NYCDOT Prioritizes Sustainable Modes at Queens Approach to Triborough

RFK_Area_Plaza.pngPlans for a new pedestrian area between Hoyt Avenue South and Astoria Boulevard. Pedestrians already crowd this space, which is only set off from traffic by striping (visible under the simulated sidewalk). Rendering: NYCDOT

NYCDOT has proposed a significant street redesign for the base of the RFK Bridge (a.k.a. the Triborough) in Astoria [PDF], a package that should improve public space, enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and speed bus service across the bridge.

The redesign is the product of a DOT-sponsored safety workshop held in early 2009. Many of the pedestrian safety improvements will add greater protection to the paths that Astoria residents are already walking. A new sidewalk will link a senior center with the Astoria Boulevard subway station, for example, while a new pedestrian plaza will bring planted curb space between Hoyt Avenue South and Astoria Boulevard, where pedestrians currently stand between lanes of traffic as they cross to the train. 

RFK_Area_Bike_Improvements.pngThe skinny arrows show new bike lanes for approaches to the Triborough Bridge. Buffered lanes are shown in blue, with regular painted lanes in orange and sharrows in light green. Image: NYCDOT

Cyclists crossing the Triborough will find safer bridge approaches, thanks to the addition of new bike lanes [PDF]. The DOT plan calls for buffered lanes along Hoyt Avenue North and South, and on 21st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 20th Avenue. Regular painted lanes and sharrows are also slated for nearby streets.

New traffic signals will help get bus riders to their destinations faster. A special bus-only phase will give the buses a head start on traffic at the intersection of Hoyt Avenue North and 29th Street. Currently, buses have to pick up passengers along the right side of Hoyt Avenue North before quickly cutting across four lanes of traffic to get onto the bridge. Under the proposed redesign, buses would drive in a bus-only lane between 31st and 29th Streets, where the traffic signal would turn green for buses a few seconds before regular traffic. The only other exclusive bus signals in New York can be found at Columbus Circle and along the Select Bus Service route on Fordham Road.

Queens Community Board 1 hasn’t voted on the proposal yet, but the
bike, bus, and pedestrian improvements have proven uncontroversial so
far. Changes like narrowing travel lanes to make room for cyclists or
giving buses a head start didn’t spur many comments when presented to
the board’s transportation committee on May 19, said district manager Lucille Hartman. One aspect of the proposal did draw criticism — converting two blocks
of Astoria Boulevard to one-way flow, a change DOT drew up to relieve bridge traffic congestion.

  • Ed Ravin

    DoT’s job of setting up bike lanes to the Triboro Bridge is easier because MTA Bridges & Tunnels / TBTA has removed one of the bridge’s two footpaths. The southern path has been shut down for years since the last bout of construction started and seems to have been used for merging lanes for the new eastbound roadway entrance on Randalls Island. The south sidewalk’s space had also been consumed on the Queens side the last time I was there.

  • J

    This is great news and will help a very busy subway-bus transfer point. The connections to the bridge will also fill in a serious gap in the bike network. I know I’ve nearly been hit at the free-flow exit ramp because I didn’t realize that sort of thing existed (it’s crazy!). Also, the bus queue jump is a no-brainer for the M60.

    Now lets hope they do some work to fix the Triborough (RFK) Bridge itself.

  • The only time I’ve ever ridden the Triboro Bridge was during the NYC Century, back in the days when the south path was still open. Although the view was spectacular the path was so long, narrow, and decrepit that I could never imagine using it as an alternative to the Queensboro. This was on Sunday afternoon in September yet the bridge seemed to be devoid of anyone not connected in some manner with the Century. DOT would have to do an awful lot beyond improving access before this crossing becomes a part of my universe. If cyclists don’t feel safe just imagine how pedestrians might feel.

  • J

    Stacy,

    I actually ride it pretty regularly to get between Harlem & Astoria (40 minutes vs. 70 on the Queensboro), and I can tell you that the path is still pretty decrepit. They’ve rebuilt the middle portion of the bridge so that you have to descend to Randall’s Island for a longer stretch. There’s 3 staircases on the Queens sections. Oh yeah, it’s illegal to ride you bike on the 2 miles when you’re actually on the thing. Hah!

    Once you’re on Randall’s Island, there are almost zero bike facilities that actually get you from the Queens portion of the Bridge to the Manhattan portion. This is despite virtually unlimited right-of-way. There are some paths, but they meander around the island, and are clearly built for pleasure cruises by people who drive there with bikes in tow.

