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Get Ready For a Very Uncomfortable Year on the Brooklyn Bridge

There’s crowded, and then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge on a nice warm day with construction fencing off half the walking and biking path. Image: DOT

Just as the weather warms and tourists once again mob the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the skyline and snap some photos, DOT has announced that construction work will narrow the one place on the bridge path that’s even remotely close to comfortably wide.

The maintenance work involves “steel improvements at tower locations as well as structural joint repair on the Brooklyn approach.” For people walking and biking on the bridge path, that will mean squeezing around construction fences blocking off one side of each tower.

Nowhere to pause for photos, nowhere to not be in the way of other people. Image: DOT

Image: DOT

During overnight hours, part of the Brooklyn side of the path will also be halved.  The closures, which are more intrusive than previous construction barriers, will be in place through December. Additionally, between April 6 and April 20 DOT will close half the Manhattan approach during overnight hours.

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Queens Boulevard Safety Plan Has First Encounter With a Community Board

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT's plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee chair Joseph Conley, left, looks at DOT’s plan for Queens Boulevard in Woodside. Photo: Stephen Miller

Skepticism from the Community Board 2 transportation committee toward DOT’s proposed changes for Queens Boulevard wore off over the course of a meeting last night, as board members learned more about the project for 1.3 miles of safety improvements [PDF]. DOT will return to the committee again after tweaking the plan, which appears to be on track to receive CB 2’s backing by June, in time to put changes on the ground this summer.

The meeting got off to an inauspicious start. “The headline that’s gone out is that the community has spoken,” said committee chair Joseph Conley. The more than 100 people at a January workshop DOT hosted about Queens Boulevard, he added, shouldn’t overrule his nine-person committee. “We wanted to make sure that it came to the community board.”

But as DOT presented the proposal and answered questions last night, the heat subsided. “Queens Boulevard doesn’t lend itself to what’s happening for people that live here and work here,” Conley said later. “It’s more of a transportation corridor than anything else.”

The Queens Boulevard redesign will proceed in two phases — first with temporary materials and later with concrete. Image: NYC DOT

The most high-profile component of the project is protected bike lanes running along the Queens Boulevard service roads. A member of the public urged DOT to install more substantial protection than plastic posts, but Conley had a different view. “There’s just some roads where bicycle lanes don’t belong,” he said. “Maybe Queens Boulevard is one of those places where bicycle lanes don’t belong.”

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo replied that the jumbled street grid in Woodside doesn’t offer alternative bike routes. “Cyclists are choosing Queens Boulevard whether or not we put a bike lane,” he said, “so what we’re trying to do is make that activity as safe and comfortable as possible.”

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More Details From DOT’s Plan to Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

Here’s a closer look at DOT’s plan to add protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety measures to 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard. DOT will be presenting these slides tonight to the Queens Community Board 2 transportation committee [PDF].

The top image shows the proposed layout on blocks where drivers can exit the central roadway to access the service lanes. The right-turn bays with tight angles, stop signs, marked crosswalks, and bike chevrons will replace this “slip lane” design that lets drivers enter the service road at speed:

qb_current

On some blocks, the slip lanes will be filled in entirely to create uninterrupted walkways and bikeways:

qb_55th-56th

At 60th Street, the proposal calls for filling in gaps between medians to create public spaces:

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Boulevard of Life, Phase 1: DOT Will Add Protected Bike Lanes to Queens Blvd

The Queens Boulevard service roads will have buffer space converted to protected bike lanes under a proposal unveiled today. Image: DOT

On a western section of Queens Boulevard, DOT will convert buffer space on service roads to protected bike lanes and pedestrian space this summer. Later, that design will be cast in concrete. Image: DOT

A key section of Queens Boulevard will get protected bike lanes this summer, DOT announced today. The improvements are the first phase of a broader $100 million overhaul that will encompass seven miles of the notoriously dangerous street.

Queens Boulevard is one of the only continuous east-west connections in the borough, making it a natural biking route, but it is designed for high-speed traffic. Dozens of people are seriously injured or killed each year at its complex intersections.

The initial DOT project calls for bikeways to be striped on the boulevard’s service roads between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street by August. The bike lanes will later be cast in concrete as part of a total street reconstruction. Designs for future sections of Queens Boulevard, stretching seven miles east to Union Turnpike, will be unveiled after a series of public workshops.

DOT launched its Queens Boulevard planning process in January with a well-attended workshop in Woodside. Earlier this month, Families For Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives rallied outside Queens Borough Hall to call on DOT to swiftly implement changes.

Advocates have been campaigning for a protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard for many years.

Lizi Rahman lost her son Asif, 22, when he was hit and killed by a truck driver in 2008 while riding his bicycle on Queens Boulevard at 55th Road. “We have to get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. It might not bring my son back, but I would know that my son died for a good cause,” she said at a demonstration later that year. “I will do this for him and it will help save the other bikers in the future.”

