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CB 8 Transpo Committee Endorses Washington Avenue Safety Improvements

Brooklyn CB 8's transportation committee has twice endorsed these plans for safety improvements at Atlantic and Washington Avenues. Image: NYC DOT.

DOT's plans to redesign two Prospect Heights intersections to improve safety earned the endorsement of Brooklyn Community Board 8's transportation committee last Tuesday. The plan also includes an "optional" painted bike lane along Washington Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue [PDF].

The biggest changes are in store for the messy five-spoke intersection of Washington, Atlantic, and Underhill Avenue, where cars are turning in all directions and very long crossing distances make conditions hostile for pedestrians. The plan calls for a new pedestrian refuge island in the middle of Atlantic Avenue and a ban on left turns from Atlantic to northbound Washington. A neckdown is slated for the northwest corner of the intersection, and pedestrian space around the triangular park between Underhill and Washington will expand substantially. Additionally, a super-sized, painted "blockbuster" neckdown is planned for Pacific Street and Washington Avenue.

These changes come after a local organizing campaign led by architect Jeff Sherman, who helped gather 337 signatures on a petition for safety improvements. They also come after the death of cyclist Jasmine Herron, who was doored at the intersection of Atlantic and Washington last September. From 2005 to 2009, eight pedestrians, five cyclists, and 98 motor vehicle occupants were injured at the intersection, according to the DOT presentation.

A few blocks south, Washington again forms a five-spoke intersection, this time with Park Place and Grand Avenue. There, a major sidewalk extension is planned for the north side of the intersection, a location where today police cars sit on the corner with impunity. A new traffic island will be installed on the south side of the intersection.

The endorsed proposal also includes new pedestrian space at Washington and Park Place.

Finally, the plan calls for restriping Washington to more clearly show that it is only one moving lane in each direction. Right now, it appears that there are two traffic lanes and a parking lane in each direction, but the middle lanes on each side aren't wide enough to really drive in. "It's not clear as a driver what you're supposed to do," said transportation committee member Rob Witherwax. "Clarifying the fact that Washington is one travel lane in each direction needs to happen."

One way to do that would be to stripe the extra space as a bike lane, a proposal included in DOT's presentation. However, the DOT plan that the transportation committee endorsed lists the bike lane as "optional." We asked DOT just whose option it is and did not receive a reply. The transportation committee did not spend much time discussing the bike lane, according to chair Frederick Monderson, focusing instead on the two intersection redesigns, but insofar as the DOT plan did call for bike lanes, they were included in the endorsement.

The CB 8 transportation committee had already unanimously endorsed the redesign of Washington and Atlantic in February, but voted on the entire proposal last week. Since February, the plan had also been amended to accommodate the concerns of certain local businesses about parking. "DOT seems to be bending over backwards to be community hospitable," said Monderson.

While the redesigns will remove around 40 spaces in total, according to Monderson, a few were added back by DOT by shortening certain bus stops and working with the Fire Department to either reactivate or eliminate non-functional fire hydrants. Even with those alterations, some merchants tried to delay the passage of a resolution in support, but they were outvoted at the transportation committee.

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