March 6, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Queens Boulevard is set to undergo a major beautification project that will see a flourishing linear park along the median, changes to some slip lanes, and a Q60 bus line running through the median instead of the curb.
The proposal, part of the city’s $101 million Great Streets project, covers the area on Queens Boulevard from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street—the first phase. The project is a continuation of the Department of Transportation’s plan, introduced in 2015, that brought significant safety improvements along the once deadly boulevard.
For the project, the concrete median running along the roughly one mile stretch to 73rd Street will be ripped up and rebuilt to include a pedestrian walkway, greenery, street lamps, bicycle racks, benches, and other streetscape amenities.
The medians are currently between 10 to 13 feet wide, and feature a roughly five foot pedestrian walk space flush against it, followed by a five foot protected bike lane. Under the new plan, the median will be widened to between 15 to 18 feet to accommodate pedestrians. A five foot raised bike lane, however, will be flush directly against the new median.
In another major change, the Q60 bus stops, currently on the service roads, will be relocated to the median under the DOT’s current plan. Shelters with benches will also be installed at the medians for passengers. Most bus stops will simply be pushed to the median from their exact location at the curb, but some may be eliminated completely under the new plan.
In some areas, like the southern side of 65th Place, a bus-only pull in stop will be implemented, which would constrict that portion of the lane to the Q60 bus. A bus boarding island will also be created at the north side of 65th Place toward the median.
To further accommodate buses, a portion of the main road by 69th Street, which currently has channelized spaces, will be transformed into an extra lane for buses, only.
The DOT says approximately 40 parking spaces will be added curbside due to the Q60’s relocation to the median.
While most of the changes for this installment of the project focus on beautifying the median and moving the bus route to the middle, minor changes will come to the roadways. The slips, where drivers can change lanes to cross the medians, will be updated to improve visibility for drivers with new road markings. A new westbound slip lane will also be created between 73rd and 70th Streets.
Raised intersections will also be built on 60th Street in front of the Big Six, where the roadway there currently features a flat divider. The raised intersection is meant to improve pedestrian crossings and calm vehicular traffic. The intersection will also be outfitted with slopes, making it easier for the elderly, those using walkers, and wheelchair users to get onto it.
At 66th Street by the BQE entrance, the DOT plans on reconstructing the street surrounding the ramp to increase pedestrian access and to make it easier for cars to drive directly into the highway.
The DOT, which presented the project at last night’s CB2 Transportation Committee meeting, aims to improve access across and between neighborhoods, provide the boulevard with a park, make buses travel faster, and enhance livability for residents with their plan.
Construction work is expected to begin in 2019 for this phase. The Great Streets project as a whole, however, will move along the boulevard in phases, eventually reaching Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike in years to come.
“This is a very important milestone in the Queens Boulevard, Vision Zero, Great Streets project,” said Nicole Garcia, DOT Queens Borough Commissioner. “We are really going to create a beautiful boulevard that is worthy of the community and going to have the infrastructure to support the community for generations to come.”
Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee and chairperson of the board, was staunchly opposed to moving the bus route from curbside to the median.
“This was never brought up before,” Keehan-Smith said. “I have no time to think about it. What is this—seriously?”
Keehan-Smith was especially concerned for seniors, as they make up the majority of Q60 riders.
“Seniors primarily ride those buses,” Keehan-Smith said. “They can barely cross the street now, and if they have to wait in an intersection or median, there’s going to be a lot of confusion. I just see this as a disaster.”
Crossing to the bus stops, Keehan-Smith added, will be difficult during the winter, as snow tends to pile up and block the crosswalk.
Garcia said the DOT typically does not require community board approval to carry on with a capital project, and merely presents to provide the community with information on the project.
But Garcia said she will be bringing concerns about moving the bus stops to the DOT’s offices, and will return to the board with the agency’s response.
Jordan Levine, a member of CB2’s transportation committee, said relocating the bus stops is a bold move that requires discussion, but nonetheless presents exciting prospects.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to get better bus shelters and better bus service,” Levine said.
The chairperson ultimately demanded that the DOT meet directly with the communities along this one-mile path, and pressed for a community conversation to be held at the Big Six.
“Lets get the people who are going to be directly impacted by this in the room,” Keehan-Smith said.
For the full presentation, click here.