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Two of the Most Dangerous Streets in Queens Set for Safety Upgrades

5:44 PM EDT on May 20, 2014

DOT is proposing nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, including a few with left-turn bans. Photo: DOT
DOT proposes nine new pedestrian islands on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights. Photo: DOT

DOT has proposed concrete safety improvements for Northern Boulevard and Broadway, two of the most dangerous streets in Queens. If supported by Community Boards 2 and 3 next month, the projects could be implemented by the end of the year.

On Northern Boulevard between 63rd and 103rd Streets, DOT has proposed adding nine pedestrian islands in the existing striped median [PDF]. Currently, there are five islands in this 40-block, 1.8-mile stretch, which ranks in the most dangerous 10 percent of Queens streets.

Since 2008, there have been three pedestrian fatalities on this part of Northern Boulevard, including Olvin Jahir Figueroa, age 3, and Miguel Torres, age 11. A DOT study of the intersection with 61st Street showed that a third of all pedestrians at the intersection are school-aged children. The street is 70 feet wide, which is difficult to navigate for people who can't walk fast. In 46 percent of crashes that injured pedestrians, the victim was crossing with the signal.

Four of the nine new islands, at 75th, 78th, 96th, and 102nd Streets, will include left turn bans. DOT has already installed similar pedestrian islands and turn bans at Northern Boulevard and 61st Street, where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed by an unlicensed truck driver making a left turn last December. Nahian was walking to PS 152, where Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Vision Zero agenda in January.

DOT presented the plan to Community Board 3's transportation committee last Tuesday. Committee members were generally receptive and urged DOT to do more, including adding more trees and greening, according to Make Queens Safer, which has been campaigning for a safer Northern Boulevard. Some of the islands will have trees, while underground utilities in some locations prevent trees from being planted.

"Northern Boulevard still has a lot of complex problems that remain unaddressed," Make Queens Safer said in a statement. "The city should do everything in its authority to create a more comprehensive transformation of this outmoded highway into a model design for arterial roads."

The safety plan now goes to CB 3's full board, which will be hosting its second annual outdoor meeting in Diversity Plaza on June 19.

Broadway in Woodside is slated for a road diet. Photo: DOT
Broadway in Woodside is slated for a road diet. Photo: DOT

A second project promises a more significant redesign for a half-mile stretch of Broadway, between Northern Boulevard and 65th Street in Woodside [PDF]. Like the Jackson Heights section of Northern Boulevard, Broadway in Woodside ranks in the most dangerous 10 percent of Queens corridors. Since 2008, there have been two fatalities, including the hit-and-run death of Luis Bravo, which spurred local groups and elected officials to ask DOT for safety improvements.

In addition to the fatalities, there have been 10 serious injuries on the street from 2008 to 2012, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT.

With two lanes in each direction, Broadway has too much space for existing traffic volumes, even during rush hours, and 27 percent of drivers are speeding, according to DOT. To address these problems, the city is proposing a road diet, reducing the street to one lane in each direction with a center turning lane and extra-wide parking lanes. Although DOT notes that this route is used by many cyclists, bike lanes are not in the plan. It also does not include concrete pedestrian islands, instead relying on road striping.

DOT presented the plan to CB 2's transportation committee on April 22. According to the meeting minutes [PDF], some members were concerned about the length of left turn lanes to accommodate queues of drivers, but were generally supportive of the plan. It goes to the full board on June 5.

Pending support from the community boards in June, DOT says it plans to implement both projects later this year.

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