Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cooper Ave Underpass Project Expected to Begin in 2011

DOT Might Reverse 74th Street Traffic Flow

By Conor Greene

The Cooper Avenue underpass reconstruction project is expected to move forward early next year and will likely include reversing the traffic flow along part of 74th Street, according to the local community board.

Gary Giordano, district manager at Community Board 5, said recently that construction of the Cooper Avenue underpass has been pushed back from its expected start in September, likely to early 2011. Despite the delay, he expects the project to move forward eventually.

“We have every indication to believe the funding is secure,” said Giordano, adding that the project is expected to cost about $6 million. The project includes replacing the deteriorating panels above the retaining wall, which will also be shored up, according to Giordano. New sidewalks and curbing will be installed along Cooper Avenue from the vicinity of 74th Street to 79th Street.

However, nothing is planned regarding the two stairways, one of which has been closed off to pedestrians, added Giordano. He wasn’t sure if the city Department of Transportation is planning to install guardrails along the north side of Cooper Avenue, as the board requested “to better protect pedestrians, especially the school children, since its downhill and traffic moves much too quick there,” said Giordano.

“We’re the ones who originated the request for this project, and have been advocating for this project,” said Giordano. The city DOT didn’t respond to a message seeking additional information on the planned work.

As part of the project, the DOT is considering reversing the flow of traffic along 74th Street, which is currently one-way south, according to Giordano. “The DOT looked at various traffic situations there, and in doing that, they determined they would like 74th Street to become a one-way north, at least between 78th Avenue and Edsall Avenue,” he said. “I think their reasoning is that people are making left turns from Cooper Avenue onto 74th Street southbound, and they thought it would be safer to prohibit that.”

The change in traffic flow will impact parents and school buses dropping children at IS 119, noted Giordano. He said school officials weren’t “necessarily opposed to the idea of changing the direction of 74th Street.”

The DOT is also planning to add a bike lane in each direction and possibly widen the sidewalks, reducing the width of the traffic lanes, said Giordano. “That is not an easy mix [to accommodate] because our streets are pretty narrow,” he said.

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