Tag Archives: Department of Transportation

Jackson Heights residents call National Grid a ‘bad neighbor’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Updated 5:20 p.m.

Residents on one Jackson Heights street are calling on National Grid to be a good neighbor and take care of “dangerous” holes left unattended for weeks after digging was started last month to work on gas pipe updates.

Councilman Daniel Dromm and residents on 80th Street gathered on the block Tuesday morning to speak out against holes created by the utility company that were left ignored for weeks.

The holes, which measure about 13 feet by 3 feet and go as deep as three to six feet, were dug by National Grid in April to start renovations on underground gas lines. However, residents said that in the beginning of May work just stopped and the holes were left uncovered and surrounded by barriers and cones, most of which fell into the holes.

“The damage they have done to this street makes you understand that National Grid is a bad neighbor. You don’t come into communities, dig up streets, leave piles of dirt and then leave the exposed pipes open to all types of foul play, to children falling into them, and then not respond to the community,” Dromm said. “We are here today to demand that National Grid minimally put plates over this, fix this work, and ensure the safety of the community is taken care of here.”

Dromm added that his office communicated with National Grid several times, but no fixes have been made. The councilman said he even left his personal number and never received a call back.

Some residents expressed concerns that they have seen children playing in the holes, and others said the exposed gas lines have been letting out gaseous odors.

A Courier reporter on the scene also smelled gas odors coming out of one of the holes.

“The unfinished repair work initiated by National Grid on April 17, 2015, has not only resulted in a trip and fall hazard to pedestrians but has made us nervous because we were told originally the construction was to remedy a gas leak,” said Ricky Castro, co-op board vice president. “Despite many complaints we have received no answers about why we smell gas and if it’s safe.”

Castro added that last weekend when it rained, water filled the holes and caused the basement of one of the apartment buildings, which has storage units belonging to residents, to flood.

According to residents, National Grid workers showed up Tuesday morning but no work was being done. They also added that they have called the FDNY, Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection and were told National Grid is responsible for the holes.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said the company is committed  to ensuring the safety of the public.

She added the company is using industry-approved methods to secure the work site and have the appropriate work permits. Also, National Grid is conducting daily surveys of the area to maintain safety until the repairs are completed.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but the work is necessary to ensure a safe and reliable gas system for the community,” the spokeswoman said. “Last month during an investigation we detected a gas leak and made arrangements to schedule the repairs, working around parking restrictions on the block.”

She added the gas lines had been replaced on the street and now each home in three buildings has to be transferred to the new service lines. The company is working to notify everyone in the buildings.

Crews are expected to be on site starting Wednesday through the end of the week to complete the work and have the holes filled.

Residents are urged to call 911 or National Grid’s Gas emergency number, 718-643-4050.

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New installments to bring ‘light to shadow’ on Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Corona will soon light up bright, removing residents from the shadows and bringing a sense of safety to the community.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Friday that new lampposts and LED lights are being installed down Roosevelt Avenue, a thoroughfare that has faced safety issues throughout the years.

The $500,000 project, which is part of Ferreras’ New Deal plan for Roosevelt Avenue, will replace the current lampposts and install new ones between 90th and 111th streets.

“Having lived on Roosevelt Avenue, I was eyewitness to the challenges it has with regard to safety,” Ferreras said. “Improving the environment for everyone — families, small businesses, street vendors, the LGBTQ community, drivers — has been one of my most important goals, and I am enormously proud to hit another milestone today with the installation of these lights.”

Roosevelt Avenue.

Roosevelt Avenue.

In Ferreras’ New Deal for the corridor, she aimed to make significant improvements such as creating a better business environment, increasing sanitation services and upgrading the lights.

According to the DOT, the new 78- and 91-watt LED lights will replace the 100- and 150-watt high-pressure sodium lights, giving everything around the lights a better color rendering and enhancing nighttime visibility.

The "yellow colored" lights that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced.

The “yellow-colored” lampposts that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced with new LED lights.

“Thanks to the council member’s support, the new LED lights and poles that DOT is currently installing on Roosevelt Avenue help build on Vision Zero’s safety goals,” DOT Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said. “The improved lighting enhances visibility for all, boost[s] the look of the streetscape and saves on energy costs.”

The lights are also part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC Initiative, which looks to reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint by more than 30 percent by 2030.

