According to Department of Transportation (DOT) data, the five-legged intersection bordering Astoria and Sunnyside has produced 70 total injuries since 2009, including two serious pedestrian injuries.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said Northern Boulevard has been “at the core of Vision Zero since day one.” Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the initiative along the boulevard two years ago.
“[It] has presented, over time, a real challenge for pedestrians, motorists and bus drivers who have routes around here as they try and navigate its complexities,” Trottenberg said. “You can see the challenges.”
The Q104 bus, which previously traveled down 48th Street past Northern Boulevard, had to make a “jagged and out of the way movement” due to the street alignment, the commissioner said.
Working with New York City Transit, DOT rerouted the bus onto 49th Street, which also had its direction reversed.
To make the intersection safer for all users, DOT created a new pedestrian island on Northern Boulevard, added two new crosswalks, added a curb extension, marked two moving lanes on 48th Street, and reversed 48th Street into a one-way northbound.
According to Trottenberg, the changes are part of a three-phase project along the Northern Boulevard Corridor. DOT plans to add a total of 14 pedestrian islands along the thoroughfare from 39th Avenue to Broadway.
“Northern Boulevard is critical to Queens and the safety of the tens of thousands of people who live near and travel on it everyday,” Trottenberg said. “It’s part of what’s at the heart of Vision Zero.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer specifically requested the improvements. He said it’s a busy, noisy and in the past, a dangerous corridor.
“Part of what we’re doing is making sure that no one dies,” Van Bramer said. “We want to be proactive and protect people before any more serious injuries