City Plans 3-Lane West End Avenue: Major Changes at 97th and 95th Streets, But No One Is Addressing High Traffic Volume

DOT has proposed a very detailed plan to change West End Avenue, but one issue remains unsolved: what do we do with all this highway-related traffic volume? When we prevent a turn onto one neighborhood street, what other streets will pick up the slack?  No easy answers!

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Changes coming to West End Ave

The City Department of Transportation (DOT) has now unveiled its plan to change the street grid for West End Avenue to improve pedestrian safety. Some of the most impactful changes planned for right here in the West 90s, which has seen more than its share of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Speaking before the public meeting of the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee, with Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell present, DOT announced that West End Avenue from 70th to 107th Streets would become a three-lane road.  It would comprise one north and one south lane, with a center turn late except at two problematic intersections:

  • Northbound left turn lane on WEA eliminated at West 97th Street to create more room for traffic turning from 97th onto WEA southbound
  • Dedicated right turn lane on WEA northbound onto 96th
  • Southbound left turn lane on WEA eliminated at West 95th Street, with a median -using either a tree planter or art– to help pedestrians who can’t make it across
  • 95th Street between Riverside and West End would have a second “hump” midblock to slow down exiting highway traffic near PS 75.
  • 95th Street now will also have alternate side parking on the south side of the street instead of the present 8-6 ban weekdays.

The DOT has already created “delayed green” lights that give pedestrians a head start crossing West End Avenue at both 95th and 97th Streets. It also recently banned left turns from 7-9 AM from 95th Street onto northbound West End Avenue.

One feature of the three-lane West End would be extra wide parking lanes to accommodate the many passenger and freight drop-offs.

“By having one lane for each direction with a dedicated turn lane, it would avoid the disruptions of vehicles changing lanes,” DOT’s spokesperson told the assembled.  “It would mean that if the car in front of you is going slow, then too bad — you can’t change lanes to pass and you can’t speed up.”

“For any traffic plan to work, the City cannot treat West End or the side streets in the 90s as if they exist in a vacuum,” says Aaron Biller, President of Neighborhood In The Nineties. “We are concerned by the impact of previous plans that solve one issue while exacerbating others. Both 97th and 95th Streets are major highway feeds. If access to one street is denied, then we could overwhelm other streets such as Riverside Drive, Broadway and Amsterdam and other side streets”.

“Many of the accidents and tragedies might have been averted if we had not closed the 95th Street on-ramp from Riverside Drive onto the Henry Hudson.  Granted, the on-ramp was problematic, but closing it caused the dangerous congestion on West Avenue from 97th to 96th”.

“At the same time, the City, under Bloomberg, forced southbound Henry Hudson Parkway traffic to exit only onto 95th, which raised the volume of cars traveling on 95th, causing severe backups for several blocks on northbound West End Avenue.  Again, the changes that made the Henry Hudson on and off ramps safer, contributed to a more dangerous situation in the neighborhood for pedestrians”.

“More recently, the DOT blundered in its design of dedicated Broadway left lanes at 96th Street. Directing vehicles to turn into oncoming traffic was reckless”.

“All we ask of DOT is to think out of the traffic box.  If you eliminate a turn, it may be helpful to do a traffic survey and find out where vehicles need to go.  There have simply been too many times in the West 90s that the City makes decisions that do not give enough consideration to the impact of various and sundry traffic measures”.

“We ask that the City treat the neighborhood as an ecosystem that can be damaged when they solve one problem by creating another somewhere nearby.  Anything that they implement must be monitored for an extended time period with an eye toward reducing volume throughout the neighborhood, and to recognize and respond to measures which stress out our streets,” added Biller.

To view the traffic changes as mapped out by the DOT, visit http://helenrosenthal.com/how-can-we-make-our-streets-safer/

We encourage your input on the traffic issue.  Send a note to info@N90s.org.  Send your traffic ideas to City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, helen@helenrosenthal.com.

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