Before a City Council transportation committee budget hearing this morning, the de Blasio administration announced its “Great Streets” initiative, which includes $250 million in capital funds to improve safety on Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, Atlantic Avenue, and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn.
From 2009 to 2013, 34 pedestrians were killed and 215 seriously injured on these four arterial streets. Significant expansions of space for walking and biking on these streets will show that the de Blasio administration is willing to take on the toughest street design challenges.
Still unclear, however, is DOT’s budgetary commitment to less expensive but still effective treatments like painted sidewalk extensions and parking-protected bike lanes, which can quickly extend safer designs to more neighborhoods and reduce traffic deaths and injuries on a more aggressive timetable.
The $250 million in capital funding will be spent over several years. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the bulk of the $100 million budgeted for Queens Boulevard, for example, would be spent in fiscal year 2018. The price is high because the streets will be reconstructed with new curbs and concrete.
DOT is also looking at bus lanes and protected bike lanes for these streets, but said final decisions will come after a community consultation process. Capital projects already in the pipeline for Fourth Avenue, however, would cast in concrete a design without protected bike infrastructure.
“This is going to be a very big initiative for us,” Trottenberg said. ”We’re prepared to think as big as money and community support and the practicality of implementing will allow.”
“What we’re going to see in the coming months is how aggressive the DOT is going to be with these new treatments,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. “We advocates have to remain vigilant to make sure that this money is going to be spent in a way that is going to save the maximum number of lives.”