July 23, 2015 By Michael Florio
Construction work has begun on the ‘Boulevard of Death’ that advocates say will help keep pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists safe.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this morning that the Department of Transportation (DOT) started work Monday on its $101 million Vision Zero project to improve safety conditions on a 7-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard that goes from Roosevelt to Jamaica Ave.
The DOT is tackling the Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street section of the Boulevard first. It is adding protected bike lanes and a pedestrian pathway—and is changing the traffic flow in order to make the corridor safer.
Since 1990, 185 people have lost their lives on the 7-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard that will be undergoing the redesign, according to the DOT.
De Blasio said that these figures are too high and can’t be ignored.
“This change is necessary, as we are losing too many good people,” de Blasio said Thursday at the intersection of Queens Blvd and 61st Street. “We want to banish the nickname ‘Boulevard of Death’ and make it a safe, boulevard of life.”
The number and basic configuration of lanes will stay the same– with three main travel lanes and two service roads.
However, the DOT has created room for protected bike lanes (5 feet wide) and a pedestrian pathway (4-5 feet wide. The department is inserting them where the median between the service roads and the main roads currently is.
The DOT plan also aims to restrict motorists from switching between the main travel lanes and the service roads. The DOT wants to ensure that drivers don’t weave in and out of the service roads to speed up their travel time—or come off the main lanes at speed.
Therefore, the DOT is removing a slip lane at 55th Street that blocks drivers from being able to switch between the main lanes and the service road. Meanwhile, at the other slip lanes (at 59th Street, 59th Place and 61st Street), drivers will face a ‘STOP’ sign before they get onto the service lane.
The STOP sign aims to reduce speed and allow for a safer crossing for pedestrians.
“We will transform Queens Boulevard into the boulevard of life,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Because of this project, life will be safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”
Lizi Rahman, whose son Asif Rahman was killed while riding his bicycle along Queens Blvd in 2008, has been fighting for years to have a bike lane installed on Queens Blvd.
“If there was a bike lane my son would be ok today,” she said at the press conference. “My dream is now a reality.”
The first section of the Queens Blvd redesign is expected to be completed by the end of October, according to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
This is the first of three segments of Queens Blvd that will be redesigned.
Following the completion of the first phase, DOT will begin redesign work on Queens Blvd from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and then from Eliot Avenue to Jamaica Avenue.
“Pedestrians, cyclist and motorist living in Woodside, Sunnyside and ultimately Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst can all live in harmony and safety,” Van Bramer said.