The failure of the city's Department of Transportation to implement the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan in advance of permanently closing off a heavily traveled part of Grand Avenue is causing a traffic nightmare in Maspeth.
DOT has two projects in the works for Grand Avenue ‒ the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan and the Safe Streets to School Program. The first involves rerouting trucks off of the main road through town. The second will consolidate two triangles at Grand and Flushing Avenues at 64th Street to create a safer environment for children walking to and from St. Stanislaus Kostka elementary school on Grand Avenue at 61st Street.
The latter project involves the permanent closing of Grand Avenue between Flushing Avenue and 64th Street. About 3 weeks ago, workers carved out lines in the street to mark the boundaries of the new triangle. This caused immediate concern from transportation advocates and civic leaders.
On October 19th, JPCA sent a warning to DOT about the problems that were anticipated if the reconfiguration was completed before the implementation of the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass Plan.
Following up on that, an October 21st letter to DOT's Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy was sent by Transportation Alternatives' Executive Director Paul Steely White and Deputy Director Shin-pei Tsay. It stated, "Given that the high volume of through trucks would significantly impair the benefits of the Safe Streets to School program for St. Stanislaus, we ask the DOT to reroute current through trucks on Grand Avenue. We want every Safe Streets to School project to succeed in every community and it would be a shame if it didn't in Maspeth because of the through truck route."
The segment of the street between the two triangles was first closed last Wednesday, October 22nd.
The morning of Saturday, November 1st, when these photos were taken, the traffic was backed up to 69th Street, nearly 6 blocks east. Traffic during morning and evening weekday rush hours has been just as bad, if not worse. This morning, November 10th, the traffic was backed up to the LIE.
"I have been stating since I first learned about the triangle reconfiguration several months ago that if the Bypass Plan wasn't implemented before this construction, traffic would get worse and not better," said Tony Nunziato, Chair of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force, who created the Bypass Plan at the beginning of the decade. "Unfortunately, I was right. The least that DOT could do would be to send their agents to direct traffic so intersections are not blocked."
DOT trucks are also being parked along Grand Avenue, blocking bus stops and forcing drivers to pick up and discharge passengers in the middle of the street.
Robert Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic Association, stated, "We definitely are in favor of the reconfiguration of this intersection, but the Bypass Plan should have been put in place first. By not planning properly, DOT is turning what was a traffic headache into a nightmare."
A survey of the site reveals that tractor trailers and buses are having great difficulty navigating through the "S-turn" that DOT has created. JPCA predicts increased damage to public property as a result.
It should also be noted that Queens Community Board 5 has voted in favor of implementing the bypass plan before the triangle reconfiguration. Also important to note is that eastbound traffic has been diverted from Grand to Flushing Avenue at Rust Street due to temporary signage. Permanent signage diverting trucks off of Grand Avenue constitutes phase 1 of the Grand Avenue Truck Bypass plan, but has not been implemented.
Please see attached letter from Department of Transportation's Queens Borough Director Maura McCarthy denying there is traffic along Grand Avenue because of this construction.
"The photos don't lie," JPCA Secretary Christina Wilkinson said.
(Additional photos of the construction site taken November 12th show a dent in a streetlamp cause by a truck unable to make the tight turn, the trees on the site unprotected and damaged, and signs donated by the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce destroyed.)