KENSINGTON – Last night at PS130, a couple dozen residents listened to the DOT present their solutions to what has been a longstanding issue – crossing Church Avenue where ocean Parkway becomes Prospect Expressway safely.
Of particular concern are the north-side crossings, especially the one where traffic turns from Church Avenue onto the Expressway, as residents navigate heavy trucks, buses and cars, and cars navigate each other. This has led to three pedestrian deaths in the last 10 years, and a good number of accidents.
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The distance to cross Ocean Parkway at this location is 190 feet – no small feat. A few residents asked why not close the crosswalk, but the DOT representatives assured them that their neighbors will find a way to cross anyway – the area is too densely populated, and the alternatives too time-consuming to make it a workable alternative.
A big concern for all is the heavy truck traffic turning from Church Avenue onto Expressway – some 20% of vehicles in the intersection – as both Church and Expressway are truck routes, but Ocean Parkway is not. On top of that, two express buses (BM3 and BM4) and one local bus (B103) make a right turn onto the Expressway from Church Avenue.
So the DOT staff looked to simplify the intersection, calm the turns onto the Expressway from Church Avenue, make crossing distances shorter and make sure not to cause too much congestion as the result of the measures, as, according to them, this particular intersection is already at capacity.
Since the last town hall in April, DOT repainted the crosswalk and discussed signage on Expressway with the State DOT. The proposed additional measures include more paint, signs and a bit of concrete work, but it does look like it may finally work for all involved – pedestrians, cars and trucks.
How is it accomplished? The proposal eliminates the left turn from westbound Church Avenue onto Ocean Parkway, and adds what they call a qwick kurb to prevent double right turns onto the Expressway, which seemed to be the cause of a lot of conflicts.
Councilmember Lander suggested that this would also be a great spot for automated enforcement of traffic rules – a camera – assuming the city gets authorized to use more of them. He said that while police officers have been occasionally issuing tickets, using them to police this intersection has not been a very effective way to enforce traffic rules.
DOT suggests expanding the service road concrete medians and adding protective bells to slow the right turning vehicles while protecting pedestrians. This would also shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, as the right line on northbound Prospect Expressway would narrow from 13-18 feet to 13 feet. (see image below)
On the southbound side service road will narrow by 8 feet, due to a painted curb extension which will serve to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians but also slow down cars and indicate they are entering a busy residential area.
DOT also says that they can increase the pedestrian-only walk signal lead time by 5 seconds to a total of 15 seconds without a significant impact on traffic flow.
In order to smooth traffic along, DOT is also proposing some changes at Church Avenue and East 7th Street intersection. They are planning to remove the painted-on striped island that currently separates the lanes, as part of aligning the traffic lanes with the new turn lanes at the crossing discussed above.
This gives the entire right lane to the express and local buses to pick up passengers without obstructing traffic. A neighbor suggested they move the local bus stop to the block between E7th and E8 and they were open to considering the idea, especially as B35 are double-length buses. Doing so would allow them more room to maneuver turns.
They also propose to shorten the pedestrian crossing at East 7th street through a painted curb extension. All of these proposals together will eliminate about 4 parking spots around the intersections, DOT estimates.
When asked whether they looked into improving the lighting situation at the intersection – which is currently lit for cars, not pedestrians – the DOT said they did not see an issue with lighting but it was not clear if they had actually looked into it or not as part of the project.
If the plan gets approved, construction and implementation of the above suggestions could start as early as Spring 2019.
Councilmember Brad Lander, and Assemblyman Robert Carroll were in attendance. We will keep you posted about what happens next.