HARLEM — After two years of meetings, Department of Transportation officials hope they are close to getting community approval for a plan to untangle a convoluted and dangerous intersection at 155th Street.
Under the most recent DOT proposal, two left turns and a right turn would be restricted at the intersection of 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue, St. Nicholas Place and the entrance and exit to the Harlem River Drive, along with a new safety island and curb extensions that would shorten long intersections, some of which stretch 100 feet.
There are currently eight different turns that motorists can make at the intersection, which leads to the Macombs Dam Bridge and Yankee Stadium. That has led to a convoluted mess where pedestrians have trouble making it across the intersection and there are numerous conflicts between motorists and pedestrians.
"It's an accident-prone location," said Sean Quinn, planning coordinator in the DOT's pedestrian projects group. "This intersection really needs improvement."
From 2008 to 2012 there have been 12 pedestrian injuries, three of them severe, and 59 motor vehicle accidents, five of which were severe, according to the DOT. Thirty-eight percent of pedestrian crashes were while the victims were in a crosswalk, and 23 percent of motor vehicle accidents involved turning vehicles.
Quinn said there were several accidents in January that moved the intersection up on the city's priority list as a part of the Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, cars turning onto the Harlem River Drive entrance from 155th Street were cut off by cars turning left. One car jutted around another and tried to bully its way through the intersection.
A pedestrian yelled at a cab as he tried to cross the street.
There was even jaywalking.
"At any given time, cars are turning so it's really hard to cross," said Tomaisha Jeankins, 41, a postal worker who crosses the intersection regularly to catch a bus home to the Bronx. "Even if you have the light, you really don't."
Juan Zayas, 31, who works in marketing, also said the walk signal changes too quickly.
"It doesn't let you get even halfway across. Plus, these drivers are crazy," he said. "I'm extra careful over here."
The area is also about to get a lot busier with the opening of Broadway Housing Communities' apartment building at 155th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. The $80 million building will include 124 units of affordable housing, a children's museum and an early childhood education center that will serve 170 area families.
Quinn said the changes will tighten the intersection and make it safer for pedestrians. St. Nicholas Avenue is under capacity and can handle traffic from motorists looking for different routes, he said. The plan also calls for adding pedestrian islands at 151st through 153rd streets on St. Nicholas Place.
Complicating the solution is that the intersection is in Community Boards 9, 10 and 12. All three need to pass resolutions in order for the changes to move forward.
Representatives from the three community boards and area block associations raised concerns about the plan. A proposal to close a "slip" that allows cars to turn onto Edgecombe Avenue from 155th Street was listed as optional and then removed from the proposal after objections.
The plan also does nothing to address the traffic backup caused when there are events at Yankee Stadium. There was also resistance to eliminating the left turn from St. Nicholas place onto 155th Street.
"At this point, I would like to see some more work done on this," said Assemblyman Denny Farrell.
Some of the suggestions included timing changes, turn signals, road paving and more police enforcement.
"The cars don't respect us because the light doesn't respect us," resident Jackie Whitmore said.
Quinn said he felt optimistic about moving the proposal forward despite some of the reservations.
DOT says the plan can either be implemented in phases or at once in 2015. Quinn said he'd prefer for some work to go forward this year.
"We have a good feeling," he said.