The Department of Transportation is proposing to ban motorists on Woodhaven Boulevard from turning left onto Jamaica Avenue, directing them onto residential streets if they wish to access the commercial corridor — as part of the Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus service plan.
The move is opposed by transportation advocates, who say taking away taking away left turns, in either direction, would pose a safety hazard for those living on the streets that will have cars driving by them.
“You’re going to have trucks and tractor trailers and all these big vehicles going down these streets,” Kenichi Wilson, Community Board 9’s Transportation Committee chairman, said. “You’re going to have much larger commercial vehicles and more volume.”
The DOT’s proposal to eliminate that left turns would require drivers going southbound on the corridor to divert to 86th Road and northbound motorists to use 85th Road. Several other left turns might also be banned as part of the agency’s plan to have a dedicated bus lane run down the 14-mile corridor, including at Rockaway Boulevard.
Wilson, who lives on Woodhaven Boulevard, is worried about the increased volume of large vehicles that would go down the residential streets.
“You’re going to have much larger commercial vehicles and more volume,” he said.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said the proposal would also hurt the businesses on Jamaica Avenue, because motorists might be less likely to take the side routes to the avenue.
A DOT spokesman said in an email, “NYC DOT is proposing to ban the left turns from Woodhaven Boulevard to Jamaica Avenue to address safety issues.”
“Between 2009 and 2014, there were 3 pedestrian fatalities and 162 reported injuries at the intersection alone and improving safety has been identified as an important community concern,” the spokesman added.
The plan to eliminate left turns onto the business corridor was made known to the public during the DOT’s first public workshop on the SBS proposal last Thursday.
Allan Rosen, a retired director of bus planning for the MTA’s New York City Transit and a transit blogger, blasted the decision to redirect drivers down residential streets.
“It’s a horrible idea,” he said.
Rosen wrote an op-ed in the Queens Chronicle last week, in which he outlined what he considers proponents’ myths about the SBS proposal. He echoed those concerns in an interview with a reporter.
“It’s not a horribly dangerous road,” he said of the idea that Woodhaven Boulevard is one of the most dangerous corridors in the city.
Phil McManus, a Rockaway resident and president of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said the DOT’s plan is “going to hurt more people.”
McManus added the SBS lane would be a detriment to people’s commute and that the time and energy put into developing it should be devoted to restoring the Rockaway Beach rail line, a decommissioned branch that connected South Queens with the rest of the borough.
Wilson said although the corridor needs improvement, much of the SBS proposal is “extremely flawed.”
He added that he plans on attending future workshops on it and that he hopes the DOT will take the community’s suggestions to heart.