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Safety Fixes to Park Ave, Triboro Bridge Ramps Clear CB 11 Committee

5:11 PM EST on March 6, 2014

Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT
Poor visibility leaves pedestrians at risk on Park Avenue in East Harlem. Curb extension have already been installed at 104th Street, right. Photos: DOT

A deadly section of Park Avenue in East Harlem is on track for safety fixes, as is the dangerous confluence of ramps and streets at 125th Street and the RFK Triborough Bridge, following a unanimous vote by the Manhattan Community Board 11 transportation committee Tuesday evening.

The Park Avenue viaduct carries Metro-North trains over the center of the street north of 97th Street. South of 111th Street, it's a stone structure with poor visibility around corners. From 2007 to 2011, there were 19 severe injuries, including six pedestrians and one cyclist, on that stretch, according to DOT. It's only gotten worse since then: In July 2012, 18-year-old Shaquille Cochrane was killed on his bike by a cab driver at 108th Street. Last June, cyclist Marvin Ramirez, also 18, was killed at the same intersection. Last November, a taxi driver struck a box truck at 102nd Street, sending it onto the sidewalk, killing 65-year-old Olga Rivera. A vehicle occupant was also seriously injured in the crash.

In 2009, DOT installed concrete neckdowns and new pedestrian signals at 104th and 105th Streets as part of a safety project near PS 72. Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and CB 11 asked the agency to extend similar improvements to the rest of the viaduct. Now DOT is proposing narrower lanes on cross-streets, concrete curb extensions, and new pedestrian signals [PDF]. It is also planning to upgrade lighting in pedestrian tunnels beneath the viaduct and re-stripe crosswalks as high-visibility "zebra" markings.

DOT proposes painted median curb extensions on Park Avenue at 96th Street. Image: DOT
DOT proposes painted median curb extensions on Park Avenue at 96th Street. Image: DOT

DOT is also proposing changes to Park Avenue and 96th Street, including painted median curb extensions and clearer lane markings. This intersection borders CB 8, which DOT says it has briefed on the plan.

Changes are also on tap for Park Avenue at 125th Street, a busy intersection served by multiple bus routes and a Metro-North station. DOT is proposing painted median curb extensions, and the intersection is also slated for a $6 million upgrade funded by the city's Economic Development Corporation, according to the Daily News. Streetsblog reader Joe Rienti, who attended the meeting, said NYPD requested that DOT examine signal timing and banning all turns at the intersection, and other meeting attendees were concerned about taxis that regularly idle by the Metro-North station.

In addition to the plans along Park Avenue, the committee unanimously passed a resolution supporting tweaks to the Willis Avenue Bridge bike-pedestrian path and nearby sidewalks and highway ramps [PDF].

Last November, NYPD's 25th Precinct began ticketing cyclists using the shared bike-pedestrian path on the Willis Avenue Bridge, which had been recently replaced. Though there is bike route signage at the entrance to the bridge, there are few other markings indicating that the 12-foot wide path is meant to be shared. DOT proposes adding "bike stamp" markings and signage along the path to indicate shared space.

Currently, many southbound cyclists going from the bridge to the Second Avenue bike lane travel the wrong way on First Avenue before crossing west to Second Avenue. This route avoids the complex intersection of Second Avenue and 125th Street. To better accommodate the riders, DOT proposes adding the stamp markings to an extra-wide sidewalk on the south side of 125th Street between First and Second Avenues, where people could safely bike to the southbound lane.

DOT also proposes narrowing lanes and shortening crossing distances for pedestrians crossing the Triborough Bridge on-ramps from 124th and 125th Streets. Crosswalks will be added or widened on the ramps, which separate the neighborhood from Othmar Ammann Playground and Mayor Wagner Pool. DOT said it is still determining whether the curb extensions it proposes on the ramps will be painted or concrete.

The proposals now move to CB 11's full board meeting, scheduled for March 18.

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