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Denny Farrell

155th Street Ped Safety Fixes Clear Three Uptown Community Board Votes

The Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge is a complex intersection where pedestrians are too often forgotten within a swirl of turning vehicles and impatient drivers. The intersection is also on the border of three community boards, adding extra layers of review for DOT efforts to improve safety. As of last night, transportation committees at all three boards have voted in support of the proposal, which will add pedestrian islands and turn restrictions while shortening crossing distances and calming traffic [PDF]. After it clears the full boards, the safety fixes are scheduled to be installed next year.

The plan will add four curb extensions and one pedestrian island to the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF[
The plan has three turn bans, four curb extensions and one pedestrian island for the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF]
The plan will add four curb extensions and one pedestrian island to the Manhattan side of the 155th Street Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF[

The location is more dangerous than 99 percent of Manhattan's intersections. From 2008 to 2012, there were 72 traffic injuries, eight of them severe, at this single location, and nearly two of every five pedestrian crashes happen while the victim is walking with the signal, according to DOT. More than a quarter of crashes involve left-turning drivers, far higher than the numbers at other Manhattan intersections.

A plan for the intersection has been in the works for nearly two years. DOT's proposal includes three new turn bans, four new concrete curb extensions, and one new pedestrian refuge island at the intersection of West 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place, and Harlem River Driveway. On St. Nicholas Place, the agency is proposing new crosswalks at 152nd Street and three pedestrian islands, one each at 151st, 152nd, and 153rd Streets.

CB 12's transportation committee voted unanimously to support the plan earlier this month. Last night, committees at community boards 9 and 10 followed suit. The vote at CB 10 was 6-0, with one abstention, according to committee chair Maria Garcia. At CB 9, the committee voted 7-0 to support the plan.

The Assembly member representing the area -- Herman “Denny” Farrell, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee -- has been a regular presence at public meetings for the project. He attended both committee meetings last night to speak about the plan. "I’m 90 percent in favor of it," he told CB 10. "I’m 10 percent in opposition to elimination of the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place."

Farrell was referring to a proposal to prohibit westbound drivers on 155th Street from turning onto southbound St. Nicholas Place. The turn ban would create space for a pedestrian island on St. Nicholas Place and direct drivers to instead turn left at the next intersection, at St. Nicholas Avenue. Farrell was concerned that the additional left turns at that location would pose a safety hazard. The plan converts one of the lanes on 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue to a dedicated turn lane. According to DOT, 110 drivers make the left turn onto St. Nicholas Place during rush hour. The agency said at previous meetings that the intersection should be able to handle the additional traffic.

While committee members shared Farrell's concern, none of the committees are asking DOT to take out the turn restriction. A draft of CB 9's resolution asks DOT to provide follow-up data from the St. Nicholas Avenue intersection on the impact of the turn ban.

One important component of the project, however, failed to make it to the finish line. Today, westbound drivers on 155th Street can turn left onto southbound Edgecombe Avenue using a "slip lane" on the southeast corner of the intersection. DOT had proposed closing the slip lane and filling it with an expanded sidewalk near a busy bus stop, but in May a vocal group of residents who wanted a driving shortcut to Edgecombe Avenue asked DOT to scrap that plan. Instead, the agency will be adding a stop sign and crosswalk on the slip lane.

The next step for the plan is sign-off from the three community boards at their general meetings. CB 9 is meeting tomorrow night, CB 12 will meet on October 28, and CB 10's next meeting is scheduled for November 5. According to CB 10's Garcia, DOT staff said the plan could be installed in the late spring or summer of next year, with construction taking two months.

Also of note: CB 9 Chair Rev. Georgette Morgan-Thomas said the committee's agenda for next month will include the extension of dedicated bus lanes on 125th Street to West Harlem. The project had been shelved in the face of opposition from community boards and a handful of elected officials before being partially revived. CB 10's transportation committee is also requesting an update from DOT on the 125th Street bus lanes next month. Update: DOT says it plans to provide an update on 125th Street SBS to CB 9 this fall.

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