May 11, By Jason Cohen
The Department of Transportation’s plan to overhaul Queens Boulevard between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard was approved by Community Board 6 last night.
The revamp will bring protected bike lanes, stop-controlled slip lanes, median tip extensions and expanded pedestrian space to the 1.3 mile stretch. With last night’s approval, construction will begin next month.
Other important aspects of the project include the removal of all 198 parking spaces along the service road medians between Eliot Ave. and Yellowstone Blvd; curbside metering will end at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. between 62nd Dr. and 64th Ave.; the removal of meters on the south curb between 67th Dr. and Yellowstone Blvd; and the resurfacing of Queens Blvd. between 65th Rd. and Yellowstone Blvd.
This project represents the beginning of phase three of the mayor’s $100 million goal to redesign the entire 7-mile thoroughfare, long known as the ‘Boulevard of Death.’ Phase one and two covered Queens Boulevard—from Sunnyside through Elmhurst–and were implemented in 2015 and 2016. Officials claim those changes have already saved lives.
“We have had two of the safest years on Queens Boulevard since the city started keeping records,” a DOT spokesman said. “There have not been any fatalities on Queens Boulevard since this work began. In fact, there were no fatalities on the entire corridor in 2015, 2016 or as of today in 2017.”
The stretch from Eliot Ave through Yellowstone Blvd has a long history of being dangerous. According to the DOT, from 2010 to 2014, there were 458 injuries, 99 involving pedestrians. Moreover, since 2010, 38 people have been killed or injured at the intersection of 63rd Rd. and 63rd Dr., a notoriously dangerous spot.
The effort to redesign this 1.3 mile stretch began in December when residents were given the opportunity to attend community workshops and say what they would like to see be changed.
They sought the continuation of protected bike lanes east of Eliot Ave. In addition, they wanted the DOT to address the problem of turning vehicles failing to yield to pedestrians.
Ultimately, the DOT says, the goal with Phase 3 is to reduce speeding, expand the pedestrian network, shorten crossing distances, reduce the dangers for bicyclists, tighten wide intersections and make it safer at 63rd Dr. and 63rd Rd.
Transportation Alternatives, an organization that aims to improve traffic safety, announced that it is pleased with the changes—particularly the addition of the protected bike lanes.
Juan Restrepo, the Queens organizer of Transportation Alternatives, claimed that protected bike lanes save lives. He said they may have prevented the death of people such as Asif Rahman, 22, who was killed in 2008 at the intersection of Queens Blvd and 55th Rd. after being struck by a truck while he was trying to avoid a double-parked car.