be on a campaign to make it so difficult to drive in the city (Broadway changes, the ugly mess created at 5th and 23rd, now this) that people will become disgusted and drive less. The problem is that it won’t work.

    If the goal is to get people to drive less then it will work, as you said.

  • bob

    fair trade – the city has done multiple things there over the years. i’m pretty sure the city press release says that.

  • Heaven forbid they just put a damn pedestrian bridge there. Problem, meet solution.

    I’d like to see less people driving in the city (especially those who don’t really NEED to), but this is not the way to do it.

  • Pedestrian bridges are for highways. There’s one in Harriman State Park that does an admirable job of bringing a trail across the Thruway.

    Pedestrian bridges are not a solution for city streets. A pedestrian bridge across Park Avenue would be a band-aid that does nothing to fix the underlying problem.

  • Bob

    Not to mention, nobody would use it – everyone would just jay-walk anyway. It’s pure fantasy to think people would use a pedestrian bridge to cross a typical NYC street on a daily basis.

  • Lola

    I’m speechless. I didn’t think I would live to see this despairingly dangerous and nasty intersection become even marginally safer for peds and cyclists.

    I mean that literally. I live in the area and I can’t step outside my door without being terrorized by speeding drivers. I was thinking about moving out.

    Anything the city does to slow drivers down here, or discourage people from driving, will vastly improve quality of life for thousands of local residents, workers, and students, not to mention tourists.

    Looking forward to seeing fewer cars on 34th St. as well.

    Thank you, DOT. Bless you all!

  • SteveT

    I was hit by a taxi that jumped a red light at this junction in Feb 2006 – seriously injured with back/neck/head injuries. This is a badly laid out, badly signposted and badly lit junction – anything that can be done to improve it is surely welcomed.

    Steve
    England August 2008

  • Sean Sweeney

    Ian D states, “New York will be a much better place to live and more efficient place to conduct business with fewer cars.”

    Quite a statement from someone who has a car – and drives and parks it on New York City streets!

  • bob

    to be fair, sean, ian’s statement was missing a preposition. it’s unclear whether he meant “with fewer cars in ownership/existence” or “with fewer cars operating on the streets at any given time.” owning a care and using it rarely and at off-peak times isn’t quite as hypocritical as being a motoring enthusiast while lobbying for “fewer cars”.

  • Robert

    To be fair to dave, I think it is true that many of the latest attempts to make New York bike friendly have been almost unnecessarily bad for cars. We forget that while slowing down car traffic can be good, removing entire routes from availability to cars pisses drivers off, which is good for no one.

  • How can I tell the difference between a driver who is “pissed off” due to a “removed route” of travel, and say, anyone else driving a car sitting in traffic on NYC streets?

  • m-o

    But Robert, one hundred years of making New York City car friendly has been unnecessarily bad for EVERYBODY. So…

    Besides I really don’t agree with you. 9th ave is a better street with the cycletrack and the 14th street redesign. The intersection of 23rd street, 5th ave, and broadway is going to be far superior for busses and cars.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m not sure it makes sense to close the tunnel in one direction but not the other, though there are certainly plenty of conflicts at that intersection. It’s like a bypass for drivers from the 59th Street bridge area going south, and from the Midtown Tunnel going to the north.

    If the trial is succesful, perhaps they ought to consider closing northbound too, and just turning it over to bicycles along with the roadway around GCT. But a one-way closing I don’t get.

  • On Hypocrisy: it is only relevant when making moral pronouncements. To say that less of something would be better for the city is different from preaching that we should all just stop doing that something. Livable streets advocacy has moved beyond the preachy environmentalism of the last century primarily because, well, look at the results. But also because nobody’s perfect and hypocrites are not persuasive. Arguments can and should be based on ethics, but policy must recognize that people will act in their own interest with little regard for others. (So, we arrange for ethical behavior be in their immediate interest.) That some people here endorse policies that will cost them money or time shows how much they believe in the wider benefits of those policies. Rather than undermining credibility, it enhances it by eliminating the selfish factor. (But still, dude, ditch the car! She’s not worth it.)

  • Dave

    Thank you Robert for your word of support; I sometimes think that people here think the city can survive on bikes and public transit alone. Idealists and anti-car types don’t see that there are reasonable solutions to the traffic nightmare that NY has become.

