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New turn signals coming to Northern Blvd.

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Turning left on Northern Boulevard is about to get a little easier in Jackson Heights and Woodside. State Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights) announced 27 new left-turn traffic signals will be installed at intersections on the thoroughfare between 57th and 114th streets.

According to the city Department of Transportation, 11 intersections were completed in March, with another 14 set to be finished by November. The project cost is roughly $125,000, DOT spokesman Tim Timbers said.

Lafayette hailed the project for making the road safer, noting he had asked the DOT for a feasibility study.

"There have been sporadic requests for left-turn signals at different intersections along Northern Boulevard over the last 10 years," Timbers said. "We have installed enough now where it makes the most sense to install the left-turn phase at all the intersections along this corridor. This improves safety by allowing vehicles to make a left-turn free from oncoming vehicles and creates a more efficient flow of traffic."

But the Western Jackson Heights Alliance, a civic organization that focuses on traffic congestion and pedestrian safety, was less enthusiastic.

"Within the group, there are some people who feel like creating those turning lanes does not foster traffic calming," said Will Sweeney, the group's founder. "It's sort of a neutral in terms of what it does to the streetscape."

Sweeney said he wanted to focus on breaking down the "psychological border" that Northern Boulevard presents to people that live to the north and south of it.

"There's not much interaction between the two different parts of the neighborhood," he said. "People just don't feel safe crossing it. There's just so much activity by motor vehicles there."

More interesting to Sweeney was the DOT's planned installation of a median strip planting at 103rd Street and Northern Boulevard, which he said would provide relief for students of The Learning Tree Multicultural School crossing the street.

"Hopefully, they're going to start where all the schools are on Northern Boulevard," he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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