DOT wants to cut lanes on Queens Boulevard

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The city Department of Transportation unveiled a new plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities on Queens Boulevard Wednesday by eliminating one lane on the service road two days after a 21-year-old jogger who had been hit by a bus on the thoroughfare died.

The plan, designed to slow traffic on the borough’s most notorious speedway and increase parking, would add a parking lane on the left side of each service road on a four-mile strip of the boulevard covering Elmhurst, Rego Park and Forest Hills.

The DOT said it hopes to begin installing parking meters on the service roads, which would be narrowed to one lane, by July.

“The hope is that traffic will divert from the new one-lane service road to the main road, thus resulting in traffic calming and slower traffic on both the main and service road,” said DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall.

The city agency acted after Nicholas Sczesnik suffered a major brain injury when the side view mirror of a tour bus hit him in the head. He was taken off life support at Elmhurst Hospital at 8:40 a.m. Monday, said Dario Centorcelli, a spokesman for the hospital.

Centorcelli said his family was extremely distraught and not talking to the media.

Sczesnik was the 74th pedestrian killed along Queens Boulevard since 1993 and the second this year, according to police and city Department of Transportation records.

Sczesnik, of 64-46 83rd St. in Elmhurst, was jogging west on the outer roadway of Queens Boulevard when he began to veer into the traffic, said Detective Eugene Canapi, a Police Department spokesman.

A taxi cab, also traveling west, was forced to change lanes to avoid hitting Sczesnik and the cab driver honked at the young man, who was wearing headphones, Canapi said.

The tour bus struck Sczesnik at 9:20 a.m. at the intersection of Barnwell Avenue near Maurice Avenue, police said.

A television news report said the bus was operated by Video Tours. A representative of Video Tours declined to comment on the report.

No summonses were issued and no arrests were made. The investigation is ongoing.

The boulevard has been the focus of public and political outcry in past months as residents and elected officials have brought attention to the dangerous seven-mile thoroughfare that runs through Queens, beginning in Long Island City and terminating in Jamaica.

In recent months several measures have been taken to increase pedestrian and driver safety along the boulevard by the police and DOT.

Included among the changes were extended crossing times for pedestrians in cross walks; lowering the speed limit to 30 mph from 35 mph; protective fencing erected along median islands on parts of the boulevard; red light cameras and decoys as well as ticket blitzes to crack down on speeders, jaywalkers, and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

---Jennifer Warren contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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