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In Bay Ridge and Park Slope, Fourth Ave Traffic Calming Moves Forward

1:02 PM EDT on May 20, 2013

Last year, DOT redesigned Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park to calm traffic by widening pedestrian medians and reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes. Similar improvements are now on track for Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge and Park Slope. Last Thursday, Community Board 6's transportation committee voted 14-1 to support the Park Slope plan. In Bay Ridge, CB 10's transportation committee reviewed the plan last Monday; it now goes to a community forum scheduled for June 5.

The biggest news is that, based on public feedback, the Bay Ridge road diet, originally planned for both directions from Ovington Avenue to 84th Street, will cover more blocks than expected [PDF]. Now, both directions from Ovington Avenue to 86th Street and northbound Fourth Avenue from 101st Street to 95th Street will be converted from two lanes in each direction to one through lane in each direction plus left-turn lanes.

CB 10 has historically been reluctant to support DOT's street redesigns, but while infamous cars-first board member Allen Bortnick raged against DOT at last week's meeting, he seemed to be in the minority this time around. "The plan was very well-crafted and thought out and DOT took the idea of community input to heart," CB 10 member Andrew Gounardes said. "They went block by block and they tweaked their plan based on input from us. I'm very encouraged by that."

The intersection with 86th Street, a major bus and subway hub with lots of pedestrian activity and automobile drop-offs, will be receiving a new pedestrian island on the south side of the junction for pedestrians crossing Fourth Avenue.

The crossing would also receive an 80-foot pedestrian fence along the west side of Fourth Avenue. Hemming people in isn't a pedestrian-friendly solution to traffic dangers, but DOT's fence proposal was received positively by the committee. "It's the most troublesome intersection we have in Bay Ridge," Gounardes said.

"This is not one of our favorite things to do, but we believe it would improve safety," project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth said at the meeting. In addition to cutting down on jaywalking with the fence, DOT also hopes it will reduce the number of motorists who pull over to the curb there, allowing bus drivers to clear the left turn from westbound 86th Street to Fourth Avenue around the new pedestrian island.

A public forum on the Bay Ridge redesign is scheduled for June 5, and it is expected to go before CB 10's full board on June 10.

In Park Slope, DOT's plan has not changed much [PDF] since earlier versions. The most significant addition is a new left-turn restriction from southbound Fourth Avenue to eastbound 9th Street. The intersection, which has a lot of pedestrian traffic near the subway entrances, is a crash hotspot along the avenue.

DOT said that keeping the dedicated left turn, which reduces signal time for traffic heading in other directions, would result in retaining a three-lane configuration between 7th and 10th Streets to accommodate northbound traffic. By eliminating the exclusive left turn lane, DOT feels comfortable reducing the number of northbound travel lanes and widening the pedestrian median.

Because of heavy traffic approaching Downtown Brooklyn and Flatbush Avenue, DOT will be retaining the three-lane configuration on northbound Fourth Avenue above Union Street. The plan goes before Community Board 2's transportation committee tomorrow night.

Thanks to Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors, who also serves on CB 6's transportation committee, for reports from last week's meeting.

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