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Avella calls for left turn signal in Flushing after DOT rejection letter

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The intersection at 26th Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard is a tricky one for motorists to navigate, and making a left turn is often particularly challenging. But state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has had it on his to-do list to change this scenario for about three years, does not see the situation improving any time soon.

A request Avella filed to add a left turn signal, however, was rejected by the city Department of Transportation after a review was done, the senator said in a Monday news conference. Cars, trucks and even a bus worked their way far into the intersection to take advantage of any gap in the oncoming traffic, and many had to wait until the light was already red before speeding through on their way west down 26th Avenue

Three different streets converge at the intersection with 169th Street running southwest through the middle.

“How they can say this doesn’t warrant a left turn signal is beyond me,” Avella said, counting the other streets that converge on the intersection in different directions. “How many times have I said to the mayor and [DOT Commissioner] Polly Trottenberg ‘it’s not just about a speed camera, it’s not just about the speed limit or bike lanes, it’s about traffic control,’ and until they start recognizing that fact we’re not improving traffic safety.”

Avella claimed the light post in the median on the south side of the intersection between the lanes on Francis Lewis had been knocked down by motorists on occasion.

A letter from DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia, in reply to Avella’s 2014 and 2017 requests, did not explain the reason for keeping the intersection the way it is, but said the agency had reviewed the matter.

“DOT completed its analysis,” the letter said. “Factors such as peak hour turning movements, crash experience and the availability of gaps in the opposing traffic stream to accommodate turns were all taken into consideration in making our determination. Based upon an evaluation of the data collected, it is our judgment that a special left turn signal is not recommended.”

Avella’s office said the April 5 letter was DOT’s first response to the matter in three years.

According to Vision Zero View, in 2016 fatalities at the intersection were down 15.4 percent and injuries off 6.1 percent compared with years prior to Vision Zero.

Avella expressed doubt that a full traffic study was initiated because the letter did not elaborate beyond the word “analysis.”

The intersection is on Avella’s list of traffic improvements he has been working to accomplish over the years. Avella has also been fighting to get a left turn signal at 26th Avenue and Corporal Kennedy Street for 20 years, he said.

“I don’t understand logic of the city’s unwillingness to make a location safer,” he said. “ Yes, it’ll slow down traffic a few minutes while you have that 10-second, 15-second turn signal. But improving safety, isn’t that what Vision Zero is supposed to be about?”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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