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Local News December 7, 2012  RSS feed

MASPETH BYPASS GOES EXTRA MILE

DOT Eyes Truck Route Map Changes
by Robert Pozarycki

With the Maspeth truck bypass helping to reduce through truck traffic on local shopping strips, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) is gearing up to move even further by changing truck routes through the neighborhood a second time, representatives of the agency told members of Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees last Tuesday night, Nov. 27.

Maura McCarthy, the DOT’s Queens borough commissioner, told the panels at the board’s Glendale office that, while implementing the truck bypass route through industrial portions of Maspeth was “a little painful at the beginning,” she believes the plan is “an improvement” for the entire neighborhood.

Enacted last year, the Maspeth truck bypass route—long campaigned for by civic leaders—diverts trucks traveling through Maspeth between Brooklyn and Long Island into industrial areas of the community via Page Place, Maspeth and Maurice av- enues and 58th Street. This route was designed so trucks would avoid using Grand and Flushing avenues, which run through residential and retail areas, in order to travel to and from the Long Island Expressway.

With the plan in place and working, the DOT’s Stacey Hodge noted that the agency is moving forward with plans to take Grand and Flushing avenues between the Brooklyn/ Queens border and the Long Island Expressway completely off the city truck route network. Next year, the agency will hold public hearings about the idea to designate the Maspeth bypass route as the only truck route through the community.

Grand and Flushing avenues are currently listed as local truck routes, meaning that only trucks making deliveries in Queens can travel on each segment. If both segments of Grand and Flushing avenues are off the truck route network, only rigs making deliveries in the immediate area would be permitted to travel both roadways.

Additionally, Fresh Pond Road between Flushing and Metropolitan avenues would also need to be taken off the truck route network since Fresh Pond Road does not connect to the bypass route, Hodge added.

While the idea was met with favor by the committee members, there were some concerns about the plan. Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri wondered about the impact the change would have on businesses near the section of Fresh Pond Road. He was also concerned about how traffic would move through the area once the planned reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue/Fresh Pond Road bridge above the Long Island Rail Road tracks.

“If you’re taking local truck routes out of the mix, they’re not going to go there,” Arcuri said. “When this starts backing up, in the worst case, they’ll go to Flushing Avenue.”

McCarthy stated that the DOT, in addition to public hearings, may also reach out to area businesses about the truck route plans in much the same way they did when formulating the Maspeth bypass.

Before the truck route changes are considered, the DOT has also “re-engaged with” the state Department of Transportation regarding the installation of large signs on the westbound Long Island Expressway directing trucks heading to Maspeth to exit at Maurice Avenue and follow the bypass. The state agency is considering installing the large overhead signs on pedestrian bridges over the expressway near Maspeth’s Frank Principe (Maurice) Park and Lefrak City in Corona.

As for the route itself, Arcuri also asked McCarthy if the DOT would take action to alleviate the doubleparking of trucks along 55th Drive between Maurice Avenue and 58th Street. McCarthy stated that since trucks are not using the designated loading zone on Borden Avenue, the DOT may shift that over to 58th Street to get some of the trucks off 55th Drive.

Bypass improves the flow

The Maspeth truck bypass runs along Page Place and Maspeth Avenue to the “five-leg intersection” where Maspeth Avenue, Maurice Avenue, 57th Place, 57th Terrace and 58th Street converge. In order to eliminate dangerous turning conflicts, Hodge noted, the complex construction of the intersection was streamlined by the DOT to divert northbound traffic to Maurice Avenue and southbound traffic to 58th Street.

Both Maurice Avenue and 58th Street were converted from two-way roads to one-way streets north and south, respectively, between the fiveleg intersection and 55th Drive.

DOT representatives at last Tuesday’s meeting showed videos of the five-leg intersection “before and after” the improvements were made to show the changes in the flow of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic during the morning rush hour. In its former configuration, there were many near-misses between cars, trucks and individuals due to different turning maneuvers.

As Hodge noted, vehicles now moves more smoothly through the streamlined intersection, as many of the conflicting turn movements were eliminated.

