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New Bronx River Greenway Link Would Remake Asphalt Expanse

4:59 PM EDT on June 9, 2014

Caption. Image: DDC
This plan to redesign a complex pair of intersections and expand the Bronx River Greenway is a huge step up from the expanse of asphalt on the street today, but it's still missing a key crosswalk. Image: DDC
Caption. Image: DDC

After years of inter-agency wrangling, a wide-open intersection in the Bronx is set for a complete redesign that will include a new link in the Bronx River Greenway. The city presented a preliminary design [PDF] to Community Board 6's transportation committee last Thursday. While the plan is a big step forward, it lacks a crosswalk that would make it better for pedestrians.

Update: "We are working with DDC to have the crosswalk added to the design," DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.

Today, the multi-leg intersection of East Tremont Avenue, 177th Street, and Devoe Avenue is a difficult place to walk. Extra-wide car lanes ring two tiny concrete islands marooned in a sea of white-striped asphalt. Crosswalks are fading away, and sidewalks on the west side of Devoe Avenue are crumbling.

In March, advocates and neighborhood residents, organized in part by the Bronx River Alliance and artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín of Boogie Down Rides, created a video to show how difficult it is to walk across the intersection.

Current conditions. Image: DDC

The southern end of the project, which includes two spans across the Bronx River, handles cars going to and from the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Bronx River Parkway, and the Sheridan Expressway. On the northern end, East Tremont Avenue is a major crosstown street and bus hub. The plan, designed by consultant The RBA Group for the Department of Design and Construction, requires coordination between NYC DOT, the state DOT, the Parks Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the MTA.

“This project has been going on for years," said Bronx River Alliance greenway coordinator Claudia Ibaven. “Since there are a lot of agencies involved, it was taking more time."

The wait appears to be nearly over. The redesigned intersection effectively merges the parallel sections of East 177th Street and Devoe Avenue, opening up a large new pedestrian space between East Tremont Avenue and the Sheridan Expressway ramp. It uses this space to add a new link to the Bronx River Greenway while dramatically shortening crossing distances and narrowing car lanes. The project also adds pedestrian islands to the busy southern side of the intersection near the Sheridan Expressway, and expands pedestrian space on East Tremont by eliminating a legal U-turn cut in the median and adding a porkchop-shaped island to the turn lane on the southwest corner of East Tremont and Devoe.

Despite the improvements, there's one crucial component missing from the intersection of Devoe and East Tremont: a crosswalk. While there will be marked crossings on the north, east, and south sides of the intersection, including across the "slip" turn lane, there is no striped crosswalk for pedestrians on the west side of Devoe Street. This is a common practice in auto-centric projects but has been soundly rejected in other dense urban environments. The DDC presentation lists "maintain or improve existing Vehicle Level of Service" as one of the project's goals alongside "improve pedestrian facilities," and it appears the missing crosswalk may have been sacrificed so more cars can pass through the intersection.

When asked why the project didn't include a crosswalk, DDC spokesperson Craig Chin said that pedestrians could use a new mid-block crosswalk to the west, where a stop light will be added for greenway users connecting to the greenway's planned northern extension along Bronx Street to East 180th Street and Bronx Park. But this would add about 600 unnecessary feet to trips for some pedestrians. Chin added that the design is preliminary and that public comment over the coming months could yield minor changes.

The project also adds bike lanes to East Tremont Avenue between Devoe Avenue and Boston Road, though the eastbound bike lane will stop once riders reach the mid-block crosswalk at Bronx Street. The streets connecting to either end of the new bike lanes are not part of the city's bike lane or bike route network.

CB 6's transportation committee didn't vote on a resolution about the project after last week's presentation, but Ibaven said board members were receptive, with many questions focused on dealing with traffic from a car wash at East Tremont and Devoe. DDC says construction, which includes new water mains and sewer work, could begin by the fall of next year and will take approximately 18 months to complete.

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