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Posts from the New York State DOT Category

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Eyes on the Street: State DOT Squeezes Van Cortlandt Park Greenway

Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue

Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue

The walls are closing in on people who walk or bike on the Van Cortlandt Park greenway in the Bronx. A state Department of Transportation highway construction project has narrowed the shared bicycle and pedestrian path to just four feet, while leaving adjacent car lanes and a golf cart path almost entirely untouched.

The cause of the greenway pinch point is the $27.8 million reconstruction of the Major Deegan Expressway bridge above Mosholu Parkway, which began in May 2014 and isn’t expected to be complete until spring 2017, according to state DOT [PDF].

The golf cart path adjacent to the greenway was narrowed slightly, but remains wide enough to accommodate larger maintenance vehicles, state DOT says. The greenway path, however, narrows immediately after southbound cyclists descend a curved incline. The space that used to be for biking is now a staging area for construction vehicles.

“Temporarily reducing the widths and alignments of both the golf path and pedestrian walkway is necessary to safely reconstruct the south bridge abutment,” said state DOT spokesperson Diane Park. “Throughout the three-year project, access to the pedestrian walkway will be maintained.”

There's about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to the safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter

There’s about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to people walking and biking. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter

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Cuomo Taps Syracuse Ex-Mayor Matt Driscoll, His “Go-To Guy,” for State DOT

News came yesterday afternoon that Governor Andrew Cuomo is changing leadership at the state Department of Transportation, replacing Joan McDonald with former Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll. Cuomo canned McDonald, who’s been on the job since 2011, over a dispute about snow removal in Buffalo, according to Jimmy Vielkind of Capital New York.

Incoming Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll. Photo: EFC

Incoming Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll. Photo: EFC

Driscoll might be familiar to Streetsblog readers for the role he played as president and CEO of the state Environmental Facilities Corporation. There, the Cuomo appointee was in charge of the administration’s request for a $511 million low-interest loan to finance construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Environmental Protection Agency rejected most of the request, which would have used clean water funds on highway construction. It is currently tied up in litigation.

The Syracuse Post-Standard says Driscoll is Cuomo’s “go-to guy,” taking on tasks well beyond the scope of his job at the Environmental Facilities Corporation. Driscoll helped the governor “advise cash-strapped cities, lead storm recovery efforts in the Catskills, and help hire a New York State Fair director,” the paper reported.

In 2009, his last year as Syracuse mayor, the term-limited Driscoll endorsed Stephanie Miner to replace him, but the two have never been political allies, according to the Post-Standard. Miner’s relationship with Cuomo, meanwhile, is openly hostile.

All of which could complicate one of the biggest questions facing the state DOT today: whether to tear down Interstate 81 in downtown Syracuse or replace it with another highway. While Driscoll was ambivalent about the idea as mayor, Miner is a strong advocate of demolishing the expressway in favor of a surface boulevard.

McDonald had said removing I-81 “would be great for the community,” though her agency has yet to take a position. A report evaluating the options for I-81 is expected any day now from the state DOT.

Unlike McDonald, Driscoll does not have a background in transportation, though he would have had to deal with streets and transit issues as the executive of one of the state’s major cities. Driscoll’s most appealing attribute to the governor, however, probably isn’t those qualifications, but his track record as a loyal member of Team Cuomo.

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Joan McDonald: New York State DOT’s Top Safety Priority Is Fixing Bridges

Pedestrians and cyclists account for a higher share of traffic deaths in New York than in any other state, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, making up 29 percent of all traffic fatalities.

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. Photo: CT.gov

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. Photo: CT.gov

Every year, TSTC releases a report on the most dangerous roads for walking in the New York City metro region, and suggests steps the New York State Department of Transportation could take to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists state-wide. Among other recommendations, this year TSTC called on NYS DOT to establish a dedicated fund for pedestrian and bike projects, and to devote $20 million a year toward them, on top of funds already allocated in the state budget and DOT capital program.

But when City & State asked Commissioner Joan McDonald what her agency hopes to get done in 2015, making it safer to walk and bike didn’t come up.

