A controversial plan to narrow a major thoroughfare in Waterbury-LaSalle was implemented and the naysayers are not happy.
The implementation of a ‘road diet’ for several blocks along East Tremont Avenue began on Friday, September 9 with new road markings put in place designed to slow down traffic.
The markings narrowing the roadways and widening the parking lanes come on the heels of three fatalities along this strip since 2010, according to NYC Department of Transportation traffic data, including a hit and run accident that killed bicyclist Giovanni Nin in June.
Councilman James Vacca insisted on the Vision Zero initiative’s implementation even though Community Board 10 voted down the plan for East Tremont Avenue between Waterbury Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard after DOT presentations in 2015.
The councilman said on Tuesday, September 13 that a campaign to discredit the ‘road diet’, which included robocalls and fliers warning residents on side streets that their blocks would see increased traffic and dangerous street conditions, would be proved false.
“I think many fears that were instilled in people, (for example) that the side streets would be inundated with traffic, and that has not happened at all,” said Vacca, adding that he does not believe these issues will materialize.
One of the people leading the opposition effort to the ‘road diet,’ which narrowed the roadway from two lanes to one lane in each direction and added several turn lanes, was local merchant John Cerini.
Cerini, who lives in Waterbury-LaSalle, did not accept the councilman’s assertions.
“It is definitely going to lead to more traffic and accidents on side streets,” said Cerini, adding that he is also expecting incidents of road rage on a bottlenecked East Tremont Avenue.
Perhaps more concerning, Cerini said, was that Vacca contacted DOT after Nin’s death and got the roadway transformation in motion.
“The homeowners were against it, the community board was against it, and the merchants were against it,” said Cerini.
The councilman confirmed that he took initiative and contacted DOT, and said that he did so for pubic safety and no other reasons.
John Marano, Community Board 10 vice chairman, said he was annoyed that the road diet appeared to go a block beyond where officials said it would.
“The ‘road diet’ gained a block to LaSalle Avenue,” he said, adding of city government “They certainly did not listen to the feedback from the community.”
Kevin Daloia, who has lived near this stretch of East Tremont Avenue for about 25 years, supports the ‘road diet.’
“I am hearing that a few people have said that it is a ‘horror’, or that it will add ‘20 minutes to my ride,’” stated Daloia, adding “If the goal of the original plan was to create a steady moving and safer traffic flow through a proven accident prone section of roadway, it seems to be doing okay.”
Vacca added he has no plans to extend this type of ‘road diet’ to other parts of East Tremont Avenue.