By taking out a troublesome diagonal from the Manhattan grid, the Green Light for Midtown program improved street safety and retail business while creating new public space at one of New York City’s most iconic locations. Pedestrian injuries are down 35 percent and injuries to motorists are down 63 percent, even while traffic is flowing more smoothly than ever. Pedestrian volumes are up 11 percent in Times Square, bringing business to area shops and catapulting Times Square to the second-most expensive retail area in the city.
Yet all anyone ever seemed to talk about were the lawn chairs.
That particular media obsession may finally be ready for retirement, though. NYC DOT and the Department of Design and Construction released plans for the permanent reconstruction of Times Square last night, as reported by DNAinfo. The entire roadway is going to be rebuilt for the first time in 50 years, said DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow, repairing the utilities beneath the street. Instead of putting the asphalt back in place, however, the city will be installing a plaza designed for pedestrians from the ground up.
No longer will you have to step down from the sidewalk to the reclaimed street space. The width of Broadway will be laid with concrete pavers in two dark, alternating tones. In another touch from architecture firm Snøhetta, which designed the project, stainless steel discs will reflect some of Times Square’s neon back off the ground. Benches will be sited to separate areas meant for lounging from areas meant for walking.
The concrete pavers will extend into the roadbed where crosstown streets interrupt the plaza space. Hopefully, that will send a strong visual message to motorists that they are entering a busy pedestrian space.
The new design also includes a bike route through the area, but not on Broadway. According to DNAinfo, cyclists riding south on Broadway’s protected lane would switch to a short contraflow segment on 47th Street, turn onto the west side of Seventh Avenue, cross to the east side of the street at 45th Street, and then cross back onto Broadway at 42nd. For those five blocks, the lane would not be protected.
Construction would begin in 2012 and be complete by 2014, according to DNAinfo.