    Removing traffic lanes from inner Manhattan without restricting traffic flow into Manhattan is irresponsible since it will only make traffic worse and we will all pay for it via slower emergency response times, more horn honking and eventually higher delivery costs.

    Stop people from driving into Manhattan by restricting placards, reduce free parking through permits and toll every bridge into Manhattan to make driving into Manhattan at least as costly as taking the subway. And CP is a no-brainer…Shelly time for you to follow Joe if you don’t see that light.

    How many of you attacking me has ever driven through the Park Avenue tunnel and realize how it smoothes traffic between midtown and downtown? How may of you has actually ever driven in Manhattan or been kept up all night by honking horns?

    How many of you idealists have ever walked through midtown where the Giuliani-era barricades are there to restrict pedestrian crossings? One solution is to forbid pedestrians from crossing at 33rd and Park and force them to walk to 34th or 32nd to cross safely (or mid-block 32-33) with fewer collisions and less traffic mayhem as a result.

    Reducing traffic lanes willy-nilly is stupidity and I am surprised that Bloomberg puts up with it. Time for another letter from me to him.

  • Davis

    Removing traffic lanes from inner Manhattan without restricting traffic flow into Manhattan is irresponsible since it will only make traffic worse

    Dave,

    Capacity reduction is one of the most powerful and effective tools that the mayor has fully at his disposal. There many examples of cities successfully removing lanes of traffic without creating more congestion. Here is a great piece of research on the subject:

    http://www.contextsensitivesolutions.org/content/reading/disappearing-traffic/

    Reallocating roadspace from general traffic, to improve conditions for pedestrians or cyclists or buses or on-street light rail or other high-occupancy vehicles, is often predicted to cause major traffic problems on neighbouring streets. This paper reports on two phases of research, resulting in the examination of over 70 case studies of roadspace reallocation from eleven countries, and the collation of opinions from over 200 transport professionals worldwide. The findings suggest that predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist, and that, given appropriate local circumstances, significant reductions in overall traffic levels can occur, with people making a far wider range of behavioural responses than has traditionally been assumed.

  • How many of you idealists have ever walked through midtown where the Giuliani-era barricades are there to restrict pedestrian crossings? One solution is to forbid pedestrians from crossing at 33rd and Park and force them to walk to 34th or 32nd to cross safely (or mid-block 32-33) with fewer collisions and less traffic mayhem as a result.

    I’ve walked around those barricades plenty of times. You call that a solution? That’s like curing a brain tumor with a rifle.

  • “I sometimes think that people here think the city can survive on bikes and public transit alone. Idealists and anti-car types don’t see that there are reasonable solutions to the traffic nightmare that NY has become.”

    This is a straw-man argument (and why do bicycles keep coming up?) but I will say that the city could do very well with just public transportation, human powered vehicles, and trucks (we don’t have the infrastructure to forgo commercial trucks). I would even describe that scenario as “ideal”, but still, it’s got nothing to do with DOT Takes Steps to Improve Ped Safety Near Park Avenue Tunnel. Those other reasonable solutions you mention are great, and so is this one. Our transportation problems are big enough to require lots of solutions, and those that can be implemented without approval from Albany are particularly handy.

  • Spud Spudly

    Bloomberg doesn’t “put up with it,” he encourages it. Perhaps even requires it. So go ahead and write.

    I’ve done and experienced all those things you mentioned. I hate those damned pedestrian barriers that make you walk to the middle of the block to cross the street. Anyone walking in a straight path east or west has to go almost a full block out of their way (to the crosswalk and back) just so some cars can turn the corner more easily. Great.

  • JK

    TA did a study some years back which found that half of pedestrians crossing at 50th and 49th streets and 5th were going around the barricades. The DOT’s much maligned ThruStreets (no peak hour turning scheme) made the barriers even more questionable. The x-walk barriers/setback x-walks are a failure. They are one of the few street designs in London that NYC should avoid. Anyone that worried about losing street capacity should by lobbying hard for DOT’s peak hour meter program. By cutting down on double parking and cruising that will do more to speed traffic along than detouring pedestrians to Siberia.

  • cw

    i actually called 911 for you that night.  i was walking right behind you at the intersection and it was the most horrific thing i ever saw.  i thought you had probably died.  im certain it was you, probably feb 11th 2006, you were with a girl who i thought had an english accent screaming the name steve.  i literally was just googling this out of curiousity about the night to see if it was recorded anywhere.  very happy to know you survived, because i literally thought there was no chance.

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