Today, Rahman said she is “ecstatic” to hear about the bike lane plan. “I have been driving on Queens Boulevard for a long time and never really noticed, but after his death I noticed that there wasn’t a bike lane,” she said. “It’s a little bit emotional… I’d really like the bike lane to be named after Asif.”

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Woodhaven Select Bus Service May Get Physical Separation in Some Areas

Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

Cross Bay Boulevard could get a wide planted median, bus bulbs, and a road diet. Image: DOT/MTA [PDF]

After unveiling the preferred design for six miles of the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project earlier this week, DOT and MTA met yesterday with advocates, elected officials, and community board members to go into greater detail. The agencies are considering physical separation for bus lanes at key locations on Woodhaven, and they showed potential designs for the southern stretch of the project on Cross Bay Boulevard.

Sources who attended the meeting said DOT is looking into separating bus lanes with flexible posts, small “armadillo” bollards, or a mountable curb like the one installed on a block of the Sands Street bike lane.

Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].

Select Bus Service would run on the Q52 and Q53 lines. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT/MTA [PDF].

Camera enforcement could also keep drivers out of the bus lane, but bus cams on Woodhaven will require state legislation. Either way, it appears DOT is interested in more than just cameras. “[DOT staff] seem to recognize that they can’t count on photo enforcement, even with legislation authorizing it,” said Glendale resident Toby Sheppard Bloch, who went to yesterday’s meeting. “They said that they don’t think paint is good enough.”

The agency confirmed that it is looking at some type of separation for bus lanes on Woodhaven, and its presentation yesterday [PDF] shows a variety of barriers and rumble strips as options.

The presentation also shows how DOT would redesign the Cross Bay Boulevard section of the project (Woodhaven turns into Cross Bay south of Liberty Avenue). The Cross Bay designs call for dedicated bus lanes between the parking lane and general traffic lanes, which is a typical configuration on other SBS routes. The designs would also expand the center median, currently six feet wide, and add trees.

“They put a pretty heavy emphasis on placemaking, on making the boulevard more attractive,” Bloch said of DOT’s presentation.

One option would maintain three car lanes in each direction, creating space for dedicated bus lanes and a slightly wider median by narrowing the general traffic lanes. The better option would add bus lanes while trimming the general traffic lanes to two in each direction. In this scenario, the median would be up to 22 feet wide at some crossings and 12 feet wide at crossings with left-turn pockets.

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DOT Hires Sustainable Transpo Maven Michael Replogle to Guide Policy

Big hiring news from DOT today: Michael Replogle, who founded the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and went on to tackle transportation issues at the Environmental Defense Fund, has been hired as deputy commissioner for policy at the agency.

DOT's incoming policy guru, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

DOT’s incoming policy director, Michael Replogle. Photo via Transforming Access

“NYC DOT is very excited to have Michael Replogle return to New York to bring his three decades of expertise to New York’s streets in leading our Policy group,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “There are many challenges and ambitious goals ahead of us, and having Michael on the team will help shape our strategy and further define our mission moving forward.”

The position Replogle will fill has commanded broad influence over the direction of street design and the implementation of major agency programs. Previous DOT policy director Jon Orcutt held the job for seven years, during which he led the agency’s strategic planning process, the deployment of Citi Bike, and the development of Vision Zero initiatives, before departing the agency last June.

“This was simply too amazing an opportunity to miss, and I am honored to work with Commissioner Trottenberg to enact Mayor de Blasio’s vision for safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation,” Replogle said in an statement ITDP sent out this morning.

Advocates have high expectations for Replogle at DOT.

Before he became executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White’s first job out of graduate school was at ITDP. “Michael is just one of the giants in the field. There’s very few people in the world who have his experience, depth, and breadth on transportation and land use policy,” White said. “What he and Polly can do together, the sky’s the limit. It’s very good news for Vision Zero, for New York taking control of more of its destiny when it comes to transit.”

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Bus Driver Hits Woman at Intersection Where CB 9 Opposes Safety Fixes

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

A DOT proposal opposed by Manhattan CB 9 would slow turns at Riverside Drive and W. 135th Street, where a bus driver hit a pedestrian Thursday. Image: DOT

Yesterday, a bus driver hit a woman walking across W. 135th Street at Riverside Drive, an intersection in a crash-prone area where DOT has proposed a slate of safety improvements that are opposed by Manhattan Community Board 9.

The West Side Rag reports that the woman was in the crosswalk when the driver of a double-decker tourist bus hit her while turning right from Riverside onto W. 135th. The victim was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, according to West Side Rag, and NYPD said she was “‘not likely’ to die.”

A woman who came upon the scene after the crash told West Side Rag “the victim must have had the green light or the bus would not have been able to go.”

“This has always been a dangerous corner,” the witness said. “Vehicles driving northbound and making a right turn into 135th St. rarely slow down for pedestrians.”