The installation of the new light poles began last week and the DOT plans to have all work completed by the fall.

“[Roosevelt Avenue] will no longer be viewed as a blighted area. This will no longer be viewed as the shadow area of our community. We have brought light to shadow and I think that’s very important. It’s something that this community has consistently asked for,” Ferreras said.

Ferreras also added that as part of her participatory budgeting she plans to allocate funds to get new lampposts and LED lights from 90th to 82nd streets as well.

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Go Smart NYC program to launch in Community Board 5


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is set to launch a pilot program called Go Smart NYC in the confines of Community Board 5 this June.

Go Smart NYC is a federally funded, optional education and encouragement program that aims to improve travel outcomes for drivers, cyclists, mass transit users and pedestrians by providing information about all available transit options to all residents of the area. It also encourages and incentivizes travel by walking, carpooling, transit and cycling.

“Broadly speaking, the goal of this program, the way we will judge our success, is by getting as much information about all of the travel options in the area out to as many of the residents as possible,” said Alex Keating, project manager of Go Smart NYC. “And if a resident is interested, if a household is interested in more information they’ll be able to opt in and we’ll have a program there that [will] encourage and incentivize trips that are made locally or to work, any kind of trip.”

Residents within the CB 5 area will receive a Go Smart NYC mailer from the DOT which will include an introduction to the program and prompt residents to register on the program’s website. From the website, participants will be able to order a customized travel information kit with walking, biking, bus, subway and carpooling information provided by the DOT; safety and educational materials; as well as a free tote bag, pedometer, Frisbee and bike light.

Once registered, members will be able to log their trips on the Go Smart NYC website, from their desktop or mobile device, to track their progress. They can then receive data on their travel spending, physical activity and environmental upkeep, as well as earn points redeemable for coupons to local stores.

“We wanted a program that had really good community organizations on the ground, local shopping options, all of the transit options including levels of car ownership…and we thought that this area would be a great fit,” Keating said. “We hope it will be successful, and if it is successful we will continue to explore additional federal funds to continue doing it in other areas and neighborhoods is the city.”

There will be a public launch event for the pilot program on June 16, and the mailers will be delivered on that same day. The DOT hopes to expand the program to three or four more neighborhoods if the pilot goes well.

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DOT proposes changes to dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Image via Google Maps

Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a plan during the Community Board 5 combined Transportation Services and Public Transportation committees meeting Tuesday night to fix problems at a dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection.

The Forest Avenue/Myrtle Avenue/George Street intersection was brought to the DOT’s attention because it is located within the Myrtle Avenue priority corridor.

This intersection “is listed among the corridors for which the Department of Transportation will design and implement safety projects as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims at eliminating all traffic-related fatalities,” said Arban Vigni, project manager with the DOT.

The high-traffic area sees an abundance of not only vehicles, but also pedestrians, with high volumes of seniors and students using the crosswalk. Two buses, the Q39 on Forest Avenue and the Q55 on Myrtle Avenue, also pass through the area, adding to congestion.

“Judging from the frequency and severity of crashes that occurred here between 2009 and 2013, the intersection has been designated a high pedestrian crash location,” Vigni said.

During the five-year period, there were 18 crashes, six of them involving pedestrians. Two of those crashes led to severe injuries.

“It’s also worth noting that 50 percent of pedestrians that were involved in crashes were hit while crossing with the signal, whereas the average for Queens is as low as 37 percent,” Vigni said. “This basically shows that turning vehicles do not yield properly at this intersection.”

Vigni pointed out the odd geometry of the location as one reason for the high levels of pedestrian crashes at the intersection. The star-shaped intersection has Myrtle Avenue running east to west, Forest Avenue going north to southeast and George Street going southwest.

The DOT’s proposed changes include adding a concrete curb extension on the south side of the intersection.

“The curb extension would help realign the intersection somewhat and it would shorten the southwest crosswalk by seven feet,” Vigni explained.

This would not interfere with parking on George Street because there is a fire hydrant located on that corner, which restricts vehicles from parking there.

High-visibility crosswalks were already installed on April 15 to increase visibility of pedestrians.

Finally, “peg-a-tracks,” which are yellow dashed lines, will be installed in the center of the intersection to clarify direction of travel for vehicles on Forest Avenue.

The DOT plans to implement these changes in June.

