Aug. 8, 2023 By Bill Parry
Long-known as the borough’s other “Boulevard of Death,” the city Department of Transportation announced on Aug. 8 the substantial completion of a bus priority project along Northern Boulevard, a five-mile long stretch from Woodside to Corona, making it the longest bus lane installation in the five boroughs DOT is delivering this year.
The project began last November weeks after safe streets and transit advocates urged the Adams administration to fix Northern Boulevard after the city prioritized the transformation of Queens Boulevard during the previous administration.
“The thousands of New Yorkers who commute on Northern Boulevard will not only have faster and more reliable bus service, but they will have a safer experience when walking and crossing the corridor,” NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said. “Projects like this help us make progress on our Vision Zero goals. We understand that bus infrastructure is a necessity; that is why we will continue collaborating with the MTA and our community partners as we tackle more of these important projects.”
The project has not impeded curbside usage such as commercial deliveries and outdoor dining.
In addition to street safety improvements along the corridor, the improved design assists five bus routes – the Q66, QM2, QM3, QM20, and QM32 – and connects to the M, R, subway lines at Broadway and Northern Boulevard.
“Bus lanes are essential, and they work. The completion of this project means 17,000 daily bus customers will benefit from faster, safer, and more reliable bus service on a critical corridor,” said NYC Transit President Richard Davey. “The completion of the Northern Boulevard bus corridor will improve service in Queens, which is the most bus-reliant borough in our city. We look forward to building on the success of Northern Boulevard and working with City partners to deliver more bus lanes throughout the five boroughs.”
The project came about through a robust public engagement process with dozens of stakeholders and community groups over the last five years. NYC DOT hosted an online feedback portal as well as conducted surveys at on-street pop-up sites, building on years of public outreach for safety improvements. NYC DOT also held three public workshops in 2018 to understand the community’s safety and mobility concerns and help guide a vision for a future Great Streets capital project on Northern Boulevard.
The capital project includes funding from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Councilman Francisco Moya. In February 2020, NYC DOT and state Senator Ramos solicited feedback from businesses on Northern Boulevard.
“I’m thrilled to see the Northern Boulevard bus priority project completed, so that the thousands of community members who rely on it, from Woodside to Corona, can have a better and faster commuting experience,” Richards said. “Buses are a critical way for Queens residents to move around the borough, and we’re committed to working alongside NYC DOT and all our city partners to speed up travel times, reduce traffic on our roads and make streets safe. I thank everyone involved in this project for making this happen.”
Before starting work in November 2022, NYC DOT presented to Queens Community Board 3 in June 2022. Community Boards 1 and 2 received presentations in May 2023 before work in their districts started. From the years of community engagement, numerous safety and mobility concerns were brought to the attention of the DOT.
The agency responded with a series of projects to address these concerns. To improve safety, the community wanted to reduce pedestrian-vehicular conflicts and shorten crossing distances. For transit, the community wanted faster, more reliable service, as well as better connections to local transit and bus service.
“Queens commuters need fast, affordable, reliable bus service and bus priority lanes like Northern Boulevard are crucial to delivering on that goal,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “I look forward to the completion of this project and expanding this effort even further across our community.”
The new bus lanes on Northern Boulevard are an example of how the DOT employs bus priority measures to improve travel times and reliability for passengers. Additionally, the offset bus lane design preserves curbside uses like parking, commercial loading, and outdoor dining, and promotes safety through traffic calming and pedestrian neckdowns.
“New Yorkers need better buses. With the Northern Boulevard bus lane project, more than 17,000 riders now have access to faster, more reliable, and more efficient bus service each day,” Transportation Alternatives Queens Organizer Laura Shepard said. “Putting bus riders first on our streets is key to making our transportation system more equitable and making New York city more accessible. Thank you, Commissioner Rodriguez, for prioritizing bus riders in Queens and we look forward to the opening of more bus priority projects in all five boroughs.”