Queens Blvd. 'Slow Zone' Won't Actually Have Lower Speed Limit

By Jeanmarie Evelly on May 7, 2014 2:28pm 

 Queens Boulevard has been the site of numerous fatal accidents.
Queens Boulevard has been the site of numerous fatal accidents.
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DNAInfo/Nigel Chiwaya

QUEENS — Though Queens Boulevard has been included in the city's new "Arterial Slow Zone" program, the speed limit on the notoriously dangerous roadway will stay the same as it's been for more than a decade — at least for now, officials said.

While the 12 other streets included so far in the recently announced initiative will see speed limits lowered from 30 to 25 miles per hour, Queens Boulevard's speed limit will remain at 30, according to the Department of Transportation.

According to stats released by the DOT last week, there have been 23 fatalities on the corridor since 2008; on Saturday, another pedestrian was killed on while crossing in Forest Hills.

The DOT believes the current speed limit is appropriate for the design of the roadway, according to a spokesman, who added that this may change in the future.

"While we will not be further altering the speed limit at this time, we are not ruling out taking a look at a reduction at a later date," the spokesman said in an email.

Queens Boulevard will benefit from other elements of the Arterial Slow Zone program, according to the spokesman, including changes to signal timing to discourage speeding, increased enforcement by the NYPD and new signs that identify the corridor as a slow zone.

"The steps we are taking now are in part a response to DOT hearing at forums that Queens Boulevard should be addressed, and we look forward to working further with the community as we review additional safety enhancements," the spokesman said.

The speed limit on the length of Queens Boulevard has been 30 miles per hour since 2001, when a two-mile stretch of the corridor between Roosevelt and 51st Avenues — where the limit had been 35 miles per hour — was slowed.

The roadway has long been dubbed the "Boulevard of Death," because of the frequency of pedestrian fatalities. More than 70 pedestrians were killed there between 1993 and 2001, according to the DOT.

A woman was struck and killed on Saturday while crossing Queens Boulevard at 71st Street in Forest Hills, an intersection that has seen two other serious accidents in recent months.

Paul Steely White, executive director of the transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said the original design of Queens Boulevard — with its many wide lanes — makes the roadway seem more like a highway to drivers than a street which abuts several residential neighborhoods.

"It's really the legacy of highway-era traffic planning that many neighborhoods in New York are now grappling with," he said.

His group is advocating for a 25 mile per hour speed limit on Queens Boulevard in conjunction with pedestrian-friendly design improvements — which could include things like wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, greenery and benches —  to turn the roadway into a "more humane street."

"Design improvements that would change the street so that it functions not as a highway, but as a city thoroughfare that takes care of people who are walking," he said.

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