Community Board 10 and residents vehemently oppose DOT plans road diets and bus bulb

CM Mark Gjonaj opposes the planned road diets and bus bulb.
Screenshot from meeting

At the request of Community Board 10, a special meeting was held Wednesday night, where the Department of Transportation (DOT) presented its plans to construct road diets and bus bulbs in Throggs Neck.

Residents and the board were angry and the majority opposed these plans; however it did not matter, as the DOT said it is going ahead with the work in a few weeks. The proposals come after a man was injured in 2019 at East Tremont and Milton Avenues and a woman was killed in 2018 on East Tremont Avenue.

The ones that were in favor read a statement thanking the DOT and the board thanking them for addressing the concerns on East Tremont Ave.

Bronx Borough DOT Commissioner Nivardo Lopez listened to their concerns but stressed that the agency would be going forward with the projects. He said that these features are used in other locations and usually benefit the community.

“This is not controversial,” Lopez said. “Road diets are okay. We have data that shows this was needed.”

Bus Bulb

Currently, the bus stops under the EL at Westchester Avenue and St. Peters Avenue. Bus bulbs, according to DOT, will help passengers safely board the bus under the subway tracks at Westchester Avenue. The issue with bus stops under the EL is that the stop is located in the roadway, creating vehicle and bus rider conflicts, accessibility issues for bus riders and poor accessibility to the sidewalk.

Issues with the current bus stop Courtesy of NYC DOT

According to DOT, the bus bulb will address unsafe waiting conditions, allow for level boarding for those with mobility impairments, will provide painted protected pedestrian space and better organizes traffic and creates more predictability for vehicles, pedestrians and transit riders.

Board members Hannah Acampora and Irene Guanill objected to the bus bulb. Acampora said with numerous businesses, cabs and nearby apartment buildings, losing 10 parking spots is not ideal.

“Were there any conversations about changing the laws, for example no passing buses in motion on the right?” Guanill said. “If so, would that be a less expensive option and resolve the same problem?”

Lopez said that he understood no one wanted to lose parking spots, but safety must come first.

Councilman Mark Gjonaj, who did not seem pleased with DOT, asked if there was a way the bus could go around the columns or maybe move the bus stop. He felt that the plan would not benefit the community.

“That bottleneck will create traffic for the buses,” Gjonaj said. “Will DOT contact MTA for the option to change the bus stop location to avoid this major road change and report back to the CB?”

Plans for the bus bulb at Westchester and St. Peter’s Courtesy of NYC DOT

Road Diets

At the same meeting, DOT also discussed their impending plans to implement road diets on multiple streets in Throggs Neck. The agency plans to put bike lanes and road diets on East Tremont Avenue from Cross Bronx Expressway to Harding Avenue and on Harding Avenue from Emerson Avenue to Pennyfield Avenue.

The plan is to remove the low-volume travel lane, add a flush center median to organize traffic and reduce speeding, install left turn bays to organize traffic and create safer left turns and add a bicycle lane in each direction.

DOT said that this will create narrower roadways to discourage speeding, make fewer lanes for pedestrians to cross, create turn bays to provide safer left turns and overall improves safety for all road users.

Not a single person at the meeting felt that the road diets are necessary. Acampora and board members Angela Torres and Maria Caruso said that instead, they want better lighting and speed cameras in these areas.

“For Harding Avenue, have you considered increasing the number of light posts and placing speed cameras on that street, in lieu of a road diet?”  Torres said. “An improvement in lighting and the addition of speed cameras may have the same results.”

Plans for the proposed road diet.Courtesy of NYC DOT

Lopez said that a survey for lighting can be done.

Board member Andrew Chirico expressed his discontent with the plan. He said this type of road diet won’t work and will impact double parking and deliveries. He questioned why the city couldn’t have angle parking on one side of the street.

“Both road diets will make these major neighborhood street into one lane in each direction will only cause more traffic and more congestion on the Avenues but also on the surrounding blocks, it will not solve anything,” Chirico said. “Traffic needs to flow. This will only cause more trouble for ambulances and fire trucks and police vehicles stopping them from responding to emergencies.  People walking have to learn to look before crossing and wait for the traffic lights to change put down the cell phones and other distractions. Making an obstacle course of these two main thoroughfares is not the way to go. Adding lines and other restrictions will only bring new dangers to the area. This has been tried in other places. It does not work and it will not work here.”

One resident didn’t understand why the meeting was being held if these plans were happening anyway.

“This conversation is very frustrating,” the resident said. “It seems that you have already scheduled this project for late summer.  Why can’t you work with the community? We would rather see other traffic calming like ticketing and cameras which have proven to be effective. And yes funding is an issue! It is our money you are spending.”

Councilman Gjonaj was quite angry about the project and felt DOT was there just for show. He read off a list of concerns people emailed him prior to the meeting.

“Why is this a priority for East Tremont,” he said. “Why during COVID-19?  What is the emergency that requires East Tremont and Harding Ave. and this road diet?”

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