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New signs to point south Queens community in the right direction


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Phil Goldfeder

BY ANGELA MATUA

Whenever the next coastal emergency strikes, south Queens residents will no longer experience confusion when driving to their nearest evacuation center.

New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have installed new coastal evacuation center signage in south Queens and the Rockaways to direct residents to their designated evacuation center at John Adams High School in South Ozone Park, instead of Aqueduct Racetrack.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder contacted the DOT last May after residents were led in two different directions when trying to reach an evacuation center during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Aqueduct Racetrack previously acted as the evacuation center before Resorts World Casino was opened in October 2011. After the casino was constructed, the center was changed to John Adams High School.

Though emergency personnel directed people to John Adams High School, the existing signage still pointed to Aqueduct. City evacuation plans and NYCEM city flood maps list John Adams High School as the zoned evacuation center but signage did not reflect the change.

Goldfeder reached out to the DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to request that the agency update and maintain designated evacuation routes and signs.

Signage was updated and installed in early April at 28 locations including cross sections on Beach Channel Drive, Cross Bay Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and Belt Parkway and will be maintained regularly by the DOT, according to an NYCEM spokesperson.

Goldfeder said these signs are crucial in ensuring the safety of all residents and thanked NYCEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito for playing a role in the installations.

“This change to our emergency evacuation route signage will save thousands of lives by helping direct families in the event of major disasters,” Goldfeder said. “Our community has had two major evacuations in the last four years. The vital information these signs provide is the key to keeping our families safe during emergencies.”

The repairs were done in time for the Atlantic hurricane season and NYCEM is preparing to relaunch the “Know Your Zone” hurricane campaign to encourage New Yorkers to find out if they live in a hurricane zone and what steps to take to plan ahead.

“Hurricane season is around the corner, and we want every New Yorker to be aware of what hurricane evacuation zone they live in and how they can get to their nearest evacuation center if necessary,” NYCEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito said.

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Woodside intersection, prone to accidents, gets new traffic safety measures


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Woodside residents are showing that with determination and perseverance, changes can be made to prevent tragedies from occurring.

Civic activists, students from P.S. 11 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer gathered on Monday morning at the corner of 51st Street and Skillman Avenue to announce the installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection.

“We’re here today to celebrate a huge victory, a monumental victory for this community because it’s the small things that really matter in the daily lives of everyday people and that stop light has been something we have all worked for for years,” Van Bramer said.

The call for the stop light came after a pedestrian was hit at the intersection and community members including Arthur Ferguson, who started a petition that gathered 265 signatures, and Van Bramer reached out to the Department of Transportation.

“This stop light is a great victory and a great sign of what a community can do to make its streets safer,” Van Bramer said. “This would not have happened without a communitywide effort and never giving up because we heard no several times but we knew that this stop light was needed. We knew that it was too dangerous.”

Ali Mamun, who has owned Woodside Super Convenient at 51-01 Skillman Ave. for 20 years, said that he has seen numerous vehicle collisions at the intersection and down Skillman Avenue, so he hopes the new light will help prevent any future accidents.

“It’s excellent,” Mamun said about the traffic signal installation. “We are so happy for it. Hopefully the light will help everyone now.”

Along with the installation of the traffic signal, a slow zone is in the process of being implemented in the Sunnyside Gardens-Woodside neighborhood. It is expected to be completed by the end of the spring.

The parameters of the slow zone are Queens Boulevard/Roosevelt Avenue as the southern border, 43rd Street as the western border, 58th Street to the east and 38th Avenue/Barnett Avenue to the north.

“Our students walk back and forth to school and it’s a safer neighborhood now. It just became so much better,” said Elizabeth Pena-Jorge, principal at P.S. 11, located just blocks away from the intersection. “Woodside, and Sunnyside, just became a better place.”

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Design workshops scheduled for Woodhaven/Cross Bay Select Bus Service plan


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC DOT

The city Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold the first of four public design workshops for the planned Woodhaven/Cross Bay boulevards Select Bus Service (SBS) system next Thursday night in Woodhaven.

All are invited to attend the April 16 workshop at P.S. 306 NYC Academy for Discovery, located at 96-16 89th Ave. This workshop will focus solely on redesigning the portion of Woodhaven Boulevard between Union Turnpike in Glendale and Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park.

