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Queensboro Bridge

First Look: The DOT Finally Has Plans For Its Queensboro Bridge Pedestrian Path

"We welcome the anticipated late summer 2024 opening of the walkway, but we remain concerned about date slippage," said one Council member.

This will finally be a thing of the past by the end of the summer. Allegedly. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The streets on both ends of the Queensboro Bridge will be remade into safer, people-first spaces as part of the long-awaited reopening of the span's south outer roadway that will finally give cyclists and pedestrians a separate path to walk and ride on.

At some point this summer, apparently.

The Department of Transportation, which has delayed the project for more than a year, showed off its designs to Manhattan Community Boards 6 and 8, and Queens Community Board 2 last week — and the big winners are pedestrians and cyclists.

This is the future the DOT is promising Queens.

The biggest roadway change will be on the Queens side. The pedestrian/cyclist path that leads to the north outer roadway will remain untouched for this project, but the DOT will make a few key safety upgrades around the bridge entrance on the south side.

Right now, crossing the street near the south outer roadway forces people to go 114 feet between sidewalks, per the DOT presentation. Those pedestrians are also dealing with drivers who can come off the Queensboro Bridge.

A concrete median extension and other plans for the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge.DOT

The city says it will bring order to the chaos by building a concrete landing at the base of the south outer roadway and a concrete median and sidewalk extension to 27th Street separating drivers headed to Queens Boulevard North or South.

On the Manhattan side, the north side of East 59th Street between First and Second avenues will get a painted pedestrian bumpout, a painted sidewalk connected to Second Ave and a short midblock crossing near the entrance to the bridge's forthcoming pedestrian path.

A slide from the DOT presentation showing the changes coming to 59th Street.

Cyclists will get a new westbound bike lane on the north side of East 59th Street, and the bike lane on First Avenue will be slightly widened.

Bike lane changes coming to 59th Street.DOT

The badly needed move to finally separate cyclists and pedestrians on the Queensboro Bridge is supposed to happen sometime in "the late summer," according to the DOT presentation. That tracks with what the agency told Council Member Julie Won in February, and would finally end a years-long delay since then-Mayor Bill de Blasio said in 2021 that his administration would open the roadway to pedestrians by the end of 2022.

Mayor Adams stalled the handover to pedestrians during his first two years in office, eventually kicking the can down the road until sometime this year. Probably.

The city insisted that the south outer roadway needed to stay open during a bridge reconstruction project, lest there be a 5-percent increase in waiting time for drivers. The price of avoiding that small traffic increase has been jamming eastbound and westbound cyclists together with pedestrians all on a narrow two-way path, resulting in at least 23 crashes injuring 25 people since the beginning of 2021.

The bridge reconstruction project is still not finished, and so the DOT is still giving cars access to the south outer roadway, which means that some of the concrete work on the Queens side will be done after pedestrians have access to the south outer roadway, according to a graphic the DOT shared:

A rough timeline of the construction that will happen for the pedestrian handover of the south outer roadway,DOT

However, a DOT representative told Queens CB2 that the agency isn't waiting around until this summer to do all of the work, so the concrete median on the Queens side will at least go in before the roadway is open.

"Normally we would wait for the bridge construction project to be completed," said DOT Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Jason Banrey. "But instead we're going to be out there working while the bridge construction is still going so we can get some stuff done ahead of time so we can open this up faster."

Just as important as the new construction itself is the DOT's continuing commitment to actually finishing the project, according to one Council member who represents an area on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

"The opening of the pedestrian walkway on the Queensborough Bridge is long overdue and has been a serious safety concern and impediment to movement for both pedestrians and cyclists," said Council Member Julie Menin. "While we welcome the anticipated late summer 2024 opening of the walkway, we remain concerned about date slippage. We urge DOT to give frequent updates to the Council and the public on the progress to date and strictly adhere to the promised timeline."

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