The state’s top priority is always safety and our most important initiatives reflect that. The largest project in NYSDOT history — the $555 million replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge — got underway last fall and is entering its first full construction season. The new bridge will relieve a well-known bottleneck along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, ease congestion, improve air quality and reduce accidents. This project is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Other substantial investments include Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to spend $1.2 billion on the NY Works program, which re-paved more than 2,100 miles of roads and rehabilitated or replaced 121 bridges. Also under construction is the $148 million rehabilitation of the Patroon Island Bridge in Albany. Also in this budget, Governor Cuomo proposed committing $750 million over five years to accelerate the rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement of more than 100 bridges statewide that serve critical freight, agriculture and commerce corridors.

No doubt many bridges are in bad shape, but collapsing bridges aren’t responsible for the death toll on New York streets.

We asked Tri-State about McDonald’s remarks, and Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool had another recommendation for DOT: converting the Sheridan Expressway into a surface street.

One important initiative we would like to see NYS DOT advance is an environmental study to advance key recommendations for the Sheridan-Hunts Point land use study. The project, much like the rehab of the Kosciuszko Bridge, will ease congestion, improve air quality, reduce accidents, and improve pedestrian safety in the Bronx where asthma and pedestrian fatality rates are high, for a fraction of the cost of the Bridge. We hope to see this project prioritized in NYS DOT’s upcoming capital program, which we’ve all been anticipating for quite some time.

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TSTC Dangerous Roads Report: NYC Must Fund Vision Zero Street Redesigns

TSTC called on NYC to fully fund redesigns of the city’s most dangerous streets, including Broadway in Manhattan. Photo: Brad Aaron

TSTC called on NYC to fully fund redesigns of the city’s most dangerous streets, including Broadway in Manhattan. Photo: Brad Aaron

The latest pedestrian fatality report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign finds that New York City’s widest and most heavily-traveled streets continue to be the most dangerous for walking.

TSTC’s “Most Dangerous Roads for Walking” report ranks streets in terms of total pedestrian fatalities from 2011 to 2013, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For the second consecutive year, Jericho Turnpike in Suffolk County and Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau saw the most fatalities, with 20 and 11 deaths, respectively.

But most of the deadliest streets in the region are in New York City. Motorists fatally struck 10 pedestrians each on Grand Concourse and Flatbush Avenue during the three-year period, the highest total number among all city streets. Woodhaven Boulevard and Queens Boulevard were also near the top of the list.

Of the streets flagged by TSTC, Woodhaven and Queens Boulevard are in the early stages of NYC DOT redesigns. While many of the other arterial streets in the report are highlighted as priorities in DOT’s Vision Zero borough pedestrian safety plans, those documents don’t commit to specific fixes, pledging instead “at least 50″ street improvement projects — which can be as small as a single intersection — per year citywide.

Here are the number of pedestrian fatalities from 2011 to 2013 by borough, and the streets in each borough with the most fatal crashes:

  • Brooklyn (130 total): Flatbush Avenue (10), Eastern Parkway (7), Broadway (5), Atlantic Avenue (5)
  • Queens (127 total): Woodhaven Boulevard (9), Queens Boulevard (8), Rockaway Boulevard (7), Jamaica Avenue (6), Northern Boulevard (6), Hillside Avenue (5)
  • Manhattan (95 total): First Avenue (7), Broadway (6), Second Avenue (5), Third Avenue (5), Seventh Avenue/ACP Jr. Boulevard (5), Ninth Avenue/Columbus Avenue (5)
  • The Bronx (83 total): Grand Concourse (10), White Plans Road (6), Bruckner Boulevard (4), E. 233rd Street (4), E. Fordham Road (4)
  • Staten Island (18): Forest Hill Road (2), Richmond Road (2), Victory Boulevard (2)

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Nine NYC Bike-Ped Projects Get Federal Funds From State DOT

Nine bicycle and pedestrian projects in New York City are receiving federal funds distributed through New York State DOT, according to an announcement late last month by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The projects range from pedestrian safety fixes on streets near busy expressways to upgraded plazas and greenways.

