There is a friendly disagreement brewing over a Department of Transportation plan to tame a curving stretch of East Tremont Avenue in Waterbury-LaSalle.
Councilman James Vacca is supporting the city DOT proposal reducing travel lanes from four to three for a third of a mile between Waterbury Avenue and Meyers Street (near Bruckner Boulevard).
But several local merchants, concerned that the plan could be expanded into parts of Throggs Neck and slow down traffic and commerce, plan to oppose the idea.
The proposal also calls for widening the parking lanes and creating a center left-turn lane, counted as one of the travel lanes.
According to a DOT presentation before Community Board 10’s Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday, May 12, similar ‘road diets’ have been shown to reduce speeding and crashes.
The committee voted with six in favor, out of ten members present, to support the plan, said CB 10 district manager Ken Kearns.
“That stretch of East Tremont has dangerous curves, constant double parking, and traffic moving too fast,” said Vacca, who added, “There is no doubt that something has to be done.”
“We did have one bad accident there, and I don’t want to wait for a second or a third before we install traffic controls,” he said.
The plan will slow down traffic in the area, said Kearns, with an aim of creating pedestrian safety.
All this does not sit well with Steve Kaufman president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, and the organization’s board member John Cerini.
“I feel we need to stop it because I think it will cause major traffic congestion,” said Kaufman. “I don’t have confidence it will stop (near) Bruckner Boulevard.”
Kaufman said he feels that the plan could eventually be expanded to the end of East Tremont Avenue.
Cerini believes that if implemented, the proposal will further back up Throggs Neck traffic, adding that it is already backed up past the Bruckner Boulevard overpass into Throggs Neck going towards Westchester Square.
He also feels that shoppers from the Square and Pelham Bay could decide not to visit Throggs Neck because of slow moving traffic, impacting businesses as varied as restaurants and discount stores.
“I think they are pulling the wool over people’s eyes,” said Cerini, adding “The main thing is to keep business thriving here, and this is going to hinder, not help, business.”
Cerini said he is planning on gathering together like-minded merchants to attend CB10’s full board meeting on Thursday, May 21, where as of press time, the issue was to be voted on by the full board.
Andrew Chirico, a board member of the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association, said that he believes a camera to catch speeding cars and flashing lights to urge motorists to slow down might be an alternative to the plan.
Even though the DOT proposal expands each parking lane from nine to 13 feet, Chirico said that double-parked cars and trucks making deliveries will be a problem with only one lane of traffic moving in each direction.
In addition, it creates safety concerns when emergency vehicles need to get through, he said. With only one lane, cars may not be able to move out of the way, Chirico added.
A spokesman for DOT said that the agency looks forward to working with CB 10 on any decision they make regarding safety improvements along the avenue.