The intersection where Flushing and Grand avenues meet 64th Street has been significantly altered as part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safe Routes for School Program.
According to the department, the changes were spurred by a study that found excessive truck and bus traffic, as well as speeding, in front of the St. Stanislaus Kostka School.
A one-way traffic street has been eliminated and replaced with a sidewalk, a traffic light has been removed and the patterns of the remaining signals have been altered, causing traffic snarls at the already congested spot, say some residents.
In addition to the congestion, the narrowing of the street forces buses like the Q59 and other large vehicles to make a left turn so narrow their wheels often rear up on the curb to accommodate the turn.
“It’s hideous,” said Maspeth resident Sandy, who chose not to reveal her last name. “The trucks go right up on the sidewalks.”
Sandy said she fears for the safety of her daughter who attends St. Stanislaus School.
“I’m so afraid of my daughter crossing the street there,” she said. “They should have kept it the way it was. It was much safer.”
According to Community Board 5 district manager Gary Giordano, the problem in the DOT’s plan lies in the fact that it was completed prior to the installation of the Maspeth Bypass against the board’s recommendation.
“Some of this is just planning issues from way back when there was a heck of a lot less traffic,” said Giordano.
Giordano added that Community Board 5 has been pressing the DOT for the bypass since 2001, but that seven years later the department has only hired a consultant.
He said he believes the DOT’s decision to change the traffic patterns at the site prior to the bypass was because DOT felt improving pedestrian safety there was a pressing need.
“Right or wrong they believed that the need to improve pedestrian safety at that location was important to accomplish quickly,” he said. “Their priority in this situation was pedestrian safety. That’s what caused this work to take place as quickly as it did. I’m just hoping that conditions aren’t being made more unsafe for pedestrians if you have traffic backup and angry motorists.”
Giordano said the potential hazard of the sharp turns caused by the new layout is a concern to him and that he is working with Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy to find a solution to widen the street.
In the meantime, Giordano feels signal timing improvements and the completion of construction at the site should ease congestion in the short term.
“Construction at this intersection is ongoing and will be completed in the next few weeks. Traffic delays are expected to abate after the construction is completed and motorists become familiar with the new traffic patterns,” said Nicole Garcia, a spokesperson for DOT.
Garcia said DOT would also be looking into the signal timing problem to improve traffic flow.