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Change Is Afoot on Conduit Blvd, a Speedway Dividing Neighborhoods

1:05 PM EDT on April 13, 2016

Conduit Boulevard, a highway-like road in on the eastern Brooklyn-Queens border, has seen four pedestrian fatalities since 2008. Image: DOT
Four pedestrians have been killed since 2008 on Conduit Boulevard, a highway-like surface street that divides Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. Image: DOT

Conduit Boulevard, a wide and dangerous road where drivers speed to and from JFK Airport, could get much-needed safety improvements from DOT between Atlantic Avenue and Sutter Avenue this year.

The street is designed like a highway, with wide travel lanes and north- and south-bound roads separated by a huge median. Vehicle access from Atlantic Avenue is literally an on-ramp. In Nassau County it becomes the Sunrise Highway, which frequently rates atop the Tri-State Transportation Campaign's list of the state's most dangerous roads.

This surface speedway cuts through East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ozone Park, limiting residents' access to transit and curtailing safe walking and biking options within their own neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods along the 2.2-mile stretch covered by DOT's project, most households don't own cars.

DOT plans to present safety improvements to Brooklyn Community Board 5 and Queens Community Board 10 later this spring. The department is currently gathering feedback on the project via an online portal.

With a 30 mph speed limit, Conduit Boulevard is one the few remaining surface streets in the city with a limit above 25 mph. Between Sutter and 90th Street (outside the scope of the current project), the speed limit is 40 mph.

Beaten paths, like this one at S. Conduit and Autumn Avenue, indicate significant pedestrian foot traffic on the corridor despite a lack of crosswalks. Image: Google Maps
Beaten paths, like this one at S. Conduit and Autumn Avenue, indicate significant foot traffic despite the lack of crosswalks. Image: Google Maps

Crosswalks are nearly non-existent on Conduit, but beaten paths on the median testify to the substantial foot traffic. Between 2010 and 2014, 319 people were injured and two pedestrians were killed in crashes within the project area.

"The long distance between crossings on Conduit reinforce the highway feel and encourage speeding," one person wrote on DOT's online portal. Commenters have called attention to the need for safer crossings and the potential to transform the large median into a linear park with a bikeway.

On DOT's bike map, Conduit is flagged as a "future potential bike path," and organizers pushing for a "Southern Queens Greenway" connecting the area's many parks are pushing for that. "If Conduit was bikeable, people would go to [Jamaica Bay]," said Daniel Solow, a Nassau County resident who has been leading the greenway effort. "That road is doing absolutely nothing for people who don't have a car."

Conduit Boulevard would form most of the western leg of the proposed Southern Queens Greenway. Map: Southern Queens Greenway Initiative

The Southern Queens Greenway has a listserve with 170 members and a group of five organizers actively working on the project, Solow said. He's had promising conversations with the local community boards. "People are talking, people are now paying attention to Vision Zero," he said.

Turning Conduit Boulevard into a street where people can walk and bike safely would be a big step forward for the greenway concept and integral to creating cohesive pedestrian and bicycle networks in eastern Brooklyn and southern Queens.

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