Cooper Avenue Underpass

Cooper Avenue Underpass

The Cooper Avenue underpass in Glendale has been a notorious problem for pedestrians, drivers and city planners alike for as long as many residents can remember. This year, the underpass may finally get a full upgrade more than a decade in the making.


Still, despite the concerted efforts of community leaders to fix the aging underpass, which runs beneath railroad tracks near Edsall Avenue, plans for the area aren’t without opposition.

Over the past 10 years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Design and Construction (DDC) have periodically performed maintenance and upkeep on the underpass. While the bridge and unused Long Island Railroad tracks are in decent condition, the reconstruction of the actual underpass calls for the panels above the retaining wall to be replaced.

According to Gary Giordano, CB5 district manager, those panels are “very deteriorated.”

Giordano and CB5 have been advocating for underpass rehabilitation since as far back as 2006. According to a DDC spokesperson, the nearly $6 million project has been registered with the city comptroller and could begin as early as fall 2011 or spring 2012.

The DOT has also plans to widen the sidewalks on both sides of Cooper Avenue between 74th and 79th streets and eliminate the westbound left turn lane at 74th Street. Additionally, 74th Street would be converted from southbound one-way to northbound one-way.

Giordano said the direction change to 74th Street will cause more congestion on 73rd Place, which already has a lot of traffic.

Richard Huber, a member of Community Board 5 Transportation Committee, shares Giordano’s concerns about the DOT’s plans for the area. Huber, the vice president of Superior Interlock Corp. on Central Avenue (one block from the underpass), said proposed changes from the DOT will cause traffic jams and complicate parking.

“[It’s] just going to bring about an extreme amount of congestion there,” Huber said. “I have employees [and] we’re going to lose a bunch of parking spots again.” He added that his employees will have to park on side streets, “impacting the neighborhood and community as a whole.”

According to Huber, the DOT’s plan also includes adding a traffic island to the middle of Cooper Avenue adjacent to 74th street, which Huber said would force drivers to pre-commit to go on the parallel service road or into the underpass.

Huber said that without adequate signage large trucks that can’t fit through the underpass would halt traffic completely and force dangerous U-turns.

According to Giordano, it wouldn’t be difficult for the DOT to revise their plan to meet CB5’s concerns.

“The DOT’s changes aren’t major changes in the construction, but they are major changes for traffic,” he said. “They’ll cause a lot of problems.”

The DOT has addressed the board’s concerns with the area in the past, so Giordano said he doesn’t expect complications. One of the major issues Giordano raised in 2006 was pedestrian safety.

To cross Cooper Avenue at the underpass, pedestrians have to use a set of stairs and walk a block west to a crossing at 74th Street. Often, pedestrians—especially students—cross at the underpass, which has poor visibility for drivers, instead of walking to the light.

To prevent that, the DOT has closed off the southern staircase, cutting off incentive to cross directly.

“DOT showed some intelligence with regard to the crossing situation,” Giordano said. “The situation is better out there. … But no matter what the DOT would try to do … if somebody want to cut across and risk their life, it’s hard to enforce that.”

According to a DOT spokesperson, the department is in the process of reviewing CB5’s feedback and plans to respond to the community board soon.

by Luis Gronda


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