Image: Parks Department

$2.5 million is going to the Bronx River Greenway through Shoelace Park. Image: Parks Department

The New York City awards are:

  • South Bronx Greenway: This project is focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements along Bruckner Boulevard south of Hunts Point Avenue, linking to a greenway to Randall’s Island. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $3.15 million total cost.
  • Kent Avenue South: Earlier this year, a separated bike path was installed on Kent Avenue from Clymer Street to Williamsburg Street West. The project would upgrade the path, which is part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, with permanent materials. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $4.3 million total cost.
  • Atlantic Avenue: This project, covering 22 blocks in East New York, includes expanded medians, new street trees, wayfinding signage, and possibly street seating. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $8.5 million total cost.
  • Fourth Avenue: An existing road diet in Park Slope and Sunset Park is being upgraded with permanent materials. This round of funding will build two phases of the project, first from 33rd to 47th Streets and then from 8th to 18th Streets. Widened medians will include trees, shrubs, benches, and pedestrian wayfinding. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $10 million total cost.
  • Safe Routes to School projects: Areas near seven schools will receive pedestrian refuge islands, sidewalk extensions, curb extensions, and intersection realigments. The schools are PS 135, David Grayson Christian Academy/PS 191, and PS 361 in Brooklyn; PS 95 and PS 35 in Queens, PS 170 in the Bronx; and PS 20 in Staten Island. The grant covers $2.4 million of the projects’ $3 million total cost.
  • Morrison Avenue plaza: The plaza will span 9,000 square feet of sidewalk and street space at the intersection of Westchester Avenue, Morrison Avenue, and Harrod Place in Soundview. The project includes bike parking, wayfinding, landscaping, and street lighting. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $3.1 million total cost.
  • Industry City pedestrian improvements: Spurred by a request from the owners of Industry City, Third Avenue beneath the Gowanus Expressway is set to receive street lights, pedestrian signage, and crosswalks. The upgrades will be at the intersections with 29th to 39th Streets. The grant covers $956,000 of the project’s $1.6 million total cost.
  • Bronx River Greenway Shoelace Link: A 1.2-mile link in the Bronx River Greenway will be completed through Shoelace Park, stretching from East Gun Hill Road to 233rd Street in Woodlawn. Unlike other projects, which are administered by DOT, the greenway link is a project of the Parks Department. In addition to the greenway, it will feature stormwater runoff bioswales, bike racks, benches, and signage. The grant covers $2.5 million of the project’s $3.25 million total cost.

This announcement is the latest in a line of bike-ped funding announcements from the Cuomo administration. Before this year, the state had been sluggish in getting bike-ped grants out the door to local communities.

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Older Pedestrians More Likely to Die in Traffic: Will New York State DOT Act?

Manhattan is the most dangerous borough for residents age 60 and older to walk, and older pedestrians throughout the metro region suffer disproportionately from deadly traffic violence, according to a new report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

With older pedestrians more likely to be killed by drivers, will NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald heed recommendations for safer streets? Photo: CT.gov

With older pedestrians more likely to be killed by drivers, will NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald heed recommendations for safer streets? Photo: CT.gov

The report recommends that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut adopt NACTO design guidelines for safer, multi-modal streets. New York State DOT said recently that the agency will not endorse NACTO standards for roads categorized as “collectors” and “arterials,” which are some of the state’s most heavily-traveled and dangerous streets.

For its latest annual “Older Pedestrians at Risk” report, Tri-State analyzed 10 years of metro area data from the Census Bureau and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System. While people age 60 and older made up 17 percent of the population in Manhattan from 2003 to 2012, they accounted for 42 percent of the 364 pedestrian fatalities that occurred during that time.

“At 5.46 per 100,000, the pedestrian fatality rate for Manhattan residents aged 60 and older was 3.67 times that of residents younger than 60,” says the report. “For those aged 75 years plus, the fatality rate (8.33) was 5.59 times that of their younger neighbors.”

In Nassau County, people age 60 and older were three and a half times more likely to be killed by a driver while walking than younger residents. Older residents of Westchester County faced three times the risk.

While much of the data was gleaned from local roads, not state roads, NYS DOT could allocate its resources to improve safety on any type of street in New York.

Data for other boroughs was reported as follows.

  • Brooklyn: 473 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 4.94 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — four times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Brooklynites age 75 and older was 6.63 per 100,000 people.
  • Bronx: 225 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.94 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — more than three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Bronxites age 75 and older was 4.05 per 100,000 people.
  • Queens: 364 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.75 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — more than three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Queens residents age 75 and older was 5.79 per 100,000 people.
  • Staten Island: 76 total pedestrian deaths, with a rate of 3.57 fatalities per 100,000 residents for people age 60 and older — three times that of younger residents. The fatality rate for Staten Islanders age 75 and older was 5.56 per 100,000 people.