The following week, April 23, the DOT will hold a workshop at Queens Metropolitan High School, located at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, focused on Woodhaven Boulevard between Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst and Union Turnpike.

An April 29 workshop at P.S. 146, located at 98-01 159th Ave. in Howard Beach, will center around Cross Bay Boulevard, and an April 30 workshop at P.S. 42, located at 488 Beach 66th St. in Arverne, will focus on implementing SBS in the Rockaways.

All of the workshops will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.

Representatives from the DOT will collect at each session “block-by-block feedback on street design and bus stop locations” for the Woodhaven/Cross Bay SBS. Last month, the DOT selected an SBS design that would include dedicated main-road bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard and offset bus lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The plan, which requires the physical reconfiguration of Woodhaven Boulevard, also calls for the creation of SBS stations at major roadways that intersect the boulevard, such as Metropolitan and Jamaica avenues.

While each workshop focuses on a specific section, the DOT indicated that comments on any or all parts of the proposed SBS system will be accepted at all four sessions. Translation services are available and may be reserved in advance of the workshop by emailing brt@nyc.gov.

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Historic Highland Park bridge to get makeover


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Plans for the rehabilitation of the historic stone bridge in Highland Park headlined the Community Board 5 Parks Services Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Joannene Kidder, the chief staff manager and director of community affairs for the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Division of Bridges, gave a presentation on the proposed plans for restoring the pedestrian span located on the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Kidder explained that the DOT, rather than the Parks Department, is involved with this project because the DOT is better equipped to perform bridge inspections and maintenance.

The presentation highlighted defects on the underside of the bridge including spalling (the fragmenting and flaking of the concrete of the bridge); cracking of bricks; efflorescence (a powdery substance that forms when brick and mortar are exposed to moist conditions); and graffiti and painting.

“Essentially what we’re doing is we’re going to take the entire superstructure down and reconstruct it from there up,” Kidder said of the proposed improvements to the bridge. “The substructure is in good condition, so we’re not expecting to do an entire reconstruction from under the ground up.”

The bridge is set to receive a lightweight, reinforced concrete slab on the top side of the archway as well as waterproofing. The DOT will clean the surfaces of the bridge; replace any missing stones in the structure; refill and repaint any missing mortar to match the existing mortar; and pressure wash all graffiti off of the bridge, while adding graffiti-proof surfaces.

The surrounding area of the bridge is also getting upgrades. The streetlights will be replaced with LED fixtures; under-deck lighting will be added; and an 8-foot-wide gravel path will be installed underneath the bridge’s arch. Additionally, crews will install curbs and re-grading for drainage and erosion control, and add more than 80 trees and shrubs to the landscape near the bridge.

Board members questioned why the path was being made of gravel and not asphalt.

“When you install asphalt, now you have an impervious surface that now has runoff and that drainage has to be accommodated somewhere,” Kidder said. “With the gravel, all the rainwater, all the stuff will just percolate back into the soil. They want as few impervious surfaces as possible inside parks.”

The contract for the project will be put out to bid this summer, and construction is planned for the fall. Work is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.

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First phase of $100M Queens Boulevard redesign to be implemented by August


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of the Department of Transportation

The voices of a concerned community have been heard, and by August, the first segment of the redesign of what is known as the “Boulevard of Death” is expected to be implemented to make it safer.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that it would be releasing a detailed preliminary plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard. The plan is based on community input gathered during a safety workshop held on Jan. 22 in Woodside.

This project, which will be reviewed by Community Board 2 and is expected to be implemented in August, launches the start of the DOT’s $100 million Green Streets initiative, which will cover all seven miles of Queens Boulevard.

The agency plans to hold more public workshops during the fall and winter for the future phases of the initiative, from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and from Eliot Avenue to Union Turnpike.

“After decades of crashes, many of them fatal, this corridor has been reimagined and will be redesigned to become a safer, greener and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses, suitable to traverse through the World’s Borough,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

The first phase of the redesign, which includes the installation of a protected bike lane, covers the 1.3-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency previously said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics showed there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area.

Some of the features of the first redesign segment include safer crossings, increased pedestrian space and improved intersections. The preliminary plan also looks to calm the traffic on service roads and try to reduce the number of times drivers move between the main line and service roads.

Unique redesigns include a protected bike lane integrated into a widened service road median, with new pedestrian space and median-to-median crossings that “allow for a linear park-like experience,” according to the DOT.

