City extends cross times for Queens Boulevard

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“With this additional walk time for the pedestrians, the large...

By Jennifer Warren

Queens Boulevard pedestrians will have an extra 20 seconds to cross the street during peak traffic hours, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall announced Monday.

“With this additional walk time for the pedestrians, the large majority of pedestrians crossing Queens Boulevard should be able to complete their crossing,” Weinshall told a news conference at DOT headquarters in lower Manhattan.

The additional 20 seconds — which will bring the peak crossing time to 60 seconds — were added to the 24 traffic signals between 63rd Drive and 83rd Avenue, where most of the recent string of pedestrian fatalities have occurred, Weinshall said. The new timing went into effect at 5:01 a.m. Monday.

    The only intersection where pedestrians would not be able to cross in one cycle, Weinshall said, was Yellowstone Boulevard.

    The day following Weinshall’s announcement, a 20-year-old woman crossing Queens Boulevard at the Yellowstone intersection was struck by the driver of a 1992 Ford, police said. The pedestrian, who was not identified, and the driver were both taken to St. John’s Hospital to be treated for minor injuries and trauma, said Detective Carolyn Chew, a police spokeswoman.

The boulevard has been the site of 73 pedestrian fatalities since 1993. Last month an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor was struck and killed while crossing the major artery at 80th Road in Kew Gardens. In November, a 14-year-old girl was killed as she tried to cross at 67th Avenue in Rego Park.

In an effort to stop the series of fatal accidents, the police and the DOT in recent months have taken steps to combat the dangers of crossing the boulevard, which is 12 lanes wide at some points. Alterations along the roadway have included median fencing beginning at 67th Road and 70th Road, repainting of crosswalks, and police crackdowns against speeders, jaywalkers and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The DOT has also installed signs where three or more people have been killed warning: “A Pedestrian Was Killed Crossing Here / Be Alert / Cross With Care.” Other strongly worded signs were erected at intersections where fewer than three pedestrian fatalities occurred.

“This was a major hurdle and it’s a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Alan Zeiss, founder of Forest Hills/Rego Park Crosswalks, a civic group that has been quietly petitioning for changes along the boulevard.

Zeiss noted the significant change proceeded rather smoothly, but “too bad it couldn’t have been done to save lives long ago.”

Weinshall insisted that the changes DOT has made to the traffic signals, however, are not a cure for the problems on Queens Boulevard, and she implored pedestrians to be more aware of their surroundings.

“I have to agree with the mayor. There is a pervasive feeling about jaywalking,” Weinshall said, adding that residents and pedestrians in the area needed to be sensitive to the “nature of the highways” in their neighborhood.

Two more red-light cameras will also be added to the boulevard by early spring, Weinshall said, bringing the total number of cameras to four. Drivers who run red lights will have their license plate photographed by the camera and will receive a summons in the mail. DOT has not disclosed the locations of the cameras.

At the news conference Weinshall expressed reservations about so-called rumble strips — shallow grooves etched in the roadway nearing an intersection to slow down traffic.

“The problem with rumble strips is that they’re very, very noisy,” Weinshall said. The commissioner had also received a phone call from Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) urging her not to implement the strips.

Similar rumble techniques for slowing traffic had been attempted at the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge on Centre Street in Manhattan. But residents as far away asChinatown, several blocks north, complained of the noise, Weinshall said. And when the strips were installed in Councilman Walter McCaffrey’s (D-Woodside) district, she added, they had to be removed.

But the issue is not closed. In the coming months the idea of strips will be presented to the five boards of districts intersected by Queens Boulevard: Community Boards 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9.

The additional crossing time was part of an overall adjustment DOT made to the traffic cycles. The traffic signal cycle was changed to 24 red-green cycles per hour from 30 cycles per hour. By cutting the number of cycles and extending their length, the DOT was also able to add 10 seconds for motorists’ travel time, giving them a total of 90 seconds of uninterrupted travel.

The extended peak hour cycles are in effect from 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Off-peak cycles will remain unchanged with 55 seconds of pedestrian crossing time.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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