DOT Safety Plan for Corona’s 111th Street Faces Uphill Battle at Queens CB 4

This road diet and protected bike lane is too much for Queens CB 4 to handle. Image: DOT [PDF]
This road diet and protected bike lane, which will improve connections between Corona residents and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, doesn’t have enough car lanes for some Queens CB 4 members. Image: DOT [PDF]
A dangerous street that Corona residents have to cross to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in line for a serious traffic-calming plan, complete with a two-way protected bike lane [PDF], but local community board members are balking at the proposal.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest park in Queens, is ringed by highways that cut off access from the neighborhoods around it. The one exception is 111th Street on the west side of the park. But instead of functioning as a welcoming entrance to the park, 111th Street is designed like a surface highway, with three southbound car lanes divided from two northbound lanes by a planted median. Residents have to walk up to 1,300 feet, or five blocks, before finding a marked crosswalk, and 84 percent of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, according to DOT.

Last year, Make the Road New York, Immigrant Movement International, the Queens Museum, and Transportation Alternatives organized for better walking and biking access to the park. Council Member Julissa Ferreras signed on, asking DOT last fall to install bike lanes throughout her district, including on 111th Street [PDF].

The DOT proposal delivers: It would calm the street by narrowing it to one lane of car traffic in each direction. The edge of the street along the park would receive a two-way parking-protected bikeway with pedestrian islands. Moving lanes would be replaced by parking along the median on the southbound side. At intersections, median extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians, which currently stretch up to 94 feet.

This seems to be too much for some key members of Queens Community Board 4.

DOT presented its plan to three members of CB 4 at a special meeting of its transportation committee last Tuesday. “It was definitely a heated, emotional meeting,” said Amy Richards, who coordinates the Partnership for a Healthier Queens program at Make the Road New York. The board members were very “change-averse,” Richards said. “The meeting was tricky.”

“It’s a tough call,” CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said of the plan. “We told them to go back to the drawing board and change a couple of the small issues we were questioning.” DOT says it used the feedback to draft minor changes the original plan, which Cassagnol received this morning.

Board members last week were actually looking for major changes to the DOT plan. The big complaint from transportation committee members was “not enough traffic lanes, basically,” Cassagnol said. “That seems to be the main thing.”

Without reducing the number of traffic lanes, however, the safety component of the plan would lose most of its impact. 111th Street has no more than 350 cars per hour in either direction during peak hours, DOT said, a level of traffic that is suited for a single lane. But board members said 111th Street needed to keep its car lanes, meeting attendees told Streetsblog, and claimed that large events in the park generate traffic that should weigh more heavily in DOT’s analysis.

111th Street would receive a two-way protected bike lane, expanded pedestrian space, new crosswalks, and additional parking. But CB 4 members are worried about reducing the number of car lanes. Click to enlarge. Image: DOT [PDF]
The CB 4 members’ position puts them in opposition to Ferreras and neighborhood street safety advocates. “The council member, while she may be in favor or may not be in favor, DOT wants to make sure that the community board is heard,” Cassagnol said, “and we wanted to give them a nudge in the opposite direction.”

Advocates say the handful of board members at last week’s meeting don’t speak for everyone. “From what we’ve heard from the community, there are a lot of people in favor of this plan,” Richards said. “The community members that we have been working with have been really excited for the potential to see these changes happen.”

“We were really excited with what DOT presented. We think its a bold vision for using a street that has a lot of wide, unused space,” said Celia Castellan, senior organizer at Transportation Alternatives.

The protected bike lane would be extended southward along the park edge on Corona Avenue, where it will connect with a pedestrian bridge across the Long Island Expressway to Forest Hills. To the north, a combination of sharrows and green bike lanes will route cyclists on 43rd Avenue, 114th Street, and 113th Street to 34th Avenue, where they can connect to bike lanes and a bike path to Citi Field and the Flushing Bay Promenade.

Crosswalks will be added at four intersections — at 47th, 49th, 54th, and 55th Avenues — doubling the number of intersections with crosswalks on the park edge between 44th Avenue and Corona Avenue. Pedestrian islands will be added at most crossings between the bike lane and the car lane, with some omitted to provide space for fire trucks and other vehicles making wide turns.

DOT said it could implement the project with paint and bollards this summer, with future phases made out of permanent materials.

DOT is tentatively scheduled to present the plan at the next CB 4 full board meeting on April 14. The public is also invited to participate in a workshop this Sunday hosted by the Parks Department, the Queens Museum, and the Design Trust for Public Space on improving access to and circulation within Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

  • If any piece of this project appears to be in serious jeopardy thanks to CB 4, it’s time to take a page from Danny Dromm: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/05/24/jackson-heights-neighbors-band-together-to-win-car-free-street-expansion/

    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/24/Dromm_march.jpg

  • I see problems with the project, which the CB should look at. Why is the bike path only 8 feet, rather than 10, when theres wasted buffer space by the median?