“This work represented a major advancement in the efforts to achieve Vision Zero throughout our city,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Thanks to the work of the DOT, we are seeing significant improvements in traffic safety in western Queens, and we look forward to seeing Queens Boulevard safety improvements thanks to this $100 million capital investment.”

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DOT proposes expanding bike network in CB 5 area


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Gear up for round two of bike lane construction in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

Aaron Fraint, project manager with NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) bicycle program, presented three options for a second phase of bike lane creation to the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee members on March 24.

All three options focused on creating a network of lanes.

“We would like to do a set of streets that all connect to each other because we see the bike network as just that, a network, rather than sets of routes that aren’t connected to anything,” Fraint said.

The first option would connect Ridgewood to Rego Park through Middle Village via Metropolitan Avenue, 69th Street and Eliot Avenue ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

“Metropolitan Avenue is very busy corridor…with a lot of commercial and industrial activity,” Fraint said, which is why creating safe bike lanes is so important.

The avenue is also 41 feet wide, which allows just enough room for a shared bike lane in both directions.

The DOT proposed using “sharrows,” symbols with a green background that notify motorists that bicyclists may be present.

Option two connects Glendale to Rego Park through Middle Village by using Central Avenue connecting to Cooper Avenue to Woodhaven Boulevard, with a north/south route on 80th Street turning into Dry Harbor Road and 63rd Avenue, ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Fraint said that both Central and Cooper avenues — which are 40 feet wide — have enough space for 12-foot-wide shared lanes in both directions with 8-foot parking lanes.

Cooper Avenue already has a shared bike lane on the extra-wide sidewalks that were installed on the underpass after its reconstruction. These connect to a shared bike lane on 80th Street, so “we would pick up where shared lanes left off on 80th Street and bring it over to Woodhaven Boulevard,” Fraint said.

The final option seeks to connect Ridgewood to Long Island City through Maspeth along Fresh Pond Road, 59th Drive to Rust Street. In the opposite direction, the route would take Rust Street to 60th Street then to 60th Avenue and back down Fresh Pond Road.

A segment of Fresh Pond Road, which is 44 feet wide, can accommodate 14-foot shared lanes in both directions, keeping the configuration of one travel lane in each direction and parking on both sides.

59th Drive is one-way westbound from the turn off Fresh Pond Road up until 60th Street, and at 26 feet wide, “we will be able to keep the condition as is, but add a shared lane for cyclists,” Fraint said.

As 59th Drive continues past 60th Street, it becomes a 30-foot-wide two-way street, and the DOT is looking to put in a center line and shared lane symbols.

The DOT is still working out what type of bicycle facilities would be the best fit on Rust Street.
Fraint added that a lot of cyclists are using that route and it is a logical connector between Ridgewood and Long Island City.

After the board heard all three options, they discussed which ones they would like to see implemented in the community.

“I do like the Metropolitan, 69th and Eliot [route],” said John Maier, co-chair of the committee. “I think Eliot makes a lot of sense.”

For option two, Maier said that Fresh Pond Road is “already a traffic nightmare,” but that cyclists do use the route and it is worth taking a look at.

Panel members agreed that the first option would be the best fit for the communities. They liked option two, with some modifications to the 80th Street section. The DOT needs to further study the third option before the board accepts it. The DOT hopes to begin installing the accepted routes during 2015.

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New Kosciuszko Bridge construction update


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of NYC DOT

The state Department of Transportation has issued a construction advisory regarding the initial phases of the new Kosciuszko Bridge project.

The bulk of the work affects side streets on both sides of the span in Greenpoint and west Maspeth, including new water mains, gas lines, electrical wires and storm/sewer pipes.

Crews from Con Edison and Verizon will also install duct banks on 56th Road, which will cause traffic to intermittently be shifted to the right and left. The road, however, will remain open to two-way traffic at all times.

Due to the continued removal of the red brick and concrete walls underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) between Sutton and Apollo Streets, one lane of westbound Meeker Avenue between these limits will remain closed through the summer of 2015 to facilitate the removal of the wall and the subsequent rebuilding.

Other work includes the restriping of eastbound Meeker Avenue, between Kingsland and Porter Avenues, to create a work zone. This is required to access the roadway deck and low wall along the edge of the Queens-bound BQE that must be removed.

