Deadly Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. Intersection Could Get Turn Signal

By Jeff Mays on July 28, 2011 4:43pm 

Wreckage from the crash that killed 89-year-old Leonia White at Adam Clayton Poweel Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street on June 2.
Wreckage from the crash that killed 89-year-old Leonia White at Adam Clayton Poweel Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street on June 2.
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Meredith Hoffman/DNAinfo

HARLEM — More than a month after an 89-year-old woman in a wheelchair was killed trying to cross Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd and 145th Street, the DOT announced it may install a turn signal at the intersection — one of the most dangerous in the city.

Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said the police department has requested a study of a turn signal at the intersection following the June 2 death of Leonia White.

She was killed when a pickup truck slammed into a livery cab that was trying to turn onto 145th Street.  The pickup hopped the curb and slammed into a group of pedestrians.

Countdown clocks will also be installed by the end of the year along the length of the avenue, which stretches from West 110th to West 155th streets, Forgione told community members gathered Wednesday at a workshop to discuss traffic calming measures for the roadway.

The boulevard is more dangerous than all but 10 percent of city streets, according to the DOT. Between 2006 and 2011 there have been 9 pedestrian fatalities. Five of those deaths are clustered near West 145th Street. Three pedestrian deaths occurred on West 145th Street while another occurred a block away at West 144th Street. Another was between West 146th and West 147th streets.

Since 2006, there have been 830 injuries involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicle occupants. A May DOT traffic study found that two of three vehicles on the boulevard were traveling above the speed limit. Pedestrians and motorists say the road has been unsafe for a long time.

"We need better police enforcement on speeding," said workshop participant and community activist Julius Tajiddin.

Speed bumps, countdown clocks, better street lighting, traffic bump outs that reduce the width of the street and pedestrian islands were all looked at as ways to slow down traffic at the workshop co-hosted by the Manhattan Borough President's Office and Community Board 10. Also put on the table was the idea of untangling the traffic flow on streets east of Adam Clayton Boulevard that are cut off by large housing developments that disrupt the street grid and also serve as feeder routes to highways and bridges.

"You have to take a look at street flows," said Richard Toussaint, a member of Community Board 11.

But one of the most controversial traffic calming measures was the idea of reducing lane width on the boulevard.

DOT officials said the lanes on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, which has three lanes of traffic in each direction and a parking lane, are 12 feet wide, the same width as highway lanes. Most other city streets lanes are 10 feet wide.

"Narrower lanes give you the perception that you are closer together and causes you to go slower," said one DOT traffic planner during one of the workshop's brainstorming sessions.

The idea met with immediate resistance.

"Adam Clayton Powell is our Park Avenue," said participant Debra Gilliard. "The way it looks, we don't want too many things to change. We want enforcement."

Toussaint, a long time Harlem resident, said the street has always been considered a parade route of sorts because of its width.

"As a kid I remember people dressing up and walking up the boulevard. It was our Fifth Avenue," Toussaint said.

But Community Board 10 District Manager Paimaan Lodhi said the priority needs to be safety.

"We have to find a way to balance the historical look with the serious need of improving traffic safety," Lodhi said.

Forgione said the DOT would examine the ideas taken from the session and return in September for more input.

Julia De Martini Day, director of transportation and health for Transportation Alternatives, said the workshop shows a willingness by the DOT to listen to the concerns of the community. Tackling the speeding problem on the boulevard seems like it should be a top priority, she said.

"Speeding is simply a leading cause of fatal crashes," she said.

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