Regarding the main goal of the bypass route, Hodge explained, the DOT determined through follow up studies that truck traffic has dropped by 20 percent along Grand Avenue. Meanwhile, truck traffic along the bypass routes of Maurice Avenue and 58th Street have increased by 32 percent for the year.

Luigi Casinelli of HDR, the design firm which the DOT contracted to help form the bypass plan, reviewed studies of traffic both along the route and Grand Avenue in both directions during the morning and afternoon rush hours as well as midday. In the morning, for example, while travel along Grand Avenue westbound to Brooklyn was faster than along the bypass, drivers only saved about 90 seconds of travel time.

“Just to give you an idea, a cycle length at an intersection is 30 seconds,” Casinelli said. It’s not tremendous. It’s not a huge savings to use Grand Avenue rather than the bypass route.”

Heading in the other direction to the Long Island Expressway from the Brooklyn/Queens border, Casinelli stated, the bypass route was about three minutes faster than using Grand Avenue.

Complementing the bypass route has been a series of truck enforcement operations conducted jointly by the DOT and the NYPD along Grand Avenue, Hodge added. In addition to stopping trucks traveling on the artery and issuing tickets for various violations, she noted, officers informed drivers about the bypass and advised them to use it next time they travel through the neighborhood.

Project updates

District Manager Gary Giordano relayed an update provided to him by the MTA’s Joe Raskin regarding the station renewal projects along the M line in Ridgewood and Bushwick.

As of last Tuesday, 45 new steel beams were installed at the Seneca Avenue station in Ridgewood “with another 20 to go,” Giordano said. Crews have also replaced 225 feet of platform edges and 300 sq. feet of concrete under the station’s platform. Canopy improvements were also made.

John Maier, co-chair of the Public Transit Committee, added that he observed the “only real evidence” of improvements made along the M line to date have been at the Knickerbocker Avenue station, which remains closed through early next year.

Giordano stated that the MTA wants to have representatives attend a future Board 5 Transit committee meeting to further explain its plans for the Fresh Pond Road station. Arcuri indicated that the authority would be invited to attend the January session.

Sandy’s damage & freight rails

Arcuri and Mary Parisen, co-chair of Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), noted that local freight lines are being used by companies to ship out debris from homes and businesses in the Rockaways which were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

The board chairperson claimed that contractors are removing the debris from the temporary landfill set up in the parking lot of Jacob Riis Park and shipping it to facilities based in Long Island. From there, the debris is sorted and then placed into rail containers, which are then sent eastward to the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale for eventual movement out of the city.

Many of the container cars are open, with only a thin netting covering the top layer of debris within, Arcuri said.

“We get the dust, debris, the fumes,” he stated.

“With all this C and D (construction and demolition) debris ... and those C and D cars being uncovered” with a thin netting, “it’s becoming more and more of a health issue,” Giordano added.

With billions of dollars in federal aid expected to come to New York State to cover repairs and recovery efforts, Parisen noted that this may present an opportunity to find resources to upgrade the locomotives being used to ship out debris.

Arcuri added that the board should also draft a letter to lawmakers in Albany asking about the potential use of “intermodal funds” being held in reserve for decades toward the use of purchasing cleaner and more fuel-efficient diesel engines for area freight lines.

Traffic safety requests

Georgianna Cooke of the Middle Village Meadows condominium again asked the committees to request installing speed bumps along Mount Olivet Crescent between Eliot and Metropolitan avenues and to institute parking restrictions in front of the condo building, where a preschool is also housed.

Hilary Gietz of the DOT noted that the speed bumps for Mount Olivet Crescent have been approved, but the agency is “waiting for resources to be made available” in order to install them. She added that the board will also need to send a letter to the DOT requesting the parking restrictions in front of the condominium.

The committee also recommended approval of the conversion of 70th Street between Calamus and 54th avenues in Maspeth from a twoway road to a one-way street for northbound traffic. They also asked the DOT to install no standing regulations (daylighting) at the northeast corner of 65th Street at Otto Road in Glendale.

Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees will not meet in December. Their next meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at Board 5’s Glendale office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave.

For more information, call Board 5 at 1-718-366-1834.