DOT Proposes Roundabout for Dangerous Longwood Intersection

The super-wide intersection of Intervale Avenue and Dawson Street is set to be transformed with a roundabout. Image: DOT [PDF]
The super-wide intersection of Intervale Avenue and Dawson Street is set to be transformed with a roundabout, shorter pedestrian crossings, and slower car speeds. Image: DOT [PDF]
New York seemingly has a traffic signal on every corner. To improve safety at one Bronx intersection, DOT is going with something different: a roundabout.

The proposal is part of a larger road diet for Intervale Avenue in Longwood [PDF]. The plan was supported by a Bronx Community Board 2 committee in a 7-1 vote earlier this month.

Currently, the intersection of Intervale and Dawson Street, at the northern end of Rainey Park, is wide-open, with only a painted triangle in the middle to break up the expanse. People walking on the western side of Intervale have to cross 200 feet of asphalt.

“For years, we’ve asked for DOT to install a sidewalk there,” said CB 2 district manager Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “A lot of cars, they do illegal activities there that put lives at risk.”

Roundabouts — not to be confused with rotaries, their larger, faster cousins — have a lot of benefits. They slow down traffic at intersections and compel drivers to negotiate the right of way with other road users, instead of rote reliance on a traffic signal. They also save drivers time, instead of holding them at red lights.

Today, Intervale Avenue at Dawson Street is an asphalt expanse up to 200 feet wide. Image: DOT
Today, Intervale Avenue at Dawson Street is an asphalt expanse where crossing distances are up to 200 feet. Photo: DOT [PDF]
Roundabouts should be designed with walking and biking in mind, too. On that count, the Intervale Avenue proposal is a huge step up from what’s there today.

The plan would convert Dawson Street from one-way to two-way and add “splitter islands” to both divide traffic as it approaches the roundabout and give refuge to pedestrians. On the north side of the roundabout, the splitter island is actually a wide median that extends for the entire block and through the crosswalk at East 163rd Street.

Two painted curb extensions would be added to crosswalks where north-south traffic from Intervale enters the roundabout. Drivers would pass the crosswalk before approaching “yield” markings at the roundabout itself. In an unusual design choice, the roundabout includes parking along its outer edges. The plan still calls for the removal of a few parking spaces.

Although about two of three of neighborhood households are car-free, parking is usually a top concern at the community board, Salamanca said. In this case, safety came first. “This intersection of Intervale and Dawson has been so stressful [to cross],” he said. “We as a community are okay with four parking spaces being taken to improve the safety of the community and the kids going to the park.”

The roundabout is the southern anchor of a larger road diet that stretches for almost a mile between Freeman Street and Rainey Park.

These eight blocks of Intervale rank in the top third of the Bronx’s most dangerous corridors, according to DOT. From 2009 to 2013, 126 people were injured by traffic on the street, including 16 pedestrians. DOT measured 65 percent of drivers on Intervale exceeding the speed limit.

Intervale and East 169th Street gets squared off to improve visibility, slow turns, and shorten crossing distances. Image: DOT [PDF]
Intervale and East 169th Street wiill get squared off to improve visibility, slow turns, and shorten crossing distances. Image: DOT [PDF]
Intervale is currently two lanes in each direction and would be reconfigured to one lane in each direction, plus a striped center median that includes pedestrian refuge islands and left turn lanes. Like most DOT road diets, the plan includes extra-wide 14 foot parking lanes that create space for both cyclists and double-parked drivers. It does not include bike lanes, and Salamanca said board members did not ask for them at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Pedestrian islands would be added to Intervale on the north side of Westchester Avenue, the north side of East 165th Street, and the south side of East 167th Street. A mid-block pedestrian island, along with neckdowns, would also be added between East 167th and East 165th Streets. As depicted in DOT’s presentation, the crossing, between a church and a school, does not include a marked crosswalk or traffic signals.

At its northern end, the project feeds into an existing road diet installed in 2012 on Intervale, Louis Nine Boulevard, and Freeman Street that cut traffic injuries by 29 percent. Where Intervale crosses East 167th Street and Hall Place, DOT installed a large pedestrian island with vegetation a few years ago, Salamanca said.

The plan now goes to the CB 2 full board, which meets tomorrow at Thessalonia Baptist Church, 941 Rev. James A. Polite Avenue. A Black History Month celebration and dinner will begin at at 6 p.m., followed by board business at approximately 7 p.m.

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