    Signage is awful. Roads are only slowly being repaved. The Manhattan and Bronx bridge entrances are both underneath dark, dingy viaducts, which are extremely secluded and have ZERO lighting. The north side of the bridge from Randalls to Manhattan has very low clearances (6.5 feet, I believe).

    Randall’s Island is almost completely deserted at night, except for the homeless shelter. If that wasn’t enough, the lighting is sparse at best. All around, some of the worst bike-ped conditions in NYC, but possibly some of the easiest to fix, at least politically. Of course, the Parks Department generally couldn’t care less about bikes.

  • J:Lai

    given the amount of use the bike/ped path gets on this bridge (not very much) it is actually pretty nice. There are many bridges with higher volume of bikes and peds making do with less space and less maintenance.

    Having both north and south paths was somewhat superfluous.

    The new path they build on the randalls island side of the queens span (with the “cage”) is both wide and fairly clean.

    The 2 stairs on the main bridge elevation requiring bike portage are somewhat clumsy and, although they look temporary, have been there for a long time.

  • J:Lai

    J-
    If you want the manhattan triboro link, continue in the direction of toll plaza after you come down from the queens span, go past the old bike/ped entrance, and turn right just before you get to the bronx span bike/ped entrance. Take a left at the maintenance depot, the north side entrance is on your left, and for the southside entrance continue toward the golf range then turn left.

    Yes, the northside manhattan entrance has very low headroom, and the southside usually smells very bad.

  • It’s hard to tell from that presentation but what kind of bike lanes are they installing? They should be Class 1, there is PLENTY of space for them and lord knows it would make the roads safer.

  • And for good reason! Improving conditions for any form of transportation on Randall’s Island other than private auto would cause Moses’ ghost to rise up and wreak havoc on us all! Haven’t you read Power Broker?

  • Maybe it would be better to skip the whole Triboro bike path idea and build another pedestrian bridge similar to the one connecting Ward’s Island with 103rd Street in Manhattan. Build it towards the South, on Ward’s Island, so we don’t have to deal with all that weirdness to the North. Isn’t there also a small footbridge of some sorts that connects Randall’s Island with Port Morris in the Bronx?

    And on what’s only a vaguely related note, one time during my exploration of Randall’s and Ward Island I somehow found myself on the wrong side of the fence around Manhattan State Psychiatric Center – one more reason not to wander around these islands at night.

  • J

    J:Lai,

    I was trying to say that there’s no bike path that goes that way. Between the bridges you have to ride on roads with cars. It’s not particularly difficult, but since there’s SO much space, there’s no reason not to have a true greenway.

  • meb

    I lived in Astoria for over 14 years, only recently moved out. The Astoria Blvd ped improvements look like they’ll finally solve a problem that has been lurking for decades. My wife and I used to use the Astoria Blvd subway stop to drop off and pick up our daughter from day care. Unfortunately the improvement is a little late for us, but should make the area a bit more hospitable. Actually, that whole area needs quite a bit of ped improvement, it’s really pretty nasty. Coming from the south to head up towards Ditmars meant a bleak walk along 31st Street (or a detour a few blocks east or even further west). We’d walk up the stairs to the Astoria Blvd stop and then down on the Neptune Diner side to avoid some of the worst, with stroller in hand. Great exercise, but we’d often choose another destination rather than walk up that way, just because it was a hassle and not very pleasant.

  • The complete route from Astoria to East 124th Street and Second Avenue is three miles long. That kind of rules it out for pedestrians who don’t have a whole afternoon to kill.

    When the footbridge between Wards Island and East 103rd St is open, it’s easier to reach Manhattan via the bike path through the forest on the western shore of Wards Island. When you get off the Queens span, duck under the bridge, through the parking lot, to the inlet that divides Wards Island from Randalls Island. The path crosses the inlet on a wooden bridge, and there’s access from the parking lot. Then ride across the footbridge. When the footbridge is closed, use the Manhattan span.

  • vnm

    Yes! As a regular user of this bike path, I’m glad to see that this is happening.

  • michael obregon

    they should have a triboro coach buses back in new york city!

  • belleoflonglake

    One of the worst rides I’ve had in the city was on the Triboro. Never having taken it, I didn’t know about the staircases. Such a drag. Then, when I got down onto Randall’s Island I found myself in an area that felt like a true wasteland, in front of some building with a whole bunch of unwholesome men loitering in front of it. Turning around to try a different route, I wiped out in the sand right in front of these guys, tore open my knee and got a flat tire! And no, I did not have a repair kit. Good times!

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