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Union, Parsons proposed as one-way streets

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After examining the tangle of traffic in downtown Flushing, the city has proposed making two neighboring, parallel streets one-way with the hopes of improving driving conditions.

The Department of Transportation recommended making a one-mile stretch of Union Street southbound and a one-mile stretch of Parsons Boulevard northbound as the result of a traffic study of the downtown Flushing area completed last month.

“If you have everything going in a loop, the flow of traffic can be somewhat more continuous,” said Keith Kalb, a DOT spokesman. “In paired streets like this, it may feasibly help improve circulation of motor vehicles in the area, which will be beneficial, hopefully, to everybody.”

Traffic congestion often is cited by community leaders as one of the main impediments to the improvement of downtown Flushing. Cars and buses often crawl along Main Street, resembling midtown Manhattan tie-ups more than traffic jams in northeast Queens.

The city’s proposal covers Union Street from Willets Point Boulevard to Franklin Avenue and Parsons Boulevard from Willets Point Boulevard to Sanford Avenue. Willets Point Boulevard is the border of Flushing and Whitestone. Franklin and Sanford are neighboring streets in downtown Flushing about a mile south of Willets Point Boulevard.

In particular, the recommended change targets Union Street’s and Parsons Boulevard’s intersections with Northern Boulevard.

The city studied the possibility of installing a left-turn signal for cars traveling southbound on Union Street or Parsons Boulevard at Northern Boulevard but concluded that making the streets one-way was a better solution.

Last year Union Street and Northern Boulevard ranked as the most dangerous intersection in the borough in terms of pedestrian accidents, according to DOT figures.

The city already has implemented several changes based on the traffic study. After approval from Community Board 7, a block-stretch of Barclay Avenue was made one-way eastbound between Bowne Street and Parsons Boulevard in May.

In July, the city marked off a section of Barclay Avenue between Union Street and Kissena Boulevard for truck-loading, and a commuter van stop was installed on 41st Avenue just off Main Street in August.

The DOT decided to leave some of Flushing’s streets alone. A study of the most congested intersection, where Main Street splits from Kissena Boulevard at 41st Avenue, resulted in the decision not to make any major changes, although four parking meters on Main Street may be removed.

The city also examined allowing cars to turn south onto Prince Street coming eastbound from the Northern Boulevard bridgewith the goal of allowing cars to travel on Prince Street instead of Main Street. Since the bridge is bordered by two service roads, another signal would have to be installed to allow cars coming from the bridge to turn in front of traffic on the service road. The DOT determined such a signal would cause too long a delay on Northern Boulevard.

Making Union Street a one-way street could cause problems. Both the 109th Precinct and the Engine Co. 273, Ladder Co. 129 firehouse lie on the mile-stretch of Union Street slated for the change. The DOT recommended leaving Union Street a two-way street on the block of the firehouse but made no mention of the precinct.

The proposal will likely come before Community Board 7, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Bay Terrace, before the city makes a final decision on the matter, Kalb said.

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of CB 7, said she thought the plan would necessitate moving northbound buses from Union Street onto Parsons Boulevard.

“If you move the buses off of Union Street, you are going to have to put them somewhere,” she said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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