By Suzanne Ma
CHINATOWN — Four people have been killed and more than 50 injured in car accidents at the bottom of the Manhattan bridge in the last 15 years.
The intersection at Canal Street and Bowery, dubbed a "death trap" by local residents, was the site of 11 accidents in just the past two years, according to the city's Dept. of Transportation. Despite the carnage, the city has spent seven years studying the problem, and doesn't plan to reveal a solution until at least next year.
"They should get a prize for the longest running study in history," outgoing District 1 City Councilman Alan Gerson told DNAinfo. "I've been yelling and screaming to get final results before the end of the year."
Between 1995 and 2005, there were 43 crashes involving pedestrians. Forty-one people were injured and two people died, according to Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. In the most recent incident, eight people were injured when a cement truck driver lost control and plowed into six cars before mounting the sidewalk.
Lim Sing Tse lost her 42-year-old brother, Lim Ah Yiew, in 2005 when a gray Subaru came careening off the bridge, hitting him as he crossed Canal Street.
The Subaru then went onto the sidewalk and hit a second man before it flipped over and slammed into a taxi in front of 149 Canal St. Police said the accident was caused when the Subaru driver swerved to miss a car that cut him off.
"My heart pounds every time I cross that intersection," Lim told DNAinfo last week. "It's really very horrible. The cars come speeding off the bridge and there's no time for pedestrians to react."
Chinatown locals have long pleaded with the city figure out a way to slow traffic at the base of the bridge where, they say, too many speeding motorists have a hard time negotiating the narrow, pedestrian-heavy streets.
The city claims efforts are already underway to improve the intersection. A study, seven years old which is set to wrap up in 2010, will include recommendations that specifically address the intersection of Bowery and Canal, Nicole Garcia, a department spokesperson, said.
Gerson admitted there have been "some limited traffic improvements" in recent years. A safety island for pedestrians was installed in the middle of the Bowery, and more traffic agents have been assigned to the intersection. Traffic lights, he said, now allow more time for pedestrians to cross.
"But that's just the beginning," Gerson said. He fears more problems could arise this summer as six months worth of construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge.
City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, Gerson's successor, said she sent a letter last week to the Dept. of Transportation demanding that "some form of traffic calming measures" must be put in place before the end of 2009.
"This is an issue of human life," Chin wrote. "Several individuals have been killed in traffic accidents at this site. In many situations, we ask if it will take a death to get government attention. Here, the question is how many will have to die?"