In response to rampant speeding and a high number of serious injuries on Riverside, DOT has proposed a road diet between W. 116 and W. 135th streets, with additional pedestrian space at several intersections [PDF]. At 135th, DOT plans to extend the Riverside center median on the north side of the intersection and install a new pedestrian island on the south side, which should slow traffic there.

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Protected Bike Lanes Coming to Washington Heights After CB 12 Vote

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights. Image: DOT

Protected bikeways are coming to Washington Heights, including Edgecombe Avenue, above. Image: DOT [PDF]

Washington Heights will get protected bike lanes and major pedestrian upgrades after Manhattan Community Board 12 endorsed a DOT proposal last night.

Sections of 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue will get protected bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings will be improved on Edgecombe Avenue and at the complex intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place [PDF]. The street redesigns will make for safer connections between the Hudson River Greenway and Highbridge Park, where the rehabilitated High Bridge will provide a car-free link between Manhattan and the Bronx.

Protected bikeways and pedestrian upgrades are planned for 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT [PDF]

The plan encountered resistance earlier this month from CB 12 members who objected to the loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. DOT revised its plan to reduce parking losses to just eight spots, through offsets elsewhere in the neighborhood. The bike and pedestrian improvements in the plan remain intact.

While a couple of board members, including Jim Berlin, were still upset by any loss of parking, meeting attendees said opponents were outnumbered last night by approximately two dozen high school students from the George Washington Educational Campus, located in Fort George. The students, who participate in “I Challenge Myself,” a program that teaches youth in the Bronx and Manhattan about cycling, brought signs to show support for the plan, and one spoke to the board.

“Almost half the people there were young people, students from our program. It was really impressive, just how strongly they felt,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. “I think that made a huge difference.”

While no official vote tally was available, Reyes said only a few board members voted against the proposal. The project is a welcome development for an area of Manhattan where the bike network is lacking.

“It’s a really good thing that DOT is putting protected infrastructure in Upper Manhattan, where so far the infrastructure doesn’t look like it does in the other parts of the city,” said Transportation Alternatives Manhattan organizer Tom DeVito.

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DOT’s Design for Woodhaven Blvd Raises the Standard for Select Bus Service

Image: NYC DOT

NYC DOT has selected a design for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards, and it goes further than previous SBS projects to keep bus lanes clear of cars.

Under the proposal, buses would run in dedicated lanes set off from local traffic by concrete medians. While the bus lanes wouldn’t be physically separated from through traffic, the design avoids conflicts that have limited the performance of other SBS routes. In the Woodhaven design, buses won’t operate in a lane that attracts drivers trying to access the curb. Turning conflicts at intersections will also be minimized, with motorists turning right from Woodhaven merging across the bus lane mid-block to access the service road.

DOT said it expects the project to improve travel times 25 to 35 percent for the 30,000 daily bus passengers on the corridor.

“This is the kind of ambitious overhaul New York City’s bus riders deserve. This project means faster trips for tens of thousands of riders,” Mayor de Blasio said in a press release. “It means safer streets that save lives. And it means that communities from the Rockaways to Elmhurst that have long been underserved by public transit will see real improvements in their daily commute.”

The design is the same as “Concept 2″ revealed at public workshops last fall, where bus riders and advocates gave it high marks, along with “Concept 3,” which called for a center-running busway [PDF]. The city says the central 6 miles of the 14-mile Woodhaven/Cross Bay project will have the Concept 2 configuration, according to the Daily News. The project will also feature standard SBS ingredients like off-board fare collection and traffic signals that hold green lights for buses. More details may be revealed at a Queens Community Board 5 meeting scheduled for tonight.

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Construction Has Begun on the Pulaski Bridge Bikeway

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer's end.

People who walk and bike the Pulaski Bridge may have more space by summer’s end. Image: NYC DOT

DOT has started work on the much-anticipated Pulaski Bridge bikeway, which will more than double the space for people walking and biking on the bridge.

The Pulaski Bridge spans Newtown Creek, linking Greenpoint and Long Island City. Right now people who cross the bridge on foot and by bike are crammed into one eight-foot lane next to six lanes for motor vehicle traffic. DOT will convert one southbound auto lane to a two-way bike lane, to be separated from pedestrian and car traffic by concrete barriers.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol, a longtime proponent of allocating more space on the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists, released a statement yesterday afternoon:

I am happy to announce that construction has begun on the Pulaski Bridge dedicated bike lane. I have been advocating for this bike lane for nearly five years and I am thrilled that the project is underway. I am hopeful the project will be completed by the end of the summer, finally allowing pedestrians and cyclists to safely travel over the bridge.

Lentol posted a DOT construction announcement on his Facebook page.

DOT began planning the bikeway under former commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The original construction timetable called for it to be completed in 2014, but red tape pushed it back a year.

The redesign is also expected to help calm traffic on deadly McGuinness Boulevard by slowing drivers as they enter Brooklyn from the bridge.