One of the Most Dangerous Streets in the Bronx Is Getting a Road Diet

White Plains Road, running 2.8 miles between East Tremont and Birchall Avenues, is one of the Bronx’s most dangerous streets, with more traffic deaths and severe injuries than 90 percent of the other streets in the borough. Most of this wide, overbuilt road is set to receive a road diet by September, converting two lanes to one lane in each direction while adding a striped center median and turn lane. The plan has already gained the unanimous support of both community boards along the street.

It's a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT
It’s a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT

Since 2007, there have been eight fatalities on this section of White Plains Road, with an average of 230 injuries each year. The intersection with Morris Park Avenue ranks as one of the top 20 pedestrian crash locations in the city, according to DOT, with five pedestrians killed or seriously injured from 2007 to 2011 [PDF]. DOT brought radar guns out to the street and found that between 48 and 68 percent of drivers were speeding, which is the leading cause of fatal crashes in NYC.

The road diet should cut down on speeding, but there is one section of White Plains Road that won’t be getting a lane reduction. The half-mile section between the Bruckner and Cross Bronx Expressways will retain a layout that squeezes as many car lanes as possible into the street’s 60-foot width. DOT said that it is proposing more modest tweaks to intersections on this stretch because of congestion in this area, which carries more cars than the rest of the street.

On this stretch, DOT is proposing turn restrictions where White Plains Road crosses the Cross Bronx Expressway and Westchester Avenue. The plan would ban left turns from eastbound Westchester Avenue to northbound White Plains Road and from the westbound Cross Bronx service road to southbound White Plains Road. It also adds high-visibility zebra crosswalks to White Plains Road and Westchester Avenue, where markings have worn away.

Areas receiving a road diet will see parking lanes widened to 14 feet. That’s enough space for bike lanes, but there are none in the plan. Similar extra-wide parking lanes have been installed on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, among other locations.

While this road diet will yield safety benefits for cyclists and pedestrians, car-centric metrics still factored heavily in DOT’s analysis. If a project degrades Level of Service, which measures how quickly drivers can pass through an intersection, the agency is less likely to pursue it. Of the intersections along White Plains Road that DOT presented to the community boards, LOS was affected at only one location: Story Avenue between 8 and 9 a.m., where the agency expects LOS to fall slightly from “B” to “C.”

The plan runs through Community Boards 9 [PDF] and 11 [PDF], with the majority of the project in CB 9. Last month, DOT presented the road diet to the boards, which both voted unanimously in support of the plan. As part of its vote of support, CB 9 requested that DOT install parking meters on both sides of White Plains Road between Story and Lafayette Avenues.

CB 11 supported the road diet, but requested that DOT not implement a lane reduction where White Plains Road crosses the Amtrak rail line between Unionport Road and East Tremont Avenue. That bridge, split into northbound and southbound sections that are 25 feet wide each, is narrower than the rest of White Plains Road, which is 60 feet wide from curb to curb. Currently, the bridge has parking on both sides and two narrow car lanes in each direction.

DOT proposes one lane in each direction and an extra-wide parking lane, but CB 10 district manager Jeremy Warneke said that one of the board members who works at the nearby ConEd facility would prefer two lanes in each direction without parking, and the board agreed. DOT said it is reviewing the requests from both community boards.

DOT said the project could be implemented as soon as September.

  • AnoNYC

    Great improvements though I would like to see physical islands within these median buffers. Especially at crosswalks. Metering should also extend across Story and Lafayette Aves from White Plains Rd towards Bolton Ave in CB9.

    How about a left turn only signal for Westbound traffic from Westchester Avenue turning South on White Plains Rd? As it exist, there are turning conflicts due to the unusual layout, poor visibility and heavy traffic of this intersection. Recently the curb has been physically extended at the Southwest corner of this intersection, but how about an increased median island or curb extensions on the north side?

