Broadway needs a traffic safety plan — now


In the ongoing debate over the city transportation department’s Broadway traffic plan, a few important facts have been overlooked.

One of them concerns community outreach: DOT solicited suggestions from the community regarding traffic safety improvements at a planning meeting held under the auspices of Councilman Andrew Cohen and Community Board 8 in November 2015. As we recall, more than 50 members of the community attended the meeting and offered ideas about how to make Broadway safer. 

That was the genesis of the recent DOT traffic safety plan for Broadway. 

The second issue concerns the Van Cortlandt Park master plan, endorsed by the community board in 2014. Access to Van Cortlandt Park was identified as a significant issue.

Crossing Broadway to get to Van Cortlandt Park has long been a concern. And for good reason. Broadway is the most dangerous street in our community — by far. At certain times of day, nearly every vehicle on Broadway exceeds the speed limit.

The commander of the 50th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Terrence O’Toole, told the community board that 90 percent of the speeding tickets in the entire precinct are written on Broadway between Manhattan College Parkway and the city line. In a five-year survey conducted by DOT, eight pedestrians crossing Broadway at an intersection with a green light were killed or seriously injured by motorists.

So DOT came up with a safety plan for Broadway that the community board has now voted to reject. The resolution rejecting the plan contains more than two pages of “whereas” clauses citing concerns about the plan, but it fails to mention the statistics in the paragraph above. There are only bland references to “speeding as an issue” and “a number of accidents” on the Broadway corridor.

Instead, there are several references to how the plan will narrow the traffic lanes, and multiple references to potential gridlock under the plan. The facts do not bear this out.

With regard to width, the two traffic lanes in each direction will total 21 feet under the DOT plan, instead of the current 22 feet. The parking lanes will be narrowed from 13 feet to 8 feet, which is the standard width throughout the city.

Setting aside so much space for parked cars has proven not to be the best use of the street. It allows drivers to speed and weave, making the street unnecessarily dangerous, and invites double parking. The DOT plan rededicates this excess roadway space to transportation, incorporating accessible bus stops.

As for “gridlock,” much of the traffic on Broadway originates in Yonkers (all but one of the bus lines and most of the trucks), and returns to Yonkers, where there is only one lane of traffic in each direction — not two as in Riverdale. And yet we’ve never seen gridlock on Broadway in Yonkers spilling over into our community.

The major cause of traffic congestion on Broadway is double-parked buses and vans at parade ground events, which is a problem that the parks department, the 50th, elected officials and the community board are working to address right now.

The DOT plan promises to improve both vehicle and pedestrian safety at major intersections on Broadway. At present, these intersections are detrimental to both safety and park access. There has been virtually no criticism of the plan’s proposal for narrowing the intersection at Mosholu Avenue, where serious accidents have taken place in the past.

But without a plan, there will be no redesign of this, and the dangerous intersections at West 242nd Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway exit and entrance ramps.

Supporters of the resolution advocate for re-striping crosswalks and installing countdown clocks, suggestions that are perfectly worthwhile, but do nothing to address the speeding problem that makes Broadway dangerous. 

Other proposals in the community board resolution are not so benign: Diagonal parking on Broadway, for example — a truly hazardous idea on a street with heavy bus and truck traffic. And in the classic euphemism for killing a proposed project — the resolution calls for DOT to “further study” Broadway when DOT already has studied the area and determined that it’s dangerous and must be reconfigured.

But don’t take our word for it. Email Community Board 8 at bx08@cb.nyc.gov and ask for the Broadway corridor resolution. Read it and judge for yourself.

“What happens to Broadway now?” asked a Press editorial following the community board vote (re: “We showed DOT what’s what, but what happens to Broadway now?” June 15). Excellent question.

What conclusion DOT will draw from this lengthy resolution about what the community wants is something we can’t even imagine. And how the community board intends to follow up and turn this resolution into something DOT might be able to work with remains to be seen.

No wonder Councilman Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz supported the DOT plan at a recent community board meeting. We hope that they and the community board will now work with the DOT to implement a plan to make Broadway safe for our community.

As supporters of the DOT plan, we will be glad to assist in any way that we can to give our community a better, safer Broadway.

After all, it’s literally a matter of life and death.

The authors both are members of Community Board 8.