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Road Diets But No Bike Lanes for Two Queens Traffic Calming Projects

12:47 PM EDT on March 25, 2011

DOT presented plans for two Long Island City street redesigns to Queens Community Board 2's transportation committee last night. One, a standard road diet, would calm traffic on 44th Drive by replacing one moving lane in each direction with a painted median and left turn bays [PDF]. The other, a novel design for a single block of 48th Avenue, manages to make four of six lanes into on-street parking [PDF].

The traffic calming plan for 44th Drive is part of DOT's commitment, laid out in last year's pedestrian safety action plan, to install safety improvements along 60 miles of the city's most dangerous corridors. This short stretch of 44th, from Vernon Boulevard to Thomson Avenue, is in the 92nd percentile for pedestrian crashes according to DOT and intersects with multiple subway stations.

"Right now, 44th Drive the volume is so much lower than what it could handle which is why there's so much speeding and scary driving," explained transportation committee member Emilia Crotty.

Under DOT's proposal, 44th would have one parking lane and one travel lane in each direction, with a painted median and left turn bays in the middle. Currently, 44th has two travel lanes and one parking lane in each direction.

DOT compares its design for 44th to a similar redesign of Brooklyn's Gerritsen Avenue. There, they say, all crashes causing injury decreased by 46 percent and crashes involving pedestrian decreased by 57 percent after the redesign.

The transportation committee raised the question of whether bike lanes should have been included in the road diet, according to Crotty. Talking with DOT, they reached the conclusion that one wasn't necessary. "The wide parking lane is going to serve just like Bedford Avenue, where they took out the bike lane but it's really still a bike lane," she explained.

Another debate ensued over whether two moving lanes were necessary to accommodate the large amounts of double-parking in front of the Citigroup building. Many board members argued that such an accommodation was necessary, said Crotty, but ultimately the committee decided to stick with the DOT plan and push for more enforcement of double-parking.

On 48th Avenue, the goal appears to be adding more parking. Currently, the block of 48th between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street has two moving lanes and one parking lane in each direction, with a painted median in between. The redesign would take away one moving lane in each direction and replace it with a second parking lane adjacent to the median. A similar design, though with a concrete median and bike lanes, can be found on this stretch of Carlton Avenue.

This would create 40 new parking spaces, a popular move in the neighborhood. "It's a real concern for many residents in that neighborhood, both that residents need longer-term parking and that businesses need metered parking for more turnover," said Crotty.

Interestingly, the parking adjacent to the curb would be metered in the new set-up while the mid-street parking lanes would not be. According to Crotty, DOT's current plan is to make the median parking lanes truly long-term parking, with neither meters nor alternate side regulations. The committee worried that would cause people, including many from outside the neighborhood, to simply store their cars there forever without some reason to move them, so will join DOT in asking the Sanitation Department to implement alternate side parking along that lane.

That section of 48th Avenue is marked as a planned route on the city's bike map, a point which was raised in the committee meeting. "It didn't sound like something DOT was going to make arrangements for," said Crotty.

The redesign could have a traffic calming effect, as it does narrow the space for moving traffic. DOT also plans to paint new or expanded pedestrian refuges on either end of the block and improve the crosswalks in both redesigns. Crotty said that the community board will ask the Parks Department to make those painted refuges into planted Greenstreets in the future.

The generally supportive committee did not formally vote on the two projects, said Crotty, but rather asked questions of DOT and tried to figure out the next steps for the streets.

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