Speed up, Slow Zones!
Weeks after the Bronx landed three incoming Neighborhood Slow Zones from the Department of Transportation (DOT), locals and pols have begun grumbling for the city agency to quicken the installation process.
But the DOT already has its hands full putting in five slow zones citywide a year over the next three years. Each slow zone costs the city around $225,000 and includes an average of 14 speed bumps, a spokesman from the agency said.
The DOT plans to roll out a slow zone in Norwood in 2014, Parkchester in 2015 and Westchester Square in 2016. The zones lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour in residential stretches of streets that have high accident rates and contain schools and senior centers.
Councilman James Vacca would like to see that process sped up, especially in his Westchester Square district. Westchester Square’s Slow Zone is slated to run from E. Tremont Ave down to the elevated No. 6 line on Westchester Avenue, and east to west from Castle Hill Avenue to Owen F. Dolen Park.
Vacca said he hoped new Mayor Bill Be Blasio, who takes office in January, would make speeding up the Slow Zone process a priority. De Blasio will likely appoint a new DOT commissioner to replace current head honcho Janette Sadik-Khan, he said.
“These slow zones are far too slow in coming,” said Vacca, who heads the City Council’s transportation committee. “2016 is too long to wait.”
Since the Claremont Speed Zone was installed in 2011, the DOT has put in zones in Mt. Eden, Eastchester, Baychester and Riverdale.
The new “Slow Zones” will be outfitted with signage and street paint, as well as speed bumps and removed parking spot “gateways” at some street entrances, increasing visibility in intersections. The DOT cites statistics that say that the city’s first Slow Zone, in Claremont, has reduced pedestrian crash incidents by 40%.
A DOT spokesman said that areas with higher crash rates were prioritized. Westchester Square locals point to DOT statistics that say the nabe averages 19 traffic injuries per year.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s do it now,” said Lou Rocco, president of the Westchester Square Civic Association.
In the meantime, the slow zones are not the only traffic-calming plan currently on the city’s plate.
A bill introduced by Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield would lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on all city streets narrower than 60 feet wide, though the bill would need approval in Albany.
Vacca suggested four-way stop signs, yield signs, painted crosswalks and speed limit signs as a way to lower speed in the interim before the Slow Zone’s arrival.
“The city has to look at the community now,” the Councilman said, “and take other measures until the slow zone comes into effect.”