On Wednesday evening, Manhattan Community Boards 9 and 10 jointly hosted a public forum on traffic calming for Morningside Avenue, including a presentation by NYC DOT about its safety proposals. Board members were generally receptive to DOT’s plan, which is expected to go back to each board for resolutions of support, while offering their own suggestions — some reasonable, some not so much. DOT said at the meeting it would like positive votes before moving ahead with the plan.
Wednesday’s forum was called after CB 9′s full board voted to table the plan and CB 10 declined to take any action on it last month. The plan DOT presented Wednesday was identical to the one it had presented to the boards a month ago [PDF]. ”We’re here tonight just to continue the dialogue,” DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said. “We’re not in any sort of rush to implement anything and we want to work toward community consensus.”
The plan calls for a road diet on Morningside Avenue between 116th and 126th Streets. Currently two lanes in each direction, Morningside would be trimmed to one lane in each direction plus a striped median with left-turn lanes and concrete pedestrian islands. The proposal is similar to road diets DOT has implemented on nearby St. Nicholas Avenue and Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn. DOT’s Josh Benson pointed out that Gerritsen, which like Morningside Avenue runs alongside a park, saw a 40 percent decrease in injury-causing crashes after the road diet was implemented.
While this type of road diet is known for smoothing out traffic flow, a few board members were skeptical. CB 9 transportation committee co-chair Ted Kovaleff suggested reversible rush-hour lanes instead, an idea that DOT rejected as too difficult to implement. Benson said that right now, Morningside is designed to handle more traffic than it currently accommodates. “It’s not really that busy in terms of what other streets in Manhattan have, traffic-wise,” Benson said, addressing concerns that drivers would divert to other avenues because of the road diet.
After one board member questioned why the city was interested in changing Morningside’s configuration at all, Benson pointed out that safety improvements were requested by the North Star Neighborhood Association. “There’s a public safety issue, which is we have New Yorkers that are dying,” Benson said. In 2006, there were two fatalities on Morningside Avenue. From 2007 to 2011, there were nine serious injuries; four were pedestrians and one was a cyclist.
During a recent speed survey, DOT found that 58 percent of northbound drivers and 66 percent of southbound drivers were exceeding the 30 mph limit. The street is on the border of the 26th and 28th Precincts. Through August, the latest month for which data is available, the two precincts issued a combined 701 speeding summonses [PDF 1, 2]. Benson said NYPD has issued 260 speeding summonses on these 10 blocks of Morningside so far this year.