Speed limit lowered on boulevard

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"We will be making Queens Boulevard an absolutely uniform 30-miles-an-hour roadway," said DOT spokesman Tom Cocola.

Two miles of the seven-mile boulevard currently have 35 mph speed limits. Eastbound that section runs 140 feet east of 50th Street to 210 feet east of 51st Street in Elmhurst. Westbound the section runs 410 feet east of 51st Avenue to 50th Street.

But beginning next month, the 30 mph limit will be enforced for the entire stretch of the roadway.

Queens Boulevard - 12 lanes wide at points - was the site of seven pedestrian fatalities last year, and dozens more over the past several years, according to Chief Edward Cannon of Patrol Borough Queens North. The most recent death was that of 14-year-old Sofia Leviyev of Rego Park Nov. 29 as she tried to cross the boulevard at 67th Avenue.

In conjunction with the DOT's speed reduction plan police from the 108th, 110th and 112th precincts announced a ticketing crackdown called "Operation Safe Transportation," said Officer David Valovage of the 112th Precinct.

The new initiative, which was to begin Thursday, will focus additional police attention on speeding motorists, jaywalkers, and parking violators along the boulevard who contribute to hazardous conditions, Valovage said.

To prepare residents for the initiative and to train them in general traffic safety, the 112th Precinct and Patrol Borough Queens North will sponsor a traffic information day at Lost Battalion Hall, 93-29 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26.

In addition to the reduced speed for motorists and the police initiative, several DOT traffic attendants who ordinarily issue parking tickets were reassigned to five of the boulevard's most dangerous intersections to help residents cross the thoroughfare safely, Heidi Chain of the 112th Precinct Community Council said last week.

Beginning Jan. 16, 18 bright-orange-vested agents were stationed along Queens Boulevard at 66th Avenue, 70th Road, 75th Avenue, Yellowstone Boulevard and Broadway, said Cocola.

Just five days earlier at a City Council transportation hearing, Councilman Noach Dear (D-Brooklyn), the committee's chairman recommended that the DOT's new commissioner, Iris Weinshall, reallocate her personnel to where they were most needed on Queens Boulevard. The message appeared to have been heard.

"The hearing absolutely did something to provoke this," said Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). "The new commissioner understands the problem."

Recently, a DOT traffic agent on his own initiative kept a handwritten tally of motorists speeding along the Queens Boulevard.

When he was not escorting pedestrians across the boulevard, the agent tallied the cars' speeds by observing the posted digital speed detectors across the street. Between 8:30 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. on a weekday, the agent counted more than 100 speeding motorists, ranging in speed from 35 mph to 45 mph. The posted speed limit was 30 mph.

While the agent, who asked to not be identified, said motorists were primarily responsible for the string of fatalities, he also pointed out that pedestrians crossed the boulevard with a cavalier manner.

"I tell people to wait for the light," he said. "They say, 'No, I've been doing this for 10 years.'"

One Forest Hills resident who crossed the boulevard at 72nd Road against the light, said she thought part of the problem was due to the impatience of the elderly in the neighborhood.

The woman, who referred to herself as a "junior senior" and asked that her name not be used, said "the older they get the less patience they have. They have nowhere to go, but they have no patience."

When asked why she had crossed against the light, she said she had the light. When pressed, she acknowledged she did not.

"At the beginning, no, but there were no cars coming," she said, having made sure her path was clear before crossing. "I wouldn't have done it if there were cars, but it isn't right."

A resident of Kew Gardens who also jaywalked across Queens Boulevard, said that with the timing of the light, she could not cross the street without running. "If I don't run I can't get across," she said.

During the 112th Precinct Council meeting last week several residents said they felt safer crossing when the boulevard appeared empty, even if they were jaywalking.

"See if you can also recognize that their actions are causing this, too," Patrol Borough Queens North's Cannon told the meeting.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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