2012-06-20 / Features

2000

Queens Blvd. Safety Improvements Save Lives

t has long been known as the Boulevard of Death, and with good reason. Queens Boulevard, which runs from Crescent Street at the foot of the Queensboro (Edward I. Koch) Bridge in Long Island City through the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Elmhurst, Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Briarwood before terminating at Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, is one of the longest roads in Queens, and runs through some of Queens’ busiest areas. Much of the road is 12 lanes wide, and at its intersection with Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills, it reaches a high point of 16 lanes. In 1997, the high point of its notoriety, Queens Boulevard saw 18 pedestrian fatalities.

In May 2000, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz announced that the implementation of the first phase of safety improvements along the boulevard would begin in September of that same year. In the ensuing decade, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) has made extensive safety improvements along the wide and densely trafficked road, including installing pedestrian countdown signals on Queens Boulevard from 32nd Place to 56th Avenue; lowering the speed limit along the length of the boulevard from 35 miles per hour to 30 mph, the standard throughout most of the city; installing 15 electronic boards displaying the speed of passing motorists; adding eight red-light cameras at various points along the boulevard during the past 10 years, cutting down on jaywalking by installing 46,000 linear feet of pedestrian fencing along the entire corridor; enhancing safety for pedestrians crossing at 52nd, 54th, and 56th Streets and 51st, 55th, 56th and 57th Avenues by installing median tip extensions with concrete protection barriers; installing high-visibility crosswalks at several locations between Van Dam Street and Roosevelt Avenue; reducing the number of lanes pedestrians must cross at many locations; reciting traffic signals so pedestrians have a head start in crosswalks; providing safe pedestrian spaces by closing cross streets at 33rd and 40th Streets; providing more pedestrian crossing time by upgrading signs and modifying signals; installing safety signs alerting pedestrians to particularly challenging crossings, and, with the city Department of Design and Construction, redesigning the boulevard’s intersection with Union Turnpike.

These efforts have paid off. Since 2004, only one or two such fatalities happened in a year and in 2011, for the first time since 1983, the first year that detailed records of fatalities were kept, no pedestrian fatalities occurred along the one-time “Boulevard of Broken Bones”.

—Linda J. Wilson

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