This work, scheduled to being on or about March 23, will involve the placement of a concrete barrier along the Queens-bound BQE and a traffic lane shift on eastbound Meeker Avenue, between Kingsland and Porter avenues. Intermittent lane closures during daytime and evening hours will be required.

Advanced notices for specific activities will be distributed to residents and businesses prior to the start of work. The construction schedule is weather permitting and subject to change.

The more than $500 million project involves the construction of two new cable-stayed suspension bridges to replace the existing, aging steel-truss span. The first new bridge will be erected adjacent to the south side of the existing bridge and is scheduled to open in late 2016.

Once the first new span is complete, all BQE traffic will be shifted onto it, and crews will begin demolishing the old bridge. The second cable-stayed span will rise in the original bridge’s footprint; it is expected to be completed by 2019.

For more information, visit www.dot.ny.gov/kbridge or email kosciuszko@dot.ny.gov.

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Public transit advocates expand coalition for express bus service in Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated March 3, 1 p.m. 

With express bus service set to be created on routes between Flushing and Jamaica and along Woodhaven Boulevard this year, a coalition of public transit advocates backing the plan is expanding its efforts to win the hearts and minds of Queens community members.

As the city moves ahead with plans to create what’s known as Select Bus Service, the Department of Transportation is holding workshops to gather input from community members living in areas that would be affected by the new bus service. Often these meetings are attended by an overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to Select Bus Service.

But a coalition of transit advocates — BRT  for NYC — recently enlisted interest groups like New York Immigration Coalition to help raise awareness in communities that would benefit from faster bus travel times. They ultimately want to influence the city’s plans to speed up travel time for commuters who depend on buses.

“People who are afraid of this are going to fight harder than people who will benefit from it,” said Joan Byron, a member of the Pratt Center, which is part of the growing coalition.

During a meeting at Kew Gardens Hills last year, city officials were barraged by people opposed to any express bus service plans that would have taken away a lane of traffic from motorists and restricted it to buses only.

“You are wrecking our neighborhoods,” one woman said to a city official during the 2014 meeting. “You’re all morons. We do not want this.”

The community members worried that the city would remove a traffic lane on Main Street to allow express buses to whiz past rush hour traffic. But for Kew Gardens Hills residents, traffic lanes were more important than fast buses.

During a City Council hearing in February, transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the Q44 would be transformed into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island.

Plans for the Q44, which runs mostly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades. The city also plans to create an express bus service called Bus Rapid Transit along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The coalition has enlisted 10 new groups to help what they, according to Byron, see as underprivileged communities living in areas that don’t have train access and have very limited bus access.

But with some of these new enlisted groups, like the Alliance for a Greater New York, Jess Nizar from Riders Alliance and others hope the pro-Select Bus Service side will get a boost with political influence.

“Without having a coalition these plans won’t reflect the needs of the people that need this the most,” Nizar said. “Sure, the city said they’re going to create SBS, but we don’t know what it will look like yet and we want people who benefit from this to give the city their input.”

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Queens is the borough with the most roads and the most potholes


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Queens isn’t just the “World’s Borough.” It’s also the borough with the city’s most tire-wrecking potholes — a total of 20,000 that have been filled by city crews so far in 2015.

“Queens has the largest share of roads out of the five boroughs so that only makes sense,”  Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said of the pothole problem.

With severe winter weather, roads take a beating and inevitably develop potholes. And so the city’s transportation department is fighting a perpetual battle with limited resources. On a recent Tuesday there were 12 crews out citywide fixing pock-marked streets.

Last year, the city filled almost 500,000 potholes and 131,000 of those fixed were in Queens.  And this year 20,000 potholes were filled in Queens, almost half of all citywide jobs to date.

With over 2,000 miles of roadway, the most of any borough, the number of potholes in the road is higher than in other boroughs, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation pointed out. The transportation department had filled a similar number of potholes this time last year.

At the time, it was the “most potholes ever filled at this point of the year in the history of New York City,” according to a then newly-elected Mayor de Blasio, who visited Maspeth last year to fill some holes.

Pothole season typically starts by February and dies down by April, though the timeline is dependent on weather, experts say. And while most potholes are just a nuisance, they can sometimes be a threat in neighborhoods like Hamilton Beach, where the neighborhood’s main road resembles the surface of the moon, causing traffic jams and dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

“This is a constant priority for us,” Trottenberg said of the pothole repair program.

