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Queens Chronicle

SBS critics: Plan as bad as advertised

Residents rip layout, safety precautions as Woodhaven/Cross Bay work continues

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Posted: Thursday, October 5, 2017 10:30 am

Construction to accommodate Select Bus Service at the confluence of Cross Bay Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue will not be complete until next month.

But residents and civic leaders are already saying things appear to be as bad, if not worse, then they have feared.

“This,” said a grim-voiced Vance Barbour of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, “is our ‘I told you so.’”

When completed, what was three travel lanes and a service road headed northbound will become two; bus stops along the curb will be moved across the service road to a median; the travel lane adjacent to the median will become a 24/7 bus lane; and the left turn from northbound Cross Bay to Rockaway Boulevard will be eliminated, along with the turning lane, forcing cars — and trucks — to take more roundabout routes.

Bus stops already are being installed on islands on the southbound side, with machines selling SBS tickets not far behind.

Residents long have complained that the intersection forms a bottleneck during rush hour, backing traffic up for blocks.

The city’s Department of Transportation has asserted that reducing the number of lanes will improve traffic by helping create a more uniform traffic pattern along the entire corridor.

A more uniform lane configuration, along with the elimination of some left turns such as the one at Rockaway Boulevard, are designed to reduce the amount of lane merging that is said to be responsible for a great deal of congestion.

The construction is nearing completion, even over the constant and strenuous objections of residents and community leaders such as state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven)

“Nothing makes sense,” Howard Beach Resident Joseph Cerbone told the Chronicle. “We didn’t OK any of this ... They did just what they wanted to do. It was nightmare and they’re making it worse.”

Barbour appreciates the need to rein in traffic where three major roads come together. But he said the coming layout — particularly when buses are operating regularly at stops on the new traffic islands — is asking for trouble.

“They’re taking away road space, putting in islands and redirecting traffic,” he said.

Barbour and the DOT differ over just why the bus lanes in that section of the corridor will be enforced 24 hours a day, as opposed to peak hours only as elsewhere in the corridor.

The DOT, in response to a series of 10 questions emailed by the Chronicle, said that 24/7 enforcement will be along the entire corridor for so-called offset bus lanes, or ones that are not adjacent to the curb, where enforcement will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Barbour and some officials suspect an entirely different reason.

“Because we’re the community that fought back,” he said.

A number of bus routes traverse the corridor, including the Q7, Q11, Q21, Q41, and both the Q52 and Q53 Limited.

Informal visits by the Chronicle during two consecutive morning rush hours also spotted buses from the BM5, QM15 and QM17 routes. There also were an ample number of school buses.

Cerbone and Barbour both pointed out that school children using public transportation in the neighborhood soon will be forced to cross service roads and in some cases Liberty Avenue to catch their buses.

“Kids are going to run out into the service road,” Cerbone said. “Someone’s going to get killed ... I know you have to have the buses. But there has to be some other way.”

The DOT said that it is working with the NYPD when asked about the need to add crossing guards and at least temporarily increase police presence near the intersection. The department also said lengthening the islands to accommodate larger articulated buses for the Q52/53 SBS routes will ease bottlenecks.

The plan calls for southbound SBS, local and express bus service to pick up and discharge passengers on a roughly triangular island stretching from Rockaway Boulevard to the railroad overpass above Liberty.

Northbound SBS stops will be south of the railroad, with local and express stops running from the southern edge of the blocked-off Liberty Avenue to the southern corners of Rockaway Boulevard.

Barbour contends that with enough traffic, and enough buses arriving at just the wrong time, the buses could almost totally block off northbound travel lanes, making worse the bottlenecks that the DOT is trying to alleviate, and may make drivers attempt dangerous passing moves.

The DOT said the cost of redoing the entire corridor will be about $10 million. Northbound truck drivers no longer able to turn left at Rockaway Boulevard are being referred to suggested truck routes on the DOT’s website at nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/trucks.shtml#routes.

Barbour also said some of the construction is actually undoing work done at the intersection only a few months ago. Jose Rios of Ozone Park, who lives on 95th Street just east of the intersection did not disagree, nor was he terribly surprised.

He was walking across Cross Bay last Thursday where Liberty Avenue used to be a through street before Jersey barriers were put in place to permanently cut Liberty in two for drivers.

“You used to be able to drive straight through,” Rios said. “Now if I drive, I have to turn right and go down four blocks ... [The city] should have left it the way it was.”

And Rios’ thoughts on the construction going on in front of him last week? He thinks the DOT has lost the benefit of the doubt.

“It’s gonna be a waste.”

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Toby Sheppard Bloch posted at 7:30 pm on Fri, Oct 6, 2017.

    Toby Sheppard Bloch Posts: 12

    DOT held nearly 20 meetings over a course of years, and made significant changes to the plans based on feedback from the community.

    The project is under construction right now which is obviously causing disruption. Judging the results before it's operational is foolish.

    The tens of thousands of people that ride the bus on Woodhaven deserve--and are getting--better service and more capacity.

    At the same time, overall travel times will decrease and motor vehicle occupants will be safer.

  • pvaldezriverajr posted at 7:09 pm on Fri, Oct 6, 2017.

    pvaldezriverajr Posts: 292

    Phase One through short-term operational implementation - Will be going to happen; Phase Two through long-term capital project - Will not going to happen due to the Trump administration. [angry]

  • Eugene posted at 3:04 pm on Thu, Oct 5, 2017.

    Eugene Posts: 46

    It amazes me how you just don't understand the Department of non-Transportation.

    Cars are evil according to the administration, so anything that slows them down is good.

  • VBarbour posted at 2:49 pm on Thu, Oct 5, 2017.

    VBarbour Posts: 50

    It should also be noted that the bus stop "cutouts" provided by the DOT barely allows for one of the expected articulated buses to fit (assuming federal funding comes through). That does not take into account that three bus lines are expected to use that on cutout at the same time. Articulated buses for the Q52 Limited, Q53 Limited and the QM15. If any of the timing is slightly off (which happens regularly) buses will be backed up in the Bus Only lane waiting to pick up or off-board passengers. Or worse, clog up one of only two remaining lanes available for cars in the through lanes.