A bevy of adjectives was used at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting to describe the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue and Palmetto Street in Ridgewood: busy, awkward, flawed. But perhaps the most notable one — and the reason it was on the agenda in the first place — was the adjective “deadly.”
The intersection, which straddles the border of Ridgewood and Bushwick, Brooklyn, is more correctly described as a hub. At least half a dozen bus lines, serving both Brooklyn and Queens go through the intersection carrying passengers from as far away as Flushing, Jamaica and Canarsie, Brooklyn. Above and below the intersection are busy subway lines.
Pedestrian traffic around the intersection is often as heavy as the traffic, and the two conflict — a least twice with fatal consequences.
According to NYPD records, two people have been killed at the intersection since 2008. There are have been 29 other incidents ending with injuries, 15 of those being to pedestrians.
As a response, DOT officials, including Queens Commissioner Dalia Hall, presented a plan to modernize the intersection in hopes to make it safer. They presented the proposal to CB 5 on May 14.
The proposal is part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to eliminate pedestrian fatalities.
Nichole Altmix, senior project manager at the DOT, said the agency has noticed a series of problems with the intersection, including the awkward angles at which the streets meet, creating longer crossings, dark conditions that make for bad visibility under the M train elevated trestle, especially at night, and pedestrian noncompliance.
Five new curb extensions will be installed to shorten crossing times. A new crosswalk will be installed across Myrtle Avenue on the east side of Wyckoff Avenue because the DOT has noticed a desire for pedestrians to cross there.
The department will also ban five turns at the intersection. Altmix said no turns into southbound Wyckoff Avenue from either direction on Myrtle Avenue will be allowed. Traffic heading north on Palmetto Street will not be allowed to make a right onto Myrtle Avenue and southbound traffic on Wyckoff Avenue will be barred from making a right turn onto Myrtle. Palmetto Street north of the intersection is closed off to all traffic except buses as it is the hub of the Ridgewood bus terminal opened in 2011.
Altmix said the five turns are not often made, but the DOT considered them to be the most dangerous. She also added that the intersection has 25 different movements, or turns that traffic can make, as opposed to the average of 12. Bus traffic would not be affected by any of the bans.
The DOT will also work with the MTA to install flashing yellow lights on the M train elevated support poles to supplement the new lighting recently installed under the trestle, and undertake a public information campaign to educate people on pedestrian safety.
Noting that both fatalities at the intersection involved pedestrians being hit by buses, CB 65 member Paul Kerzner asked why the DOT wasn’t looking at bus traffic there.
Hall said altering bus routes would take a long time because they would have to work with the MTA, and the DOT doesn’t believe it would make as significant an impact.
John Maier, CB 5’s Transportation Committee chair said that although the pedestrians were killed after being struck by buses, in at least one of the cases, there were other contributing factors.
“The driver of the bus that hit that one pedestrian said he was distracted by a cab,” Maier said. “It’s not really a bus issue.”
The DOT did not give any indication of when the changes would be implemented. Maier said there were still a number of issues he wanted to discuss with the agency, including the designation of Myrtle Avenue as a through-truck route in Queens, but local truck route in Brooklyn, which affects traffic at the intersection.