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City has plan to fix mall traffic

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The city Department of Transportation is proposing a plan to convert the two-way section of 57th Avenue between 90th and 92nd streets behind the Queens Center Mall into a one-way westbound street.

DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy presented the plan to Community Board 4 earlier this month. The proposal was based on a study of traffic volume and circulation patterns, an inventory of parking regulations and usage, land use inventory and accident analysis. CB 4 is expected to vote on the proposal at its meeting Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said the plan should be attempted.

“From what was presented, it seems like a natural option to try to help alleviate some of the problems that the mall and the residents in the neighborhood have experienced because of the traffic,” Dromm said.

Jeff Owen, senior property manager for the Queens Center Mall, said he is pleased the traffic pattern around the mall is being studied.

“We encouraged the DOT and the CB4 are looking at ways to alleviate the traffic congestion,” he said.

While the mall’s entrance is on Queens Boulevard, those driving to the mall often park in the garage, the entrance to which is on 57th Avenue. Currently motorists can enter by traveling westbound on Queens Boulevard and turning right on 90th Street, then right again on 57th Avenue.

But Dromm said more than 70 percent of the traffic goes west on 57th Avenue. Most of 57th Avenue is a one-way westbound street.

Those who enter from Queens Boulevard and 90th Street will be redirected up to 56th Avenue, where they will turn right, then turn right onto 92nd Street, which goes one way southbound, and turn right again on 57th Avenue to enter into the parking garage, according to the presentation.

The change is intended to ease traffic congestion, improve entry to and exiting from the parking garage, and ease conflicts between pedestrians and drivers.

Dromm said the mall is popular and while it is not the biggest mall in the country, it is the highest-grossing retail center in the country.

“The number of sales there are incredible,” he said.

The DOT is searching for community input on the proposal.

Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, also is hoping to make changes in western Queens as well as other parts of the borough, and members have been working with elected officials on plans to bring protected bike lanes to Queens Boulevard, notoriously known as the “Boulevard of Death” because of the number of pedestrian and biker fatalities and accidents along the road.

“Queens has not gotten as much attention as downtown Brooklyn in terms of bike infrastruc­ture,” said Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy at Transportation Alternatives. “If you’re thinking about riding through Queens, especially central Queens, you’re left with not a lot of options as far as bike lanes are concerned.”

Protected bike lanes would create a physical barrier, such as parked cars, between the bicyclists and moving traffic.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:27 pm, October 10, 2011
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