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DOT Studying Changes to Dangerous Harlem Boulevard

By Jeff Mays | September 19, 2011 6:21pm
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 — The Department of Transportation is considering a range of safety improvements for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, which ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in the city.

The DOT is eyeing such measures as adding left turn signals, dedicated left turn lanes and concrete median extensions in an effort to calm traffic on the boulevard.

The agency recently presented the results of two brainstorming sessions held this summer after Leonia White, 89, was killed at Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 145th Street on June 2 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.

White's death sparked an outcry from residents to improve the boulevard, which is more dangerous than all but 10 percent of city streets, according to the DOT.

Nine people have been killed on the boulevard since 2006. Five of those deaths were clustered near West 145th Street.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard has also seen  830 injuries involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicle occupants since 2006. A DOT traffic study from May found that two of three vehicles on the boulevard were traveling above the speed limit.

The road has been unsafe for a long time, according to area residents, pedestrians and motorists. Many at one brainstorming session said a lack of speed enforcement was also an issue.

But a controversial suggestion to reduce the width of the boulevard was not mentioned in the DOT's presentation.

The lanes on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard — three in each direction with a parking lane — are 12 feet wide, the same width as highway lanes. Most other city streets lanes are 10 feet wide.

Narrowing lane width would make cars feel closer to one another and cause them to lower their speed, DOT officials have said.

However, many residents were opposed to narrowing the lanes, saying it would ruin the look of the street. Instead, they called for more speed enforcement.

The police department had already asked the DOT to study a turn signal at the West 145th Street intersection. Countdown clocks are scheduled to be installed along the length of the boulevard from 110th to 155th streets by the end of the year.

DOT officials said they plan to continue to analyze traffic data and return to the neighborhood for another meeting in October.