Thursday, December 4, 2008

Conditions Worsening at Grand Ave Project

Juniper Civic Wants Truck Bypass Implemented

By Conor Greene

The dangerous conditions along Grand Avenue in Maspeth continue due to construction of a city project intended to make the area safer for pedestrians, including school children, according to the Juniper Park Civic Association.

As previously reported, the city Department of Transportation has begun a project under its Safe Routes to School Program to combine two triangles at Grand and Flushing avenues into one larger green area. However, construction has caused traffic to back up along the avenue, a situation the JPCA says is acerbated by the city’s refusal to first the Truck Bypass Plan. Under that plan, truck traffic would be rerouted to Rust Street.

This week, the civic association issued a press release detailing damage caused during construction, including a lamppost that was knocked over after being struck several times by passing vehicles. On December 2, a truck ran over the crushed lamppost, which way lying on the ground and apparently had exposed live wires. As a result, the traffic signal at the intersection lost power, causing a huge traffic backup.

“The DOT needs to divert trucks off Grand Avenue immediately before someone gets hurt or killed at that corner,” said JPCA Secretary Christina Wilkinson in the release. “The DOT and CB 5 were sent photos after each stage of the destruction of the lamppost, but no corrective action has been taken.”

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the DOT said the project is expected to improve safety in the long run. “Safety measures around schools are a top priority and the construction is part of those efforts,” said Nicole Garcia. “Construction will end in the coming weeks, and we expect there to be an adjustment period as motorists get used to the new traffic pattern, which we believe will improve safety.” She added that variable message signs have been posted to alert trucks to the construction.

However, regarding the Truck Bypass Plan, Garcia said that the department continues “to make progress on the plans to implement a truck bypass plan at a later date.” Permanent signs redirecting trucks will not be installed until improvements are made to the Maurice Avenue interchange, which would be the new route. The DOT is currently assigning this interchange study to a designer.

Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, stressed that the group is not against the Safe Routes to School Program, but instead felt that the truck bypass plan should have first been implemented. “By not planning properly, DOT is turning what was a traffic headache into a nightmare,” he said.

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