One of the most dangerous streets in Queens is slated for a safety upgrade, with the Department of Transportation proposing five new pedestrian refuge islands along Hillside Avenue [PDF]. The intervention is a relatively modest one, however, with no narrowing of the roadway and fewer pedestrian refuges than a previous proposal for the corridor.
Hillside Avenue badly needs the safety improvements. On the 1.5 mile stretch between 172nd and 199th streets, an average of 84 people have been injured in traffic crashes every year, putting Hillside in the top five percent of most dangerous roads in Queens, according to DOT.
The five pedestrian islands, proposed for the intersections of 172nd, 175th, 187th, 197th, and 199th Streets, should make it easier for pedestrians to safely make it across the wide street. Hillside has two traffic lanes in each direction. During rush hour, the parking lane in the peak direction is converted into a moving lane as well.
While the upgrade will make walking safer — DOT projects as much as a 46 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes — the impact of these islands may be smaller than in other locations. At each of the proposed locations, Hillside already has a striped median where the refuge island would be installed. The islands won’t narrow the roadway.
Hillside Avenue was previously targeted for safety improvements under DOT’s Safe Streets for Seniors program. In January 2010, DOT presented Queens CB 8 with a proposal to install eight pedestrian refuges at an overlapping but not identical set of intersections. Those refuges were not built, according to a DOT spokesperson, though a leading pedestrian interval was installed at two intersections under the Safe Streets for Seniors program. Seemingly, these five refuge islands are an alternate proposal to the larger number put forward two years ago.
Queens civic activist Pat Dolan, herself an advocate for improved transportation options for senior citizens, was killed by a driver while crossing Hillside at 198th Street last November.