DOT Considers Adding New Light at Dangerous Intersection

By Mary Johnson on July 21, 2011 7:43am 

The intersection at East 48th Street and First Avenue is a tricky one for bicycles and vehicles to safely navigate, said Bruce Silberblatt, of the Turtle Bay Association.
The intersection at East 48th Street and First Avenue is a tricky one for bicycles and vehicles to safely navigate, said Bruce Silberblatt, of the Turtle Bay Association.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

TURTLE BAY —  A fight to get a traffic light installed at the intersection of East 48th Street and First Avenue is a step closer to victory.

The New York City Department of Transportation has ordered a study for the intersection,  a representative for Councilman Dan Garodnick’s said Wednesday.

The DOT is also looking into putting large safety messages on East 48th Street as it approaches First Avenue, and on First Avenue as it turns onto East 49th Street.

The study could take up to three months, and it still remains to be seen whether it will result in a new stoplight at the location. But it's a step forward in what has been a long community fight.

Bruce Silberblatt, vice president of the Turtle Bay Association, said residents have been trying to get a light installed at the intersection for 15 years.

But Silberblatt said the DOT’s recent extension of bike lanes between 34th and 59th streets made the matter much more urgent.

The area is a particularly tricky one. First Avenue splits to straddle the Midtown tunnel exit between East 47th and East 48th streets. A stoplight controls one lane of traffic traveling down the east side of the street around the tunnel opening.

The lane of traffic traveling down the west side, however, is forced to share its already narrow space with bicycles.

Vehicles turning onto First Avenue from East 48th Street are forced to cross over the bike lane in order to merge with traffic. There is a stop sign on 48th Street where it intersects with First Avenue, but Silberblatt said it is regularly disregarded.

On Monday, Transportation Alternatives sent a letter to the DOT, highlighting the safety issues at the intersection and urging the department to act.

Community Board 6 President Mark Thompson also supports the study and said he is planning to form a task force consisting of elected officials, community residents and local business representatives to investigate solutions for that intersection.

“We’re really interested in exploring the possibility of having a street light at that location, as well as other needed improvements,” Thompson said.

Although the potential for a new street light is promising, Silberblatt and other community representatives still have concerns about the new bike lanes.

Thompson said DOT is planning to meet with the Community Board 6 transportation committee in September to discuss issues with the lanes and hear suggestions for improvement.

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