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Queens Blvd. Gets Beaucoup Biden Bucks

One of the city's biggest projects is now also one of the Biden Administration's biggest.

Graphic: DOT|

This is what the city DOT says Queens Boulevard will eventually look like (though not always with that gorgeous sunset), but the Biden money is for immediate quick-build improvements.

One of the city's biggest projects is now also one of the Biden Administration's biggest.

The redesign of Queens Boulevard — an epic, decade-long struggle to add a bike lane to a roadway once known as the Boulevard of Death — was the top recipient this week of federal Safe Streets and Roads for All grants, nabbing $29.75 million from a pot of close to $890 million spent on 620 projects nationwide.

The money will partly fund "Implementation of Queens Boulevard Great Streets Transformation and Supplemental Planning for Vision Zero," according to the federal Department of Transportation. The overall, four-phase project has a budget of $250 million, according to the US DOT, though the final amount may be significantly higher [PDF].

The city Department of Transportation did not respond to questions about the happy news, but the feds said the money would be used to bolster "low-cost quick-build solutions already implemented to address safety issues resulting from being a vehicle-centric corridor, with limited crossing opportunities and facilities for vulnerable users, and higher vehicle speeds."

"The [grant] also includes supplemental planning to enhance surveillance on traffic-related fatalities and injuries not routinely available in police crash reports. In addition, DOT will retrofit a portion of fleet vehicles with active and centrally managed Intelligent Speed Assist to prevent speeding as a demonstration activity," the feds said, suggesting that the funding is a bit of a Vision Zero grab bag.

The final phase of the Queens Boulevard project comprises the stretch between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue, a 1.2-mile project that seeks to make safer a six-lane mini-highway by eliminating one lane in each direction and adding a protected bike lane. Between 2016 and 2020, 233 people were injured on this portion of Queens Boulevard, according to the DOT.

The benefits of the safety redesign are clear: According to the city DOT, pedestrian injuries decreased by 41 percent on the stretches that have been redesigned and total injuries decreased by 22 percent.

Queens Boulevard is one of four roadways that then-Mayor Bill de Blasio designated as "Great Streets" projects — ones where a protected bike lane would eventually be supplemented with extensive capital work such as raising the bike lane to be above the grade of cars and to build out medians with plantings and other improvements.

Not all "Great Streets" live up to their name. On Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the city spent $50 million to merely add some plantings and flood protection. The roadway remains an unsafe six lane highway.

Great street? The roadway is still a speedway, but, yes, there is a planter in the middle.Graphic: DOT

After Queens Boulevard, the top 15 recipients of federal Safe Streets for All money were:

  • Fayetteville (Ark.): implement its Vision Zero strategy to fix roadways that were constructed using outdated auto-oriented designs that invite high-speed driving and lack basic infrastructure for non-vehicular use. ($25 million)
  • Phoenix: intersection and pedestrian infrastructure changes and safety treatments along Indian School Road between 91st and 39th Avenues ($25 million)
  • Dearborn: A road diet that focuses on a dual lane reduction on Warren Avenue. ($25 million)
  • Detroit: improve safety and bus stop accessibility at 56 high-crash intersections. Improvements will support safer transfers between different routes and active/shared modes. ($25 million)
  • Boulder: focus on three key problems: pedestrian safety at marked, non-signalized crosswalks, crashes affecting vulnerable road users on priority arterial segments, and severe-injury crashes at six key intersections. ($23 million)
  • Dallas: multiple improvements on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/Cedar Crest Boulevard for pedestrians and bicyclists. ($22 million)
  • Lexington-Fayette Urban County Gov't: reconstruct a portion of New Circle Road to implement significant safety upgrades on the highest fatal and serious-injury corridor identified in the Lexington Safety Action Plan. ($22 million)
  • Chicago: implement corridor safety improvements on Ogden Avenue in North Lawndale. ($21 million)
  • Minneapolis: implement its Vision Zero Action Plan and target the highest-priority projects in the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan. ($20 million)
  • Fontana (Calif.): dramatically improve safety for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists with complete infrastructure improvements along Foothill Boulevard (part of historic Route 66). ($20 million)
  • Lancaster (Calif.): multiple Complete Streets improvements on Challenger Way, which had a total of 148 crashes, including nine killed or severely injured, between 2017 and 2021. ($19.6 million)
  • Philadelphia: implement systemic and corridor-specific safety countermeasures in underserved areas. ($16.4 million)
  • Miami-Dade: infrastructure improvements at 24 locations on the county's high-injury network along its high-speed arterial and collector roads. ($16.2 million)
  • Salinas (Calif.): implementing multiple safety improvements on Williams Road. ($16 million)
  • Virginia Beach: multiple safety improvements for the Virginia Beach Trail, a shared-use path that will create more than three miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails completely separated from vehicles. ($14 million)

“Every year, crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said when the grants were announced. “We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives.”

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