The intersections surrounding St. Stanislaus Kostka School are about to get safer.
In an initiative to focus safety improvements at city schools with high accident rates, the Department of Transportation started the Safe Routes to Schools Program, a branch off of the statewide program that began around the same time.
At a town hall meeting that ended early due to low attendance, hosted by the DOT, the Department of Design and Construction and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who will be funding the project, it was announced that the program would be brought to St. Stanislaus Kostka at 61-17 Grand Ave. in Maspeth, a private school on busy Grand Avenue.
“The Safe Routes program is looking to make some of the intersections around schools more pedestrian friendly,” Crowley said. “Some places are really bad but the DOT has determined St. Stanislaus to be one of the worst, so we’re starting there.”
In 2001, the Department of Transportation examined the accident histories around the city’s 1,471 elementary and middle schools.
In 2003, an initial list of 135 priority schools considered especially unsafe was made. There were 33 schools in Queens on the first-round priority list.
“Pretty much, the way we make these areas safer is by installing neck-downs,” Ryan Kalleberg of RBI, the group working with DOT on the project said. “We build out the curbs which shortens the crossing distance and will force vehicles to slow down when they’re making turns, particularly right-hand turns.”
The neck-downs will extend 6-feet past the curb and will be implemented on Maspeth Avenue and 61st Street, as well as Grand Avenue and 61st Street.
A section of 57th Drive that branches off from Grand Avenue will be blocked to cars entirely.
“The project is currently in the bidding process,” Kalleberg said. “It’ll be open for bid on June 5 so it’ll probably be another 6 months before the project is completed.”
According to DDC, the project will work around school opening and dismissal times so that students walking to and from school will not be in danger. Safe paths will also be set up to ensure students are able to cross the street and walk on the sidewalks easily.
After St. Stanislaus Kostka is complete, Crowley said she is looking to bring the Safe Routes to Schools Program to a few more schools in her district.
“This will be the first of many safe projects to come,” she said. “There are some places in our area that are really bad. Stanislaus was probably the worst in the district but I would like to see work done at PS 128 and St. Margaret’s as well.”
Kalleberg and Crowley noted that priority will be given to schools with higher accident rates and that not every school in the city require neck-downs or other improvements to nearby roadways.
“Some schools are located in an area that isn’t as accident prone as others,” Kalleberg said. “The program is designed for the schools that need it most. The cars going down Grand Avenue drive incredibly fast and it’s just not safe.”