DOT Proposes Traffic Calming Plan For Lefferts Boulevard

DOT Proposes Traffic Calming Plan For Lefferts Boulevard

DOT Senior Project Manager Nichole Altmix presenting the DOT’s proposed traffic calming plan for Lefferts Boulevard at Community Board 10 meeting this past Thursday. Forum Newsgroup photo by Ryan Lavis

In an effort to curb traffic and prevent further deaths and accidents, the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a traffic-calming plan for Lefferts Boulevard during Thursday’s Community 10 Board meeting in South Ozone Park.

The potential redesign would remove one travel lane in each direction between North Conduit Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard. It would also have installed a painted center median with left turn bays at intersections, a 14’- wide parking and loading lane and upgraded crosswalks for better visibility, according to DOT representatives.

This troublesome stretch runs through four intersections, and has had five deaths and 211 accidents from 2006-2010, according to a DOT study of the area. The DOT also said that 70 percent of cars speed in the area.

“Our main focus is safety,” Nichole Altmix said, who is a Senior Project Manager for the DOT. “We want this street to feel like a neighborhood street, but when there’s speeding and people can’t cross — that’s not a neighborhood.”

While the area is mostly residential, there are commercial stores between 135th and 149th Avenues that contribute to the dense traffic.

Currently, the road has a 19’-wide combined parking and moving lane and an 11’-wide moving lane. Under the proposed plan, a white painted stripe would section off a 14’-wide parking and loading lane. The DOT said this increase would give parked vehicles extra door room. They also said that drivers would no longer have to swerve around double parked vehicles in the more congested retail section.

“It actually helps traffic flow better,” Altmix said.

The DOT representative explained that removing one travel lane in each direction could potentially reduce speeding. She said that one lane would create a more organized roadway. And to prevent cars from weaving around one another when making a left turn, the DOT also plans on installing left turn bays.

“It doesn’t mean it will be harder to get where you’re going,” Altmix said, noting that one lane can carry up to 495 cars.

But some Community Board 10 members spoke out against the DOT’s proposal, saying that trucks would end up using their quiet residential side streets to avoid Lefferts Boulevard.

“I think you should scrap this whole thing and start something new,” said Peter Granickas, a committee board member.

He and several other board members pointed to the recent, similar changes made to a four-mile stretch of Rockaway Boulevard between Ozone Park and Jamaica. The side streets in that area has become congested with traffic, according to Coummunity 10 board members who are worried drivers will do the same thing around Lefferts Boulevard.

“It’s not traffic calming. It’s coordinated congestion, and coordinated congestion means you’re stopping people from going – you’re not calming anything,” Granickas said.

But DOT Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy said that since the Rockaway Boulevard changes, injuries in the area are down 9 percent. And while easing traffic is a concern for the DOT, preventing injuries and deaths is paramount.

“This corridor is a little frightening, so we’re hoping to make some changes to improve safety,” the Commissioner said of Lefferts Boulevard.

Board Chair Betty Braton said that despite the sentiments of her and the rest of Board 10, the DOT has final say in what happens to Lefferts Boulevard because they are the experts.

“The DOT is approaching this from a safety perspective, and that’s what’s most important,” Braton said. “There are valid points on both sides, but to some extent we as community residents have to sometimes sacrifice a convenience in the interest of safety.”

By Ryan Lavis


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