    Also, how about bus only lanes along White Plains Rd, between Lafayette Avenue and the Cross Bronx Expressway? Heavy congestion can often slow the multiple buses within this corridor. Plenty (TOO MUCH) of free off-street parking already available for Bruckner Plaza shoppers. These buses are predominantly feeders for the #6 train from Bruckner Plaza and areas South.

  • Bob

    Green the medians! I never understand why these are not all planted medians. Beautify the neighborhood, helps with stormwater (thus helping to justify the capital costs), prevents u-turns. It’s a win for everyone. Please, NYC and Streetsblog, push to turn all of these into planted medians!

  • Joseph E

    “Areas receiving a road diet will see parking lanes widened to 14 feet. That’s enough space for bike lanes, but there are none in the plan. Similar extra-wide parking lanes have been installed on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, among other locations.”
    Why is NYDOT doing this? LADOT has installed over 50 miles of bike lanes via similar “road diets”, mostly in the past 3 years. If LA can do it, certainly NY can do it. http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/07/02/ladot-has-completed-more-than-50-miles-of-road-diet-bike-lanes/

  • AnoNYC

    I agree. White Plains Road is wide enough to have pedestrian plazas along the median with seating and beautification throughout.

  • AnoNYC

    “The road diet should cut down on speeding, but there is one section of White Plains Road that won’t be getting a lane reduction. The half-mile section between the Bruckner and Cross Bronx Expressways will retain a layout that squeezes as many car lanes as possible into the street’s 60-foot width. DOT said that it is proposing more modest tweaks to intersections on this stretch because of congestion in this area, which carries more cars than the rest of the street.”

    Blah. I wish the DOT would just retain the proposed setup throughout.

    “CB 11 supported the road diet, but requested that DOT not implement a lane reduction where White Plains road crosses the Amtrak rail line between Unionport Road and East Tremont Avenue. That bridge, split into northbound and southbound sections that are 25 feet wide each, is narrower than the rest of White Plains Road, which is 60 feet wide from curb to curb. Currently, the bridge has parking on both sides and two narrow car lanes in each direction.

    DOT proposes one lane in each direction and an extra-wide parking lane, but CB 10 district manager Jeremy Warneke said that one of the board members who works at the nearby ConEd facility would prefer two lanes in each direction without parking, and the board agreed. DOT said it is reviewing the requests from both community boards.”

    So this bridge could become a bottle neck; where one lane would expand into two for a brief period only to converge back into one on each side.

    I hope the NYC DOT ignores that suggestion and proceeds with the diet along the bridge.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    Is there any data on fresh paint saving lives?

  • Aliana Illy Kevelier

    Now traffic is gonna be even worse.No one abides the street rules. I have lived in the White Plains RdLafayette Avenue section since 1975, and I have seen this area grow tremendously. The only thing that a smaller space will provide,is more horn honking and back up traffic.especially in the shopping districts,and the major highway intersections…..GREATTTT !!!

  • Tyler

    Aliana — It’s not a “smaller space” — it’s a BETTER ORGANIZED space. With lanes for travel and lanes for turning, not an absurd free-for-all. Your comment is very similar to the “sky is falling” comments made about the road diet on Ocean Avenue in Flatbush. 4 unorganized lanes transformed into 2 travel lanes and central left-turning lanes at intersections (and a painted buffer where there’s no turning lane). You think folks in Flatbush “abide by the street rules”?! No. But the drivers don’t just ignore lanes. The painted buffer allows the *single lane* of traffic to keep flowing smoothly around the double-parked jerks and to give cyclists some space (though there are no bike marking, there are cyclists on this street). Much more organized. Simpler. LESS honking. LESS backed up traffic. There was about 2 weeks of annoyed people, but now I bet no one even remembers the road was different a couple years ago.

  • Tyler

    Double-parked cars… the painted medians allow traffic to keep moving. Sadly, pathetically, the ones double-parked don’t care that they are snarling up traffic… but they are the first the whine about traffic.

  • Matt

    I’m sure that your opinions are a much better basis that DOT’s research on proven effect of traffic calming when streets are put on a ‘road diet’. You should call them up immediately!

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