DOT Introduces Safety Measures at Dangerous West Side Intersection

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By Dan Rivoli

The has released a plan to make the dangerous West 71st Street-Broadway-Amsterdam Avenue intersection safer.

The proposal calls for adding pedestrian areas next to curbs that will shorten walking distance, add more spots to cross and slow cars making turns.

The safety measures were introduced after Borough President and Assembly Member pressed the department in August to alter the three-way intersection. Stringer and Rosenthal said the intersection has been considered dangerous for years and that safety improvements need to be made soon.

“With this plan, they are addressing the problems that exist in that area,” Rosenthal said. “It’s going to mean a lot to residents in this neighborhood.”

In the Department of Transportation report, the intersection ranked in the 94th percentile for pedestrian crashes in Manhattan and 88th percentile for bicycle injuries in the borough between 2004 and 2008.

In addition to adding pedestrian areas, the department’s proposal calls for changing the street design. A southbound Broadway lane and a northbound Amsterdam Avenue lane would be removed if the plan was implemented. Broadway would also get a left-turn bay near West 70th Street.

The Upper West Side community board’s transportation committee saw the presentation and its members will submit comments before voting on an advisory opinion, said committee co-chair Andrew Albert.

Clarification is needed, Albert said, especially for parts of the proposal that may affect bus clearance and traffic congestion on Broadway.

The added pedestrian areas and removal of a traffic lane are expected to cause brief delays on Broadway—an increase in 18 seconds for southbound drivers and an increase of 8 seconds for northbound drivers.

“That could have ramifications so you have to look at everything,” Albert said. “But the Department of Transportation promised they would.”

A finalized safety design is planned for the end of fall this year. In spring 2011, the department plans to install “operational” enhancements using temporary material such as paint. A permanent installation of these safety measures, which includes use of concrete, is planned for late 2011.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Batya Lewton, vice-president of Coalition for a Livable West Side, a community group. “But a little more has to be done and it has to be done before 2011.”

Though Lewton and other transportation advocates have been clamoring for swift changes, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said the year-long implementation is due to the intersection being on top of a major subway line with multiple utilities. That location affects when certain aspects of implementation can proceed, such as relocating signal poles.

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