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Queens Chronicle

OPINION Crashes actually are down after 111th St. upgrades

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Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2018 10:30 am

Your Jan. 4 Western Queens cover story, “NYPD: Crashes up on 111th Street,” marked an extremely disappointing addition to the Queens Chronicle’s generally excellent coverage of the Department of Transportation’s transformative safety work along 111th Street in Corona. As it is a popular gateway to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, DOT had made this crash-prone street one of our highest priorities over the last two years, evidenced by countless hours of community consultation, engagement and compromise — all reported in-depth by the Chronicle — that finally led to a dramatically redesigned street late last summer.

Under Vision Zero, a core mission of everyone at DOT has been to make our streets safer. Our planners and engineers evaluate and monitor all new construction using data-driven methodology. While it generally takes us many months to evaluate a re-engineered street conclusively, we took very seriously the article’s claims that the improvements to 111th Street — wider medians, increased on-street parking, shorter pedestrian crossings and protected bike lanes — had somehow in just a few months made the street less safe.

Since the story’s publication, we have closely studied the crash data that undergirded it, and can now in fact say with some certainty that the story was incorrect: Crashes on 111th Street have not increased since DOT finished its safety redesign of the corridor last August. In fact, our own review of NYPD data in the project area tells the opposite, far more encouraging story.

With the caveat that we expect to do a more detailed season-to-season analysis during 2018 with a larger sample, the initial NYPD crash data from the fall — the period from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 — tells us that crashes have actually decreased by four from 16 during that period in 2016 to 12 in 2017. We have in fact looked closely and found no data from any part of the project area that could justify a claim that crashes had increased, let alone by the dramatic margins claimed in the article. We all know that 111th Street is a long street, so it’s important that future responsible reporting use crash statistics solely for the official project area — that is, the three-quarters of a mile from 43rd Avenue to Corona Avenue.

That all said, the Chronicle nevertheless has DOT’s firm commitment to monitor this project closely, and make more changes if necessary or feasible. We have already added new signage and “daylighting,” treatments that allow pedestrians more space to see approaching vehicles as well as give drivers enough time to see pedestrians.

We are ultimately confident that with all of these dramatic safety changes, 111th Street will join the growing list of Vision Zero success stories. Two weeks ago, Mayor de Blasio came to Woodside and announced that under Vision Zero, New York City had experienced a fourth straight year of declining fatalities. Queens had 59 traffic deaths in 2017, its safest year ever, and on Queens Boulevard, formerly the notorious “Boulevard of Death,” a third consecutive year passed without a single pedestrian or cyclist fatality. We know we still have a lot to do and so in 2018, we resolve to continue working closely with Borough President Katz, local elected officials and other stakeholders to continue to make streets safer — in Corona and all across the World’s Borough.

Polly Trottenberg is New York City Commissioner of Transportation.

Editor’s note: A follow-up story on Jan. 18 clarified the data to report that crashes have not gone up in the project area.

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