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Major Traffic Changes Proposed for Uptown Sherman and St. Nicholas Avenues

 The DOT would like to reduce each avenue from four to two lanes of traffic and add bike lanes.
The DOT would like to reduce each avenue from four to two lanes of traffic and add bike lanes.
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Department of Transportation

FORT GEORGE — A proposal to revamp crash-prone Sherman and St. Nicholas avenues by eliminating traffic lanes and adding bike lanes met with mixed reviews from Uptown residents this week.

The Department of Transportation wants to reduce both thoroughfares from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction, according to its presentation to Community Board 12’s transportation committee Monday. In addition, each street would receive painted bike lanes on each side and dedicated left turn lanes at each intersection, DOT representatives said.

The streets were chosen for safety changes because both have a history of crashes, said DOT representative Preston Johnson.

According to department data, Sherman Avenue has two intersections that fall within the top 10 percent of the most dangerous intersections in Manhattan.

Forty-five people were injured in collisions at the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Dyckman Street — three of them fatally — between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT data. Twenty-two people were injured at Sherman Avenue and Academy Street over the same time period, including two fatal incidents.

St. Nicholas Avenue is also considered a high-crash corridor, with 404 people injured on the stretch between 169th to 193rd streets from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT data.

Reducing the number of traffic lanes and installing dedicated left turn bays on Sherman Avenue from Broadway to 10th Avenue and on St. Nicholas Avenue from 170th to 193rd streets should make the corridors safer, Johnson said.

“A lot of drivers might have the experience of being in the left lane to go through and the car in front of you stops short to make a left turn,” he said. “That’s the kind of accident this redesign is meant to prevent.”

Installing traffic-calming measures on similar streets has reduced the number of crashes that result in injuries by 15 to 44 percent, Johnson said.

In addition, the DOT plans to redesign the intersection of Broadway, Sherman Avenue and Ellwood Street, where 47 people were injured between 2009 and 2013, including one pedestrian death.

The agency plans to extend the curb on the southern side of the intersection to better define the right turn from Broadway onto Sherman Avenue. It will also construct a median on Sherman Avenue and reverse the direction of traffic on a two-block portion of Ellwood Street to prevent left turns from Sherman Avenue onto Ellwood Street, the site of the intersection’s pedestrian death.

Residents and board members supported the proposed changes to Sherman Avenue, but many expressed concerns over implementing the same plan on St. Nicholas Avenue because of the amount of traffic on the street.

“You’re going to have all of these people coming up Fort George Hill because it’s a major thoroughfare and turning into one lane,” said Fort George resident Paul Hintersteiner. “This is insane. You’re going to have a traffic jam from here to there.”

Eileen King, another Fort George resident, agreed.

“I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve only seen the traffic increase,” she said. “People are honking all of the time and you’re going to reduce it to one lane?”

Others pointed out that St. Nicholas essentially operates with one lane in each direction now because of the prevalence of double-parking along this stretch.

“I drive on St. Nick often, and I don’t drive in the right lane because I know I’m going to get stuck behind a parked car,” said Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, chairman of the transportation committee. “The question is how far can you get in that right lane anyway?”

DOT representatives said they hope to address the double-parking issue by speaking with local business owners and possibly installing dedicated loading zones where needed.

They also noted that Sherman and St. Nicholas Avenues have similar traffic volumes, despite the perception that St. Nicholas is a busier street.

The committee voted in support of the Sherman Avenue proposal, but asked the DOT to return in June with more information about how the proposed changes may impact traffic levels on St. Nicholas Avenue.