March 5, 2015 By Michael Florio
Action is being taken to make a dangerous Astoria street safer.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released a safety improvement package geared toward improving conditions for both pedestrians and drivers on the two-mile stretch of 21st Street, from Hoyt Ave South to Queens Blvd.
The DOT will be adding a traffic light, painting curb extensions, improving walk time signals for pedestrians and providing markings for a designated parking lane.
The 21st Street stretch is one of the most dangerous strips in Queens. Since 2009, the DOT reports that there have been five fatalities–with two pedestrians, two drivers and one bicyclist killed there. There has been a total of 229 injuries, 14 of which were considered severe.
To help combat this, the DOT will be installing a traffic light at the intersection of 21st Street and 29th Ave this spring. It will also paint 12 curb extensions at nine intersections along 21st Street, to shorten pedestrian crossing distances and slow down turning vehicles.
The improvements will also include the installation of leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs)–which provide pedestrians with a walk signal before showing a green light to car traffic. The LPIs will be added to 10 intersections.
A painted parking lane will also be put down, to better define lanes and prevent speeding, according to the DOT.
The DOT will also upgrade the streetlights in the two-mile stretch to LED lights, which are brighter and provide greater visibility at night. The majority of fatalities occur during the night time hours, the DOT reports.
Councilman Costa Constantinides, who believes these changes are a good start to make the busy street safer, said he would like to see more be done, particularly the addition of more traffic lights.
“I would like there to be traffic lights at 33rd Road, at 30th Road, at 28th Ave,” he said.
The DOT argues that studies were conducted for new traffic lights at 28th Ave, 30th Rd, 33rd Ave and 39th Ave. However, it determined that these locations did not warrant traffic lights based on traffic volumes. The DOT does state that these studies can be reopened as traffic conditions change.
However, along with more traffic lights, Constantinides said he would like the DOT to take a closer look at the busy intersection where 21st Street, Astoria Blvd and 27th Ave all meet. “That is a little bit of a crazy corner,” he said.
Constantinides, however, did note that changes the DOT are making are vital, since more than 1,000 cars—on average– drive down the 21st Street corridor every hour.
“21st Street will be safer the day we implement these changes,” Constantinides said.
Other politicians also thought the DOT improvements made sense, although they were not as comprehensive as they would have liked.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas said in a statement: “I am disappointed that after multiple requests from my office and advocates for the community, DOT has not addressed the lack of a traffic signal between Broadway and 34th Avenue on 21st Street.”
State Senator Mike Gianaris also wants further changes.
“Of course, anyone who walks, bikes, or drives here can tell you much work remains to be done before 21st Street can truly be considered safe,” he said. “This plan is a big step in the right direction and I will continue working with DOT to ensure 21st Street gets all the help it needs.”