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Pedestrian Safety Measures Proposed for Dangerous Atlantic Avenue Crossing

 The Department of Transportation proposed pedestrian safety changes to the intersection of Atlantic, Washington and Underhill avenues on the border of Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill Tuesday night.
Proposed Changes at Atlantic, Washington and Underhill Avenues
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Department of Transportation will reconfigure a chaotic, three-avenue intersection to be more pedestrian-friendly as soon as this spring, the agency said.

With new crosswalks, turn restrictions for cars, extended walk signals and bigger concrete medians, the DOT hopes to reduce injuries at the triangular intersection of Atlantic, Underhill and Washington avenues on the border of Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill, according to a presentation made Tuesday night to Community Boards 2 and 8, which overlap the crossing.

Changes in the proposal include:

• Shortening existing pedestrian crosswalks by building larger median islands.
• Building a new crosswalk from Atlantic Avenue to Lowry Triangle, located between Underhill and Washington avenues.
• Restricting left turns from southbound Washington Avenue to eastbound Atlantic Avenue and from westbound Atlantic Avenue to southbound Underhill Avenue.
• Delaying light signals to give pedestrians a head start on crossing Atlantic Avenue before vehicles turn into crosswalks.

The intersection  which the DOT described in its proposal as confusing, congested and difficult to navigate for pedestrians  has been a concern for residents for years, attendees said.

John Longo, a co-owner of the bar and restaurant Dean Street, located a block south of the intersection on Underhill Avenue, said he knew the crossing was dangerous even before he was hit by a car on Atlantic Avenue last December — an accident that put him in the hospital for eight days and in a neck brace for 13 weeks.

“You just can’t do it,” Longo said of trying to cross the six lanes of traffic on Atlantic. “If you’re not at the curb when it turns green … you have to decide, do I want to wait another two minutes to cross the street or do I want to go for it? And people go for it.”

Even after the city reduced the speed limit on Atlantic Avenue to 25 mph. as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero safety campaign, accidents continued. In late November, a 19-year-old woman was seriously injured at the intersection when a car accelerated into a crosswalk as roughly seven people crossed the street, witnesses said at the time.

Now, after gathering input from the community, the DOT wants to make changes there as soon as possible.

“Our office is certainly going to push for this to be right out of the box in late March or April,” said Christopher Hrones, the liaison between DOT and CB2, at Tuesday’s forum.

To make the proposed changes, both community boards must approve the DOT’s plan. If that goes through, Hrones said, the agency could start pouring concrete and painting new crosswalks as soon as the weather warms up.

Though some residents at the forum had some specific suggestions to add to the proposal  including the possibility of turning the northernmost block of Underhill Avenue into a pedestrian plaza  most praised the plan and emphasized how direly the area needs improvements.

“None of these changes could happen fast enough, so thank you very much,” said Hilda Cohen, a pedestrian safety activist with Make Brooklyn Safer.

Others described elements of the project as “wonderful” and “terrific,” particularly new signaling measures that would allow pedestrians about a 15-second head start to cross Atlantic before cars could make turns.

“I’m stunned and amazed and thrilled,” said Longo after the meeting.

The complete DOT proposal for changes to the intersection of Atlantic, Underhill and Washington avenues is available on the agency’s website.