State DOT Commits to Improve Deadly Intersection and Study Ocean Parkway

Drivers at the deadly intersection of Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue. After a long delay, the state DOT has committed to safety improvements and promises to study 38 intersections along the rest of Ocean Parkway. Photo: ## Kerr/FlickrEE

After delaying action on a NYC DOT pedestrian safety plan that local residents voted to fund, the state DOT says that it’s not only “in general agreement” with the plan, but supports specific changes to be implemented as soon as this fall. In addition to upgrades at the intersection of Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway, state DOT also says it’s examining the safety of 38 intersections along Ocean Parkway, but details about that study remain murky.

State DOT’s decision to support pedestrian safety improvements comes after months of what Council Member Brad Lander has characterized as obstructionism. The state delayed the project even after 73-year-old Ngozi Agbim was killed by a turning truck driver in the very crosswalk slated for changes.

In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, state DOT announced that it had agreed to:

  • A new pedestrian island on the north side of the intersection, including new pedestrian signals, high-visibility crosswalk markings, and protective barriers;
  • Narrower traffic lanes to provide space for the pedestrian island;
  • New traffic signals with flashing yellow arrows, indicating that drivers turning right should yield to pedestrians;
  • Signage on the southbound Prospect Expressway alerting drivers to the stop light at Church Avenue; and
  • Speed limit signs on Ocean Parkway reminding drivers of the citywide speed limit of 30 mph.

The flashing yellow arrows are a new addition to the plan; Lander’s office says they were added by state DOT, but still require sign-off from NYC DOT’s signals division. It’s unclear whether yellow signals would be installed for all right turns at the intersection, or just for drivers turning right from Church Avenue to the Prospect Expressway — the turn a truck driver was making when he ran over and killed Agbim in June.

“Details on the signals and other aspects of the design will be available in the coming weeks,” NYC DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera told Streetsblog in an e-mail, referring other questions to the state. Although a final design is scheduled to be complete in the middle of next month, state DOT said it expects implementation, most of which would be done by NYC DOT, to begin this fall.

The project is funded by $200,000 allocated through Lander’s participatory budgeting process last year.

The state also said it has begun a study of 38 intersections along the entire four-mile length of Ocean Parkway (that’s nearly all of the parkway’s intersections), and would work with NYC DOT, which manages the state roadway, to implement any improvements. Ocean Parkway had six pedestrian fatalities between 2009 and 2011, making it one of the most dangerous streets in Brooklyn, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Lander’s office said state DOT would reference this study while delaying action at the Church Avenue intersection over the past year, but would not provide details about what it was studying. Tri-State told Streetsblog that it hadn’t learned of the Ocean Parkway study until today.

Streetsblog asked NYC DOT and state DOT for more information about the study. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

  • Jeff

    My biggest (nonfatal) pet peeve along this corridor: Motorists traveling eastbound who make it through the service road during a green/yellow light but then stop before the main parkway, therefore blocking the bike path while it has a green signal. If they could somehow tweak these intersections to make it clear that the whole thing (service road, bike path, main parkway) is to be treated as a single intersection by crossing motorists, that would go a long way to enhancing the usability and safety of the bike path.

  • I live in Park Slope and have family in Sheepshead Bay. So I go back and forth a lot and various times of day, using various means of transportation. A few years ago I decided that Ocean Parkway was not an option any more. I did not feel safe, in my car.

  • Mark R. Brown, AICP

    All the more reason that state DOTs should get out of the business of managing and designing urban roads. They’re often insensitive and/or incognizant of urban traffic safety issues and try to apply rural/suburban guidelines inappropriately.

    Multi-year city/state DOT battles over sensible road safety improvements are common throughout the country. It’s just a needless layer of bureaucracy and delays making our streets safer. While 2 agencies point the finger at each other, people are still getting killed on our streets.

  • Driver

    It wouldn’t hurt to consider a name change for this street. Calling it a “parkway” gives drivers the impression that it is designed for fast driving.

  • Midimagic

    There should NEVER be a standard speed limit set throughout a jurisdiction. Speed limits should be set by trained engineers for the actual conditions present, not by idiot politicians with no engineering training. And all speed limits must be posted at the site or not enforced.