Planned changes to a Waterbury-LaSalle thoroughfare, part of the Vision Zero pedestrian safety initiative, continue to be a hot button issue.
A group of community activists continue to oppose the plan, which would reduce the number of travel lanes on part of East Tremont Avenue but add wider parking lanes and left turn bays for vehicles.
Those advocating for the changes believe it will make a stretch of the road between Waterbury Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, that has seen three fatal accidents since 2010 according to NYC Department of Transportation statistics, safer for pedestrians.
According to a DOT spokeswoman, road markings will reconfigure East Tremont Avenue in this area, and the agency will be adding a painted sidewalk extension at Whittemore Avenue and a left turn lane. DOT is still working with the community on the final changes.
Councilman James Vacca said he was advocating for the changes despite heavy community objections,
The DOT proposal was originally sent to Community Board 10 in 2015 but was rejected.
But Vacca has asked DOT to implement the proposal anyway.
“I am listening to my constituents,” said the councilman, adding that speeding along that part of Esat Tremont Avenue is a major problem.
“There are already four traffic lights in place and we cannot install speed bumps because the street is a bus route. Therefore I want to take (this) action to protect my residents.”
Martin Prince, CB 10 chairman, said that after hearing from DOT and studying the idea, he personally thought it had merit, but indicated that he would reverse course if the changes prove detrimental.
“It is well thought out,” he said. “(The people opposing the plan are) being skeptical because we are used to something in a certain way.”
Current road conditions on this portion of East Tremont Avenue includes lots of double parking, that cause cars to weave in and out of the right hand lane, creating a condition where there is effectively one lane of travel anyway, he said.
The parking lanes will be widened, and the turning lane would be in the middle of the roadway, meaning that if double parking occurs, vehicles can still maneuver and emergency vehicles could get through, said the councilman.
Vacca acknowledged that there is community opposition to the plan.
A robo-call campaign was initiated by the plan’s opponents this past weekend asking local residents to tell Vacca they oppose his effort.
The most controversial part of the plan is the ‘road diet’ that would narrow through-traffic to one lane in either direction, said John Cerini, Throggs Neck Merchant Association board member.
Cerini believes that this will increase congestion on East Tremont by slowing the flow of traffic, and that Vacca needs to better listen to his constituents.
Rocco Talarico, Throggs Neck Home Owners Association vice president, believes that the issue should to go back to CB 10 for further review before it is implemented.
“The traffic on East Tremont is congested as it is, especially when school is in session, and northbound traffic is already backing up to Lafayette Avenue,” he said.
Speed cameras might be good for that location, he added.
Vacca said the area does not qualify for speed cameras because under state law they can only be used near schools.