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DOT Plans Traffic Changes for Dangerous Astoria Street

 The DOT is planning traffic changes to increase safety on a two-mile stretch of 21st Street in Astoria.
The DOT is planning traffic changes to increase safety on a two-mile stretch of 21st Street in Astoria.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — The Department of Transportation is making changes to a busy Astoria street that's been deemed a "high crash corridor," where advocates have been calling for safety upgrades.

The city is proposing alterations to a two-mile stretch of 21st Street between Hoyt Avenue South and Queens Plaza, a roadway known for speeding drivers and heavy truck traffic. Between 2009 and 2013, five people were killed there and 14 others seriously injured, according to the DOT.

The planned changes include adding a traffic light to the intersection of 21st Street and 29th Avenue, upgrading streetlights along the roadway with brighter LED bulbs, and using painted lines to extend curbs at nine intersections to shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross.

Queens Community Board 1 approved the plans earlier last week. The new traffic light will be installed this spring, with the rest of the changes to follow later this year, according to the DOT.

The agency already adjusted traffic signals at 10 intersections along 21st Street in February, which gives pedestrians a seven second head start while crossing the road, which is 60 feet wide.

City Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents the area and was among those who campaigned to improve the street, called the DOT's proposal was "a big step forward."

"I think all these things are going to make 21st Street a safer place," he said, but added that he plans to monitor the roadway and continue to push for additional safety improvements, like more traffic signals.

In its proposal, DOT said it studied four other intersections for new traffic lights but found they weren't warranted. Constantinides said he plans to ask those locations be studied again if conditions there change, like when new buildings open, bringing more residents.

"This is a work in progress," he said. "This is not the end of the story."

Meanwhile, more changes are proposed for a specific intersection on 21st Street as part of the councilman's participatory budgeting program.

Residents will be able to vote next month on how to spend $1 million in the district, choosing between 18 different projects — including a proposal to allocate $500,000 to redesign 21st Street at Astoria Boulevard by extending the curbs to shorten its crossing distance.

But a group of people who live in the area, called the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, have come out against the idea.

In a press release, the organization said it fears that removing the right hand turning lane at the intersection to extend its sidewalks would increase traffic at the already congested spot. The group suggested increasing the crossing time for pedestrians instead.

A spokeswoman for Constantinides' office said it's too early to say whether a redesign of the intersection would definitely mean the removal of the right turn lane on 21st Street. The DOT will study the area if the proposal wins during participatory budgeting, she said.

Even if the right turn lane is removed, drivers would still be able to make a right turn from the middle lane, the spokeswoman said.