Canal Street, to put it mildly, is due for a makeover. The street is clogged with traffic from the Holland Tunnel and the un-tolled Manhattan Bridge. Pedestrians jostle for space on the packed sidewalks, and they’re especially at risk of getting hit by a car, according to the city’s Pedestrian Safety Study.
Fortunately, the funds are in place for an eventual reconstruction and re-imagination of the street, thanks to federal World Trade Center emergency relief aid. To help determine how to design Canal Street, which must strike a balance between serving the local community and the regional transportation system, NYMTC, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, has been engaged in a nearly decade-long process of studying the area and drawing up recommendations for the corridor.
In a report released last Thursday [PDF], NYMTC recommends making Canal Street friendlier for pedestrians by adding significant amounts of sidewalk space. But larger changes, in particular the creation of a carpool lane in the Holland Tunnel, weren’t included. According to the NYMTC report, NYCDOT has agreed to use the recommendations to inform its plans, though a DOT spokesperson said only that the agency was reviewing the findings.
The Canal Area Transportation Study process began in 2002, and the first phase ended with some relatively small improvements to the area, like high-visibility crosswalks, new signage, and temporary improvements near Allen Street. Since 2005, the second, larger-scale phase of the study has been underway, bringing together all the regional transportation agencies as well as others with a stake in the project.
The NYMTC team studied a wide array of congestion-busting ideas for the corridor. Some, like two-way tolling on the Verrazano Bridge or congestion pricing, were dismissed because they required legislative approvals well outside the project’s scope. Transit expansions, like bringing the PATH train north from the World Trade Center or building light rail on Canal, were rejected as too costly. Some ideas were nixed because they lacked community support or because they conflicted with New York City’s Street Design Manual. Other ambitious proposals, like keeping traffic off side streets including Pell, Doyers, Mosco, and Mulberry, were referred to the appropriate agency for further study.
What’s left still has a lot to like.