For the past decade, Woodhaven Boulevard has been a traffic nightmare. The daily commute during the morning and evening rush hours is sluggish at best. Whether you’re in a car or on a bus, the slow and painful crawl up and down Woodhaven is sure to make your daily commute even more stressful and time consuming.
Since taking office, I have been working with the Department of Transportation to alleviate traffic congestion along Woodhaven Boulevard and have suggested a number of measures which I believe would make a big difference. Here are just a few:
• I am committed to bringing the deployment of Transit Signal Priority to this corridor. TSP will improve travel time for all vehicles by optimizing overall traffic signal coordination, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent decrease in overall travel time. This system can, for instance, hold the green light a little longer to allow buses and cars to proceed through an intersection before the traffic signal turns red. TSP is already operating in Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan. I am fighting to bring it to Queens.
• Implementing Select Bus Service along the 3.2-mile route would also have a significant impact. This is a bold initiative that would establish a dedicated bus lane for express and local buses only. It would speed up the average commute time for bus riders by 15 to 20 percent and prevent the bottlenecking situation that occurs at almost every major intersection along the boulevard. SBS is more commonly referred to as Bus Rapid Transit and already exists on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island, First and Second avenues in Manhattan and Fordham Road in the Bronx. Woodhaven Boulevard is ripe for this proposal and I am looking forward to the day it comes to Queens.
• Site-specific improvements at certain intersections are long overdue. There are turning lanes that need to be widened or extended and others that need to be eliminated altogether. This is a delicate process that will require the advice and consent of the community. Nevertheless, it is one that must be part of our overall strategy to make Woodhaven Boulevard safer for drivers, mass transit users and pedestrians alike. When done correctly, modifications such as these can reduce traffic-related injuries dramatically and help the overall flow of vehicles.
The DOT has already made some progress by incorporating some of the above-mentioned ideas into the Citywide Congested Corridor study. In fact, data has been collected, traffic patterns and accident prone locations have been analyzed and several public meetings have been held to discuss possible solutions since the study first started in 2008. Some of these proposals are common sense and easy to implement while others are all but certain to raise controversy.
But the fact remains that people have been sitting in traffic for far too long, and Queens is entitled to what every other borough already has. If we’re serious about addressing the traffic nightmare on Woodhaven Boulevard once and for all, we must take the necessary steps to put this plan into action.
Eric Ulrich is New York City Councilman for the 32nd District, in South Queens.