By Jill Colvin
MURRAY HILL — Midtown residents had yet another chance to weigh in on the Department of Transportation's 34th Street Transitway proposal Thursday night, and once again slammed the plan.
"We hate it," said Marge Gelber, a retiree who lives on East 34th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. "It just frightens us," added Gelber, one of many residents who expressed concern Thursday night about the impact the bus-only lanes will have on seniors like her.
The proposed Transitway project would create protected bus-only lanes all along 34th Street and reduce other vehicle traffic from the current two-way street to only one-way.
The $36.5 million redesign is intended to speed up bus service on the notoriously congested route, which is one of the slowest in the city, DOT spokesman Eric Beaton said.
The DOT estimates the lanes will shave about seven minutes from the average river-to-river trip.
But residents from Murray Hill to Hell's Kitchen have complained the plan would limit their access to their doorsteps, interfering with taxis, moving vans, deliveries, emergency vehicles, and senior citizen drop-offs.
About 100 residents and building owners turned out Thursday night for the third in a series of forums organized by the DOT to voice their opposition.
"It's going to be a nightmare," complained Asad Merchant, 32, who lives on E. 34th St. between Second and Third avenues.
He warned the bus lanes will create traffic chaos and questioned whether the benefits are worth the cost.
"All this for seven minutes?" he asked.
The DOT has proposed placing loading lanes on select blocks between the bus lanes and sidewalk to allow delivery vans and other short-term access.
Part of the goal of Thursday's round-tables was for the DOT to collect information about curb use needs to decide where the lanes could be placed.
But many were unconvinced the lanes would help.
Donald Kohlreiter, 75, who is the board president of 155 E. 34th St., said he fears the redesign will complicate garbage pick-ups and oil deliveries and send property values tumbling at his building.
"It's going to hurt the building financially," he said. "It should be scrapped."
Interior designer Pat Gericke, 62, also worried that diverted traffic will spill over onto quieter cross-streets and onto her front doorstep on E. 33rd St. between Lexington and Third avenues.
DOT officials said the department will take all of the residents' concerns into account and then decide whether or not to proceed.
The DOT's next and final forum will take place next Tuesday., Nov. 9 from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown.