Thursday, November 6, 2008

Civic Concerned about Traffic on Grand Ave


By Conor Greene

A project to combine two triangles on Grand Avenue into a larger green space has caused traffic nightmares because the city refused to first implement a plan to reduce the amount of truck traffic along the busy stretch, according to a local civic group.

As part of the city’s Safe Streets to School program, two small triangles at the intersection of Grand and Flushing avenues at 64th Street are being combined. The project is intended to provide local school children heading to St. Stanislaus Kostka elementary school with safer crossings and create additional buffers between pedestrians and vehicles.

While the Juniper Park Civic Association doesn’t object with that effort, its executive board is not happy that this project is underway while the Maspeth Truck Bypass Plan has remained stalled for several years. Under that proposal, trucks heading towards Brooklyn would be routed through west Maspeth to reach the expressway, instead of using Grand Avenue.

On October 19, the civic organization sent a letter to the city Department of Transportation expressing concerns about the triangle reconfiguration moving forward before the Truck Bypass Plan is finalized. “We believe that this will cause the traffic backup to become more of a problem down Grand Avenue,” the civic wrote. “Sr. Rose, the principal of St. Stan’s, is opposed to this reconfiguration because the trucks are already spewing toxic air into the windows of the school.”

Several days later, the group Transportation Alternatives wrote to DOT’s Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy asking the department to reroute trucks off Grand Avenue so as to not “significantly impair the benefits of the Safe Streets to School program for St. Stanislaus… We want every Safe Streets to School project to succeed in every community and it would be a shame if it didn’t in Maspeth because of the through truck route,” wrote the group’s executive director, Paul Steely White.

A segment of the avenue between the two triangles was first closed to traffic two weeks ago, according to the JPCA. Since then, traffic jams have occurred, causing trucks to sit idling in front of the school. At times, traffic has backed up as far as the entrance to Mount Olivet Cemetery, nearly three blocks to the east.

Tony Nunziato, a JPCA executive member and chairman of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force has been one of the community members working for several years to have the Truck Bypass Plan implemented. “I have been stating since I first learned about the triangle reconfiguration several months ago that if the Bypass Plan wasn’t implemented before this construction, traffic would get worse and not better,” he said. “Unfortunately, I was right.”

Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, stressed that the group is “definitely in favor of the reconfiguration of this intersection,” but not without the bypass plan. “By not planning properly, DOT is turning what was a traffic headache into a nightmare,” he said.

The city DOT did not respond to several messages seeking comment on the civic organization’s concerns and the status of the Truck Bypass Plan. McCarthy said previously that there still are additional studies that must be completed before the bypass plan is implemented.

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