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Bronx Advocates Press State DOT to Take Action on Sheridan Plan

After years of wrangling, advocates, businesses, and elected officials have gotten behind a city plan to convert the Sheridan Expressway into a boulevard and take trucks off local streets by building direct ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to Hunts Point. Now it’s up to the state to turn the plan into reality, and the first step is funding an environmental impact statement for the new ramps. For help, Bronx advocates are looking to similar projects across the state.

New ramps from the Bruckner expressway (indicated by a blue circle) would take trucks bound for Hunts Point off local streets in the South Bronx, but it’s up to the state to take the next step. Image: DCP

Earlier this year, the State Senate included $3 million in its budget proposal for the study, but it did not survive budget negotiations. Advocates are hoping the ramp project will be included in state DOT’s next five-year capital plan, due to be released in October at the same time as the MTA’s own capital plan. Inclusion in DOT’s document would help line up funding for the environmental study.

If Bronx advocates are successful in securing funding for the EIS, it would build upon the city’s analysis last year, which estimated the cost of ramps connecting the Bruckner with Oak Point Avenue at $72 million. The city’s study included only two ramps, for traffic going to and from the east, but advocates want the state to study four ramps, for access to both eastbound and westbound Bruckner.

For that study to happen, advocates have to convince the Cuomo administration’s DOT of the importance of the Sheridan project. In 2010, DOT rejected a complete teardown of the Sheridan. The city’s own study last year came to a compromise position that advocates have embraced. To build support for the new vision and spur action from the state, Bronx-based advocates are turning to highway teardown efforts in New York’s other major cities to build a statewide coalition.

Last month in Albany, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance and Assembly Member Marcos Crespo hosted a forum with invited speakers from Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, and Syracuse, where highway teardown projects are either being implemented or studied.

“It helps us elevate what’s going on in the Bronx,” said David Shuffler, executive director of SBRWA member Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. “It’s not just one neighborhood.”

The coalition is now looking to engage with the state DOT to develop standards and a process for how highway removal could work across New York state. Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of SBRWA member Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said the groups are looking to host a larger forum this fall in Rochester. That city is represented by both the Senate and Assembly transportation committee chairs and has a federally-funded highway teardown in progress.

“One of the things we need to do is create the political will at the state to make action,” said Bronx Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “It’s important for us to… work with community advocates in other areas of the state that are facing similar challenges.”

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New York State DOT: Thanks, But We’ll Pass on 21st Century Street Designs

This is the road that engineers at New York State DOT headquarters drive to work on. Image: Google Maps

This is the road that engineers at New York State DOT headquarters drive to work on. That’s their office building and parking lot to the left. Image: Google Maps

It looks like we have our answer as to whether New York State DOT will follow six other states in adopting NACTO standards for safer, multi-modal streets.

In March, NYS DOT Deputy Chief Engineer Richard W. Lee wrote NACTO to say that, while it would keep the Urban Street Design Guide on hand, the agency won’t be endorsing its guidelines for some of New York State’s most heavily-traveled and dangerous streets.

Wrote Lee:

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald could lay down the law and join other leading states in adopting NACTO guidelines, if she chooses. Photo: CT.gov

NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald could lay down the law and join other leading states in adopting NACTO guidelines, if she chooses. Photo: CT.gov

We are pleased to support the Guide for our internal use and will provide it to our staff as a reference for the design of urban and residential streets, where implementation would be in conjunction with the appropriate traffic and engineering studies.

As noted in the introduction of the Guide, urban situations are complex, and good engineering judgment must always be employed. NYSDOT found that the requirements or recommendations of the Guide occasionally conflict with those of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and NYSDOT’s own guidelines for collectors and arterials. We understand that the Guide is intended to apply primarily to urban streets, however many of New York State’s collectors and arterials are located in urban areas. Due to our concern for the potential safety and mobility impacts on these roadways, we will not be recommending its use for collectors and arterials.

The 2014 Smart Growth America “Dangerous by Design” pedestrian fatality study found that, though just 15 percent of lane miles in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are classified as arterials, from 2003 to 2012 they accounted for 50 percent or more of pedestrian deaths in 90 percent of counties.

There’s a reason the report is called “Dangerous by Design” — streets and roads designed for maximum auto throughput are not safe for people who walk and bike. If anything, the status quo on these streets should be an argument in favor of incorporating NACTO designs into the NYS DOT tool kit. Though states including California, Washington, Massachusetts — even Tennessee — have updated their guidelines, apparently NYS DOT won’t be following suit because they conflict with outmoded designs recommended by AASHTO.