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City focuses on reducing pedestrian deaths in Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

City officials have chosen Queens to launch the first borough-wide traffic safety crackdown in the city as part of a long-range effort to reduce the number of deaths from auto accidents, police and transportation officials announced at a press conference in Jamaica on Tuesday.

“We launched Vision Zero in Queens a year ago, and today we proudly return to the world’s borough to release the first of our five groundbreaking Borough Pedestrian Safety Action Plans,” said transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“These Borough Plans combine cutting-edge data analysis and community input from thousands of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. They will help the city target its engineering, enforcement and education efforts to make New York’s streets the safest in the world.”

The announcement was made at P.S. 82, near the intersection of Metropolitan and Hillside avenues, a “priority corridor” slated for a major redesign because of historically high rates of deaths and serious injuries.

On average, 43 people in Queens have died every year since 2011, according to data compiled by the city, and most of these deaths occurred in Flushing, Elmhurst and Jamaica, where there is a high concentration of car and foot traffic.

By focusing on intersections and areas in Queens with the highest number pedestrian deaths, the Department of Transportation identified 72 intersections and 47 corridors that pose the most danger to people and where the highest percentage of car-related deaths have taken place.

Trottenberg and other officials outlined a series of initiatives that will take two years and, the city hopes, will bring down the average number of pedestrian deaths and injuries in Queens. The initiative is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero.

The city, among other things, wants to increase pedestrian crossing times at crosswalks for areas like Northern Boulevard between Queens Plaza and 114th Street; change traffic signals so that they deter people from driving fast on large boulevards that Queens is known for; increase the amount of light in dark underpasses; and expand the bicycle lanes and network.

Cops will also take a tougher line on speeding hot spots identified by the city.

“We’re going to concentrate our enforcement efforts in these areas,” said NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. “We’re going to do our best to reduce the number of traffic fatalities.”

These plans are the results of years of preparation by the transportation department and community input received during workshops over the last year.

The press conference was also attended by local politicians whose areas included some of the dangerous areas.

“I appreciate all the effort that the administration is putting into safety,” Councilman Rory Lancman said. “This is going to make a real difference with people I represent.

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City plans to launch express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica this year


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A planned express bus service that will run between Flushing and Jamaica is set to launch this year, according to city officials, who have included some measures to appease several communities that resisted the idea of designating lanes for buses only.

“Flushing and Jamaica are two of our key commercial centers, but traveling between them by subway means going in towards Manhattan and doubling back – and forget making the trip from the Bronx on the subway,” said Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT). “There are many destinations along this route not served by the subway system, such as Queens College and other key locations in the Bronx.”

During a City Council hearing on the citywide expansion of express buses, also called Select Bus Service, Trottenberg laid out a timeline to create a bus line that would connect the downtown areas of Flushing and Jamaica. She also said that in areas between the two destinations, bus-only lanes wouldn’t be created, respecting the wishes of many community members in areas like Kew Gardens Hills.

But Mike Sidell, a Kew Gardens Hills resident and community activist, remains skeptical because Trottenberg did not specify which communities would be spared the bus lane.

“We should hold them to the fire and get them to name all of the communities that won’t have the bus-only lanes,” Sidell said. “It looks like they’re giving us lip service, but it worries me that [Trottenberg] didn’t specifically name Kew Gardens Hills.”

Exclusive bus lanes are a common element of express bus lines, but residents in communities that live between Flushing and Jamaica resisted this idea because they feared it would create traffic back-ups by squeezing all the other traffic into only one lane.

The city appears to have responded to these residents by suggesting that bus-only lanes will be limited to areas where they are most needed, like the congested downtown Flushing area.

“Downtown Flushing and Jamaica are very different than places in between those neighborhoods,” Trottenberg said. “We’re going to have a long period of community engagement.”

The city plans to transform the Q44 into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island. Plans for the Q44, which runs mainly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades.

The City Council hearing was held for testimony over a proposed bill that would require the DOT to develop a network of express buses that would stretch across the city and connect neighborhoods that have limited or no access to subways. The DOT already initiated express bus service plans on several routes, including Woodhaven Boulevard. And the hearing came soon after Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for the expansion of express buses in his State of the City address.

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