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Boulevard slated for roadwork

Queens Boulevard may be a little safer for pedestrians if a project scheduled to start in October finally gets off the ground.

Borough President Claire Shulman said last week that her office put pressure on the city's Department of Transportation to begin long-anticipated improvements to the 2.5-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard that runs through Rego Park and Forest Hills.

The project, aimed at making the boulevard safer for pedestrians, was scheduled to begin in mid-July, Shulman said, but had been delayed. Shulman said last week the project should go out to bid in August and work should begin in October.

Three pedestrians have been killed since January while trying to cross the busy roadway, which carries up to 12 lanes of traffic in both directions. Forest Hills and Rego Park have a large elderly population, and many have said the boulevard is not safe for seniors or for mothers with young children to cross.

The city last year completed a three-year study of Queens Boulevard. It found the roadway to be both heavily used and treacherous to cross for pedestrians. During the afternoon rush hour, up to 5,400 vehicles travel on Queens Boulevard near the Long Island Expressway, the study found.

The city DOT project calls for the installation of more crossing signals, new markings on pavement, changes to the slip ramps that allow cars to merge between the main road and service roads, new signs, more street lights and fencing. The improvements would be done between 67th and 70th roads in Forest Hills.

At least $3 million in funding for the improvements has been in place for several years, said City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who has complained that the project has taken so long to begin.

"The department has assured me ... that bids for the project will be opened on Aug. 7 and that work will commence in October," Shulman said in a statementJuly 19. "Senior citizens are constantly crossing Queens Boulevard in the critical area where safety improvements will be made."

John Spavins, a spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction, which is handling the project, said that if all goes according to plan, construction could begin by Oct. 15. The initial part of the project should take less than 60 days to complete, he said, and fencing along medians would take another 120 days.

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