In an effort to make Lefferts Boulevard safer, the city Department of Transportation is considering taking away one travel lane in both directions between Rockaway Boulevard and 149th Street, a change the DOT says will not cause additional congestion but which the community fears will just move traffic to surrounding residential streets.
The proposal, detailed for Community Board 10 members at a meeting Oct. 4, would decrease the number of lanes on the street from two to one in each direction, increase parking lane sizes and add left turn lanes.
DOT Planning Director Nichole Altimx said the changes were proposed because of the number of accidents and fatalities along the strip.
“We really wanted to look at Lefferts and see if there’s any safety improvements we could make to cut down on these injuries,” she said.
Five people died and there were 211 injuries in traffic accidents on Lefferts Boulevard from North Conduit Street to Rockaway Boulevard between 2006 and 2010, she said, adding that a DOT study of typical traffic found that 70 percent of the vehicles were speeding on the street.
She said the purpose of decreasing the number of lanes was primarily to cut down on speeding and accidents, but also to remove a lane of traffic is not shown to make travel harder.
“It actually helps traffic flow better,” she said, saying that according to a DOT analysis, removing a lane of traffic would only increase delays to 12 seconds from 11 seconds. She also said having wider parking lanes would enable delivery trucks making stops between 135th and 149th streets to stay out of the travel lane, allowing traffic to easily pass by.
But community members were doubtful that removing a lane would not cause delays and argued it would only congest the neighborhood streets.
One man who lives near Rockaway Boulevard, where lanes were also taken away, said traffic has gotten worse in the neighborhood since the change.
“In my experience, all you’ve done is disperse traffic,” he said. “The residential area is much more crowded than I’ve ever seen it in the 40 years that I’ve lived there.”
Another man argued that especially with the rise of GPS systems, whenever DOT tries to do traffic calming on main streets, the residential areas get hit.
“[Drivers] press a button saying detour and it shows them how to go,” he said. “And they go 40 miles an hour down a residential street.”
A DOT official said the agency is in the process of incorporating community input into the design and it plans to implement the changes later this fall or early next spring.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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