Tonight: Community Board 9 Weighs Fix for Dangerous Stretch of Broadway

DOT's plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would drop it from three lanes to two lanes each way. Image: DOT [PDF]
DOT’s plan for 18 blocks of Broadway in West Harlem would widen pedestrian medians and narrow motor vehicle lanes. Image: DOT [PDF]
A street safety plan [PDF] for Broadway in West Harlem is going before the Manhattan Community Board 9 transportation committee tonight. The redesign is a road diet similar to other DOT projects that have reduced deaths and injuries, but CB 9 members also have a track record of opposing attempts to improve safety by removing car lanes.

This stretch of Broadway is three lanes in each direction with a center median. Six people have been killed between 135th Street and 153rd Street since 2007, according to DOT, including five pedestrians and one motor vehicle passenger. Four of the five pedestrians were senior citizens.

There were 35 severe injuries and 455 total injuries from 2009 to 2013, mostly among people in cars. Of the 108 pedestrians injured, 53 percent were crossing with the signal, nearly double the percentage crossing against the light. DOT also found that up to 30 percent of drivers were speeding, even before the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph.

To address the dangerous conditions, DOT is proposing a road diet similar to projects already implemented on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. The Broadway redesign calls for going from three lanes in each direction to two, with space reallocated to buffers along the median, larger pedestrian zones at intersections, and wider parking lanes.

Broadway runs parallel to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Even during summer Friday afternoons, when traffic increases on Broadway, DOT says two lanes in each direction is enough. The issues for motor vehicles, DOT says, have to do with left turns and trucks making deliveries.

Today, truck drivers often double park in the right lane, reducing visibility for pedestrians and forcing drivers to weave around them. On the other side of the street, drivers turning left often stack up in the left lane.

New loading zones would be added along Broadway to reduce double parking. In addition, left turns from northbound Broadway at 138th and 145th streets would be banned, and U-turns from southbound Broadway at 152nd Street would also be prohibited.

Like the other road diets on similar streets, however, there is no bike infrastructure in the plan. Instead DOT opted to devote all the repurposed space to enlarge the median and create super-wide parking lanes, which will double as space for illegally double-parked vehicles.

Because of its poor safety record, Broadway is a Vision Zero pedestrian priority corridor. The intersections with 135th, 145th and 152nd streets are among the most dangerous 10 percent in Manhattan. Similar designs reduced pedestrian injuries 61 percent on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope and 27 percent on Adam Clayton Powell, according to DOT.

A section of Broadway has already received this type of redesign: Between 93rd Street and 100th Street, the southbound side received a road diet last year and saw pedestrian injuries drop 37 percent.

Community Board 9 has a mixed record on road diets. It backed a plan for Morningside Avenue, but key members of the transportation committee have stalled a road diet proposed for Riverside Drive, which like Broadway is used by car commuters as an alternative to the Henry Hudson Parkway.

In May, DOT hosted two public walking evaluations of Broadway to flag problems and discuss solutions. Its first presentation to the CB 9 transportation committee was last month. Tonight’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Fortune Society, 625 W. 140th Street.

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