Friday’s Headlines: A Newsy Flushing Avenue Update Edition

The daily deadly mix on Flushing Avenue.
The daily deadly mix on Flushing Avenue.

To paraphrase the Ramones, “DDC did a job on me.” Yes, it’s time for our latest Flushing Avenue update. As we reported in September, the transformation of Flushing Avenue from a terribly unsafe place for cyclists into an oasis with a two-way, fully protected bike lane, was supposed to be done by this month.

Update: It won’t be. The Department of Design and Construction sent over the following statement, written to highlight the agency’s “Strategic Blueprint,” which the agency believes will change everything…going forward, that is.

The DDC Strategic Blueprint issued in January points out that street reconstruction projects are typically delayed three to nine months because of interference with existing utilities. This project [Flushing Avenue] is a classic example of that. Because of the need to wait for utility work this project is now projected to be completed by the end of 2019. However, the bike lane should be finished by mid-summer.

The DDC Strategic Blueprint would reduce the number of times DDC projects come into conflict with utilities and would improve coordination when utilities are impossible to avoid. It would also increase the use of joint bidding, which would allow DDC to contract utility work and its own work all at once, removing the need for DDC to wait for utilities to contract the work themselves. DDC worked with utilities in creating the Strategic Blueprint so they’re aware of the issue and they’re already working with us to improve the situation.

Yeah, yeah, but here’s some context: This project dates back to 2010. It was supposed to start in 2014, but didn’t start until late 2017, and not in earnest until 2018. And now it’s delayed until the end of 2019 — but the good news from DDC is it won’t happen again! Promise! We have a Strategic Blueprint.

And now the news:

  • Transit engineering expert (and also New York State Governor) Andrew Cuomo is telling MTA experts what to do again. The Daily News and amNY covered Cuomo’s belief that he knows signals better than Andy Byford. And the NY Post focused on the governor’s desire to review the almost-finished East Side Access project. At some point, Byford simply has to hand Cuomo the keys to all the trains and say, “You know what? You run them!”
  • As Streetsblog has reported, the congestion pricing devil is in the carveout details. The Daily News is also on the story. Meanwhile, the governor made the central point — albeit ham-handedly — about congestion pricing: All the outer-borough lawmakers who opposed it are wrong because so few of their constituents drive into Manhattan anyway. (NY Post)
  • Lost in the shuffle over the debate about what to do with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was this big of highway porn from Bjarke Ingels Group. But don’t be fooled: This buried roadway plan would increase the number of cars, which should be a no-no in the era of Vision Zero and Emission Zero (wait, did we just coin that?) (CurbedCrain’s). And NY1 did a segment on Mayor de Blasio’s new BQE panel.
  • The Post and Streetsblog covered Byford’s memo to his transit workers reminding them to use transit and stop parking wherever they way.
  • When is Mayor de Blasio going to crack down on this untested, dangerous technology? (West Side Rag)
  • And, finally, here’s our weekly tribute to Gridlock Sam, for reminding us that there’s always a better way to get around than using a car. (NYDN)
  • SSkate

    Flushing Ave sucks. Flat out effing sucks. There’s the chaos from the bike path construction alongside the Navy Yard, but further east in Williamsburg the street surface is utter crap, accentuated by the diarrhea from concrete trucks leaking their loads.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Vendors are installing technology they designed in the ’80s. I believe there is better technology out there,” Cuomo said at a Cipriani’s luncheon hosted by the Association for a Better New York. “If you can figure out how a car can fly and you can get in a car that drives you by itself to Southampton, you have to be able to have technology where one train can tell you where the other train is on a closed system.” “Just a day earlier Byford described the same signal equipment, known as Communications-Based Train Control, as “proven” and “mature.”

    Cuomo may be right, Byford may be right, and there is an easy way to tell.

    There is simply no way the people of New York City can afford the taxes, fees and fares necessary to replace the signals on an ongoing basis at the cost of Canarsie CBTC, Flushing CBTC, and Culver CBTC. I showed them that at the time.

    Worse, to replace the signal systems on an ongoing basis, a project of that size would have to start (and finish) every year. Canarsie CBTC was underway, and Flushing CBTC was being planned, when I worked as a budget analyst for NYCT from 2001 to 2003. Culver CBTC is just happening now.

    These were supposed to be pilot projects. That was the excuse for the time and cost. The Queens Boulevard line was supposed to be the final pilot project. They still haven’t done a four-track railroad with extensive switching. By now, these projects were supposed to be very fast and very cheap. Instead, they stopped doing and funding them.

    Are they fast and cheap? How about $100 million per project, done in one year? Instead of $700 million 10 years.

    Here is the plan from 2003 to prevent system decline — I have a copy of the spreadsheet.

    Culver Line — contract award 2007 beneficial use 2012
    Crosstown Line (G) — 2009 and 2013
    6th Avenue Main Line — 2011 award
    Queens Blvd — two segments 2010 and 2011 award
    Fulton Street — award
    Liberty Avenue Line — 2015 award
    BMT Broadway Line (City Hall to 57th) — 2016 award
    DeKalb Interlocking — 2017 award — when that starts to go, look out Brooklyn

    So what has happened? I still want to see the map. If Cuomo wants to get woke, as they say, he should ask for the signal asset database, and this map.

    http://r8ny.com/2008/05/28/an-mta-subway-map-id-like-to-see/

    The problem is that since it has been his budget and his hack MTA chairmen for a decade, it is now his map. He should have asked about this in 2011.

  • Reader

    Does anyone at DDC ride a bike? Can they please come out and ride this garbage and see how deadly it is? That it will be finished this summer doesn’t help someone avoid getting crushed by a truck today.

  • Joseph R.

    If utility conflicts are commonly a problem, wouldn’t hollow sidewalks help mostly alleviate these issues by not having to tear the whole road up and still allowing easy access to utilities? And then you also have the benefit of a raised bike-lane further separating cyclists from traffic.

  • kevd

    Don’t try to use “woke” larry – you’re not doing it correctly.
    You just look silly.

  • Wilfried84

    I don’t think this article was ever mentioned. The Times finally makes the point, out loud, that cars are massively subsidized, and congestion pricing is an attempt to price the streets right, and get drivers to pay their fair share.

    “Other countries have socialized health care, parental leave or housing, Jeffrey Tumlin, a transportation consultant at NelsonNygaard, pointed out. In America, we’ve socialized driving — and housing for our cars.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/upshot/the-streets-were-never-free-congestion-pricing-finally-makes-that-plain.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll take your advice

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good article. The local story is the toll freezes and removals of the Pataki era have left future gas tax revenues almost as siphoned off by debt service as future MTA revenues.

    It was “free” for the freeloaders. Congestion pricing is in some ways just paying for those years of lower and removed tolls.

  • reasonableexplanation

    “Bjarke Ingels Group. But don’t be fooled: This buried roadway plan would increase the number of cars, which should be a no-no”

    Why a no-no?
    The Bjarke plan puts the cars in a completely covered roadway, with a park over it. The cars are completely out of the way of pedestrians, while maintaining (and improving?) a critical infrastructure link.

    They claim the cost to do this lower than the DOT plan as well.