Pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and residents may finally see their congestion nightmare come to an end with the installation of a three-way traffic light at the intersection of Beach Channel Drive and Beach 94th Street — the first in a series of improvements laid out by the Department of Transportation (DOT) at an emergency meeting of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association last Monday evening.
It’s been close to three years in the works, but it appears relief may finally be in sight with improvements designed to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety and ease traffic in the area around Thai Rock, Bungalow Bar, McDonalds, Denis O’Connor Funeral home and the ramp from the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge (CBB).
“It’s a challenging intersection,” Al Silvestri, Queens deputy borough commissioner for the DOT said. “With complex merging, no signals and a high volume of pedestrians, we’ve been looking at this area for a while now. We’ve made some tweaks in the past, but the changes we’re going to show you tonight will be a lot more palatable,” Silvestri said to the residents, business owners and community activists who filled the meeting space at Peninsula library for a feedback session.
The DOT project includes three components: installation of a traffic signal at Beach Channel Drive and Beach 94th Street, concrete repairs to sidewalks and medians on Beach 95th Street at the bridge exit, creating a new pedestrian crossing, and the implementation of a new greenway connection bike route from CBB to the Rockaway Beach boardwalk.
Proposed changes to Rockaway Freeway and Beach 95th Street include increasing pedestrian space with a new concrete curb extension and a new east-to-west pedestrian crossing; and on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 92nd Street, a designated crosswalk from east to west. Although the barriers on Beach Channel Drive will remain, a cut through for the crosswalk is planned.
Citing lack of a bay to ocean bicycle connection, the DOT proposes a northbound connection to CBB on Beach 94th Street adjacent to the center median and southbound connection from CBB to Beach 92nd Street and Rockaway Freeway, connecting the bridge to the Rockaway Beach boardwalk.
While there’s no firm start date, DOT hopes to have enough community support by the end of the summer to move forward with the plan that they feel will enhance safety and minimize bottlenecks in an already heavily congested area.
“We want to come up with something that will work for the community,” Alice Friedman, strategic initiatives manager for DOT said. “We’ve had a number of community requests that we’re trying to wrap up into one package.”
Friedman predicts the traffic signal installation sometime later this year, and the other improvements projected for next year.
“They (the DOT) listened to us and made most of the changes we asked for,” John Cori, president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association (RBCA) said. “We’re pleased, except that they proposed a closure of the service road next to the police station and most people don’t want to see that happen.”
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