    Why is there a 14 foot parking lane and a wasted 7 foot buffer, rather than an extended sidewalk?

    Those are the real problems here.

  • Bobberooni

    I think they’re trying to do it without moving the concrete median.

  • Ben_Kintisch

    I agree with Jass that 10′ bike path would be better than 8′. If the buffer between parked cars were a narrow striped area with plastic bollards you’d have more space for path.
    But, the big picture: great proposal. I would like to see this type of design implemented adjacent to each big park in the city: CPW in Manhattan (next to Central Park), next to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, Prospect Park South adjacent to Prospect Park, and on and on.
    Congrats to Queens TA for their great organizing work to get to this proposal. Next step, a positive outcome for the vote!

  • I’m not sure I like this plan either. For one, I’m amazed that a road is actually overbuilt 5 lanes where the need is 1 + turning. I mean, that’s astonishing. But as to the actual plan, the 3 foot buffer at the median should go, and go straight into the bike way. There is no reason to waste that space, and painted buffers don’t really slow cars as much as a curb does.

    Secondly, there’s also tons of wasted space on the other side. There really should be bikeways on both sides I would say, there’s easily space for it. Either that, or expand the sidewalk. I assume they’re trying to do this without moving curbs, which is fine, its just a strange road configuration.

  • M to the I

    Well, they don’t have to move the concrete median. Make the side of the street to the west of the median for cars and the other half of the street the bike path and extended park space. There is 41′ on the side west of the median! That could be 2 11′ travel lanes, 1 10′ parking lane and 1 9′ parking lane. BAM! Now you have 33′ for bikes, peds, trees and getting creative.

  • Reader

    Not to mention how much parking this thing adds. While that should be a feature the CB loves, it’s the exact opposite direction of where a progressive city intent on decreasing congestion and traffic fatalities should go.

  • Agree w @danbrotherston:disqus about the wasted space.

    There should definitely be a one-way parking protected cycletrack on the western side. There is more than enough extra space with the 7′ of buffer and 6′ of extra space in the parking lane.

    On the eastern side, 8′ is narrow for a one-way cycletrack and is ridiculous for a two-way. This is one rare instance where a two-way cycletrack may be OK since it is along the side with few crossing roads or entrances. The question is if the benefits for bicycle riders of this being two-way outweigh the downsides of it being narrower in each direction and the dangers of where it crosses entrances in to the parking lots (and drivers not looking for bicycle riders coming from both directions). There is also an issue of what to do at each end of the park. My guess is that it would be best for this to be one-way.

    Whether one-way or two-way, the 3′ of buffer should definitely be incorporated in to this bikeway though.

  • Jeff

    I think I see what’s going on here. DOT could come back with a revised proposal that maintains two moving lanes in each direction and is “parking neutral” by ditching the parking next to the cycle track on the east side (making it a moving lane) and consolidating the ridiculously-wide striped median and extra space from the ridiculously-wide curbside parking lane into an additional moving lane on the west side. That way the community board feels like it’s “won” something from DOT, but DOT still gets to build the cycle track and at least some traffic calming.

  • Maggie

    Oh man. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, choked with freeways and pocked by parking; or the section of Van Cortlandt Park that’s ‘Forever Wild’ except for the freeway running over it. I can never decide which gives me a worse case of the willies.

    Really cool plan for 111th Street here. That street is a parkside disaster; this is such an improvement.

  • Generally I’d agree, but I figure, if there wasn’t parking, there’d be another through lane. I’m not sure which I’d rather. Until they’re willing to reconstruct the road and reduce the width, its got to go somewhere.

  • In the real world, yes, you would like to have a wider two-way bike path, however, unlike places along the Brooklyn waterfront, NYC, Westside highway, Queens waterfront and other high-traffic bike areas like greenways, the bike lane on 111th will initially not have a ton of bike traffic. I think 8 feet will be just fine for this project. (and there is a buffer) And later when they go for better materials in the future, IF there was a real large number of cyclists I am sure NYC DOT would re-examine before making it permanent.

  • Bobberooni

    This might be a first, for a community board to be against added parking.

  • Jimmy

    Seriously… they increased parking by 50% and they are still against it?! Things like putting in a turning lane to greatly improve traffic flow will be scuttled if even 2 parking spots are lost… but this?! I thought parking was everything!?

  • They have the space and are re-stripping anyway so why not make the bikeway a decent width? From what I can see there would be zero cost. Too narrow of bikeways feel less comfortable, are more dangerous, and don’t serve people who want to ride faster.

  • Samuelitooooo

    Not sure whether this will get to you, but funny thing is, they actually revised their proposal. They won the support of Assemblyman Francisco Moya in doing so, but the community board is still unmoved. What’s new is two southbound lanes instead of one, and no crosswalks; the bike lanes and the parking are still there.

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