It doesn’t take too many rush-hour trips up and down the Woodhaven-Cross Bay Boulevard corridor to become an expert on just where the bottlenecks and traffic islands can slow traffic to a crawl; and where service lanes make right-hand turns impossible.
But the city and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week proposed alleviating all that with the creation of a Select Bus route, along with bus lanes, new road markings and in some areas reconstruction of lanes, islands and intersections to improve the traffic flow.
The MTA and the city Department of Transportation made a joint presentation at JHS 210 in Ozone Park on April 23, a session heavily attended by the public, particularly members of community boards 5, 9 and 10.
“We’re trying to bring better bus service and safer streets to an important corridor,” Eric Beaton of the DOT said.
Rob Thompson of the DOT said the agency wants to have the bus route and some road work done this year.
He said dedicated bus lanes, which would be reserved exclusively for buses between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, would improve service on Select and regular buses by keeping them free of traffic tie-ups.
Select Bus Service stops would be fewer and farther apart than regular NYC Transit stops. Fares are paid at machines located at the bus stops.
The service would run the full length of the Woodhaven-Cross Bay corridor, as well as along Queens Boulevard from the northern end of Woodhaven west to Roosevelt Avenue, and then along Roosevelt to the Long Island Rail Road station in Woodside.
On the southern end it would continue both east and west along a portion of Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5 and a member of the Queens Traffic Safety Council, does not think that is an unrealistic goal, particularly in the segment between Eliot and Metropolitan avenues in the Rego Park-Middle Village area.
“Woodhaven Boulevard is very wide at the northern end, and it can easily support bus lanes,” Arcuri said. “Even if you wanted to wait until the end of the fiscal year in June, you can do a lot in July, August and September.”
He did say he would like to see so-called “bump-out” bus stops constructed so that they would extend out to meet the bus lanes. Arcuri said that has the additional benefit at major intersections of shortening pedestrian trips across the street.
“Then you don’t have to mess with the traffic signals for pedestrians because they’re walking a shorter distance,” he said.
Down south, where the boulevard picks up service lanes, Arcuri believes there would have to be cuts in traffic islands to allow vehicles from the main road to merge with the service lanes to better allow more right-hand turns off Woodhaven.
“The problem there is that it will cost you some trees,” he said.
Following a brief video presentation from Thompson, the crowd broke up into more than a half dozen small groups at tables with maps of the Woodhaven-Cross Bay corridor to discuss ideas, questions and concerns with DOT facilitators.
Topics raised ran from the effects on emergency-vehicle response times to the costs and benefits to businesses up and down the thoroughfare.
Several staunch supporters of plans to reintroduce rail service along the old Rockaway Beach-Rego Park rail line also were present. Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said she thought they were a necessary presence.
“They have their own agenda, but you can’t discuss transportation issues in South Queens without talking about all the possibilities and how they would interact,” she said. Braton said she needs to hear a lot more information in the near future on how any proposed changes to the use, marking or design of the roadway would affect the area.
She also wants more information on what everything would cost. So too does John Lyons, president and business agent for Local 1179 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents MTA bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers in South Queens.
“They’re not giving us all of the equipment we need now to do the job,” he said.
But Arcuri was optimistic, saying the large turnout was a very good sign.