Board votes in favor of DOT changes on Fourth Ave
by Josh Brewer
Jul 17, 2013 | 1184 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A proposal by the Department of Transportation to improve driving lanes, crosswalks, and pedestrian medians along 4th Avenue passed Community Board 6 last week by a 21-3 vote.

The plan calls for two, 11-foot driving lanes as opposed to the current three, 10-foot driving lanes. The parking lane, which is currently 18-feet wide, would be decreased to 13 feet.

“The safety plan creates wide medians, giving a greater safety zone for pedestrians, including the young, the old, and the disabled,” said SJ Avery, co-chair of Forth on Fourth Avenue, a committee of the Park Slope Civic Council. “It makes intersections safer for divers as well.”

The two moving lanes would help organize traffic, have longer and wider turn bays, keep double-parked vehicles out of the moving lanes, and provide more space for parking and bicyclists, according to the DOT.

The section starting at Carroll Street going northbound will retain three lanes that the DOT hopes will calm traffic and add two blocks of storage.

The plan will also prohibit left-hand turns on six side streets, although the original plan called for eight turn bans. Butler and Degraw Streets which were originally planned to have left turn bans northbound will be retained, but Dean, 3rd, 9th, and 14th streets will have bans in the southbound direction, and 8th and 13th streets will have bans northbound.

"We understand that maybe eight was too many," said DOT project manager Jesse Mintz-Roth.

Fifth Street will feature painted curb extensions on the southeast corner and will have two new speed humps.

Currently, several medians are only two-feet wide. The plan calls for a six-foot wide pedestrian safety area, as well as a widened median and four-foot painted buffer. On streets where left turns will be banned, new medians will be at least 15-feet wide. The plan also calls for a 19-foot-wide pedestrian safety area at 3rd Street.

Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street will feature a new pedestrian island with trees and plants, while a curb extension will shorten pedestrian crossings and reduce lane changes, according to the DOT.

The plan was met with little resistance from the board and the public. Nine people spoke in favor of the plan, while four spoke against it.

“Some who urged voting down the whole safety plan said they had to do so to ‘make a statement’ or ‘make sure their interests were heard,’” Avery said. “We think that’s like destroying the village to save it.”

Work on the busy avenue will begin in August. The board also requested that next year the DOT present the impact of the changes, enhancements of medians, and new traffic caused by the opening of Whole Foods on 3rd Avenue.

“We are working hard to change perceptions about Fourth Avenue and making it safer is a critical part of that effort,” said Avery.

“Trying to cross Fourth Avenue was an unbelievably scary experience,” said 75-year-old Gene Aronowtiz, who has severe arthritis in both knees. “I feel significantly safer. I'm not a traffic engineer, I can't explain the change in technical terms, but I can in emotional terms and visceral terms: I'm no longer as afraid as I was before.”

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