Nov. 15, 2016 By Domenick Rafter
The NYC Department of Transportation is planning public workshops focusing on the reconstruction of Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and Forest Hills, the third phase in a large redesign project for the busy corridor.
Vikram Sihna, Queens borough planner for the DOT, told Community Board 6 last week that the department would begin hosting public workshops to seek input in the redesign of the boulevard in the two communities. Sihna said no dates have been confirmed yet for the workshops, but that they would be several held in both Rego Park and Forest Hills.
The DOT has been implementing a massive design for the notorious “boulevard of death” through most of its length in Queens. The fixes include adding bikes lanes, pedestrian refuges and traffic calming elements, including better designed slip lanes between the center lanes and service lane.
The project is being done in three phases. The first, in Sunnyside and Woodside between Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street, was done in 2015. The second phase between 74th Street in Woodside and Eliot Avenue in Rego Park, including around Queens Center Mall and Queens Place, is being implemented this year. Sihna said the implementation was going smoothly, but the DOT was making changes along the way.
“We are making tweaks to the plan as needed,” he said, though he didn’t specifically identify what those changes were.
Phase Three will include the entire boulevard from Eliot Avenue to Union Turnpike, including at intersections where pedestrian fatalities have been a problem before, such as 63rd Drive and 71st Avenue. Though there is no specific time frame for when the work will be done in the third phase, at least one source said it would likely happen starting next summer depending on when the DOT’s finalizes plans.
The work is being done as part of an effort to improve safety along the notoriously dangerous strip as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. In the 1990s, the busy thoroughfare was dubbed the “boulevard of death” due to a string of fatal pedestrian strikes along the corridor. The city placed safety measures, including guardrails on medians to crack down on jaywalking and longer traffic signal times, which led to a drop in fatal incidents, but concerns lingered. The boulevard became an attractive route for bikers.
In 2008, Asif Rahman was killed after his was hit by a truck while riding his bike on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst and another biker, James Langergaard, was killed while riding his bike at Queens Boulevard and 69th Street in 2009.