An Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge exit ramp is living up to its reputation once again as another car has driven off of it into a storefront on Queens Plaza South.
On Tuesday at 2 a.m., Elissa Toro, an off-duty NYPD police officer, was driving a silver 2004 Ford Focus when the car careered off the ramp, slamming into a vacant storefront and throwing her from the vehicle.
Toro, a Bronx native, was not wearing a seat belt, and did not survive.
For Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), the accident is not a surprise and has added to the growing frustration both legislators have developed.
“How many people have to die before the [Department of Transportation] understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned?” Gianaris asked in a written statement. “The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs.”
As part of a redesign of Queens Plaza, bike lanes, widened sidewalks and a park were added to the area. It is because of those updates that the DOP changed the way cars exited the bridge, forcing them into a sharper merge on Queens Plaza South.
Following the redesign, three fatal crashes have occurred at the same location since 2011 and several more have occurred resulting in serious injuries.
Van Bramer doesn’t see the redesign as an excuse.
“The bike lanes have nothing to do with this exit ramp,” he said. “I support the bike lanes but I feel the exit ramp is incredibly dangerous. The same accident happens three or more times and separate vehicles come flying into the same storefront is a problem.
“The plan needs to be looked at and I realize that you can’t eliminate it completely because of the 7 train structure but we can erect more meaningful barriers where cars cannot possibly jump over. That should be done at the bare minimum.”
The DOT would not respond to requests for comment as of press time.
The city agency has said in the past that despite the handful of accidents that have occurred on the ramp, millions of cars pass over the bridge each day without any mishaps.
Van Bramer isn’t buying that answer.
“Yes, there are a lot of cars that cross over safely but the DOT fails to mention that the majority are coming over in bumper-to-bumper traffic and are moving very slowly,” he said. “The problems are occurring during night hours when people go a little faster. Of course we need to crack down on speeding but even in an instance where people do speed, the punishment shouldn’t be instant death.”
Both Gianaris and Van Bramer have been pushing the DOT to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety across Western Queens, something the councilman said he will continue to do so long as there are dangerous streets in his district.