Just one of the many problems with running an interstate highway through the heart of an urban area is what to do with the on-ramps and off-ramps. Motorists accustomed to freeway speeds, or eager to reach them, can drive more aggressively than normal and without as much regard for pedestrians and cyclists. At one on-ramp to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, where increasing numbers of people are crossing to reach the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, DOT hopes to make things safer with a new intersection design and an end to right turns on red [PDF].
DOT proposes putting a new traffic island in the middle of the Atlantic Avenue/BQE on-ramp. The island cuts the crossing distance for pedestrians, previously 80 feet, into two pieces, creating a safer path for those headed to the park.
Extending back from the island will be a line of bollards and striping to more clearly divide the right turn lane from the through lane: no more right turns from the left lane. The drivers waiting in the right turn lane will also have to wait for a proper green light to turn onto the highway. The intersection had been one of the few in the city where right turns on red were allowed, though only during the morning rush.
Last year, DOT reduced the right-turn-on-red hours at the on-ramp, but neighborhood leaders including City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Dan Squadron continued to push for additional safety upgrades.
Additionally, east-bound drivers turning left onto the highway ramp tended to illegally run a red light due to a confusingly placed traffic signal, according to DOT. In the re-design, a second traffic island with a new signal should make it clear to left-turning drivers that they have to wait for a green light.
The transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 approved the plans for the on-ramp earlier this week by a vote of 11 to 0.
During the same meeting, DOT also presented some changes [PDF] to its plans for safer Brooklyn Bridge Park access at Old Fulton Street. There, additional safety improvements like new sidewalk extensions at the intersection of Vine and Doughty Street and an extended median on Old Fulton were paired with the elimination of one sidewalk bulb-out due to community input.