Commuters in Briarwood say poor planning by the state has left them hanging two years after ongoing construction at a major subway station first started marring the community.
Civic leaders in the area called for better communication from the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), during an August 25 rally at the Briarwood-Van Wyck subway station on Queens Boulevard — an area they say is plagued by poor lighting and dangerous, confusing traffic rerouting.
“The whole traffic flow changed and people ended up driving on the wrong side of the road. It was just genuinely a mess,” said Beth Brooks, spokesperson for the Briarwood Action Network (BAN). “People are frustrated because it’s not like any of this is new. The state DOT really dropped the ball.”
The Briarwood component of the state’s Kew Gardens Interchange project, as the Courier reported last September, involves replacing the Queens Boulevard bridge over the Van Wyck Expressway, adding an auxiliary lane to the expressway and an elevator and new entrance to the subway station, which will not be open to the public for at least another year, said Adam Levine, spokesperson for the state’s DOT.
Construction along the south side of Queens Boulevard caused the station’s main entrance to close two weeks ago, Levine said, and vehicular traffic was then shifted to the north side of the boulevard, where the agency built a new pathway along the edge of the construction zone leading to a ramp into a newly built, but temporary, subway entrance.
Levine said the DOT installed a new, temporary traffic signal on Queens Boulevard, additional street lights and workers to guide pedestrians past the work zone during works hours.
But BAN leaders — who have observed several cars and a bus traveling on the wrong side of the road — say the changes put both pedestrians and motorists in dangers. The project, Brooks said, has also caused a noticeable buildup of litter after construction knocked out several city garbage cans along the route from the subway station to Main Street.
“The community was blindsided. We felt like we had been left out of the process that we thought we were included in,” Brooks said.
Levine said the DOT is “taking action” to address all the concerns and implement changes. Agency officials, he said, met with Briarwood leaders three days after the rally. Brooks said the DOT plans on scheduling a public meeting to discuss practical solutions and appointing a community liaison to the project.
“We got what we wanted,” Brooks said, “immediate attention.”