NYS DOT did not respond to Streetsblog’s query concerning the NACTO guide.

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If Tennessee Can Adopt Livable Street Designs, So Can New York State DOT

States and cities across the country have adopted standards from the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide, a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets that made its debut last fall.

NACTO guidelines call for streets that accommodate all users. Is NYS DOT interested? Image: Urban Street Design Guide

NACTO guidelines describe how to design streets that working for walking and biking. Is NYS DOT interested? Image: Urban Street Design Guide

New York City is among those cities that have incorporated NACTO guidelines, and this month Tennessee became the sixth state to do so. But Matthew Norris of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign notes that New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut haven’t embraced NACTO principles.

It’s encouraging to note that until recently, places such as metropolitan Nashville were on a similar trajectory to much of the nation by building infrastructure that promoted suburban sprawl development, but have since responded to the demand for walkable, higher density development by planning for growth along existing corridors and downtowns. Analysis of recent commercial real estate trends shows that walkable urban and suburban places demand a 74 percent rental premium over auto-dominated suburban areas. Likewise, 85 percent of all recently built rental apartments have been built in walkable urban places.

The NACTO design standards are more conducive to walking and biking than those endorsed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which still don’t include treatments like protected bike lanes. AASHTO design guidelines remain the model for state DOTs in the New York City metro region

“While complete streets efforts are advancing in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, policy implementation has not been as progressive or efficient as it could be,” writes Norris. “State departments of transportation in the tri-state region should follow the lead of Tennessee (as well as Washington, Massachusetts, California, Utah and Minnesota) in order to create the type of safe, walkable and vibrant corridors that residents are demanding.”

Streetsblog has asked NYS DOT if it intends to adopt NACTO standards. We will update this post if we get an answer.

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NYC Bike-Ped Projects Get $21 Million in Federal Funds From State DOT

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced that the state DOT is awarding $21.2 million in federal highway safety funds over three years to nine projects in New York City that all include big safety improvements for biking and walking. Advocates welcomed the news, but still have questions about whether the state is allocating enough money to active transportation projects statewide.

Concrete pedestrian islands on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park just received millions in state funding, but advocates question if too many other projects are missing out. Image: NYC DOT

Concrete pedestrian islands on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park just received millions in state funding, but advocates question if too many other projects are missing out. Rendering: NYC DOT

The New York City awards are:

  • $4 million for 1.3 miles of Atlantic Avenue between Georgia Avenue and Conduit Boulevard in Brooklyn. The project features median extensions at seven intersections, turn restrictions, and new street trees to slow driver speeds.
  • $900,000 for 2.4 miles of Bruckner Boulevard between Bronx River Avenue and East 132nd Street in the Bronx to establish what the governor’s press release calls “a north/south pedestrian and bicycle corridor.”
  • $800,000 for East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. This project widens and installs pedestrian islands, clarifies complex intersections, studies signal timing for potential phasing changes and new signals, and narrows wide travel lanes.
  • $4 million for the third phase of a project on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, for 0.6 miles between East 171st Street and East 175th Street. This road reconstruction will add medians, pedestrian refuges, bike lane buffers and bollards.
  • $4 million for 0.7 miles of Fourth Avenue from 33rd to 47th Streets in Brooklyn. This project widens medians to up to 19 feet to include planted areas and pedestrian refuges.
  • $4 million for Tillary and Adams Streets in Brooklyn. Improvements include bike lanes and protected paths, larger pedestrian islands, and shorter crossings.
  • $1 million for 0.4 miles of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard between West 117th and 110th Streets. This project will construct concrete pedestrian islands that were installed last year with paint and other low-cost materials.
  • $500,000 for one mile of Riverside Drive between West 116th and 135th Streets. The project will add crosswalks and bicycle markings, as well as pedestrian islands and curb extensions at 116th and Riverside.
  • $2 million for 4.3 miles of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. This project, managed by state DOT, includes new traffic signals and pedestrian countdown clocks, modified signal timing, pedestrian islands, and turn restrictions.

These grants are funded by the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. The state’s announcement covers 2015 through 2017, the final three fiscal years funded by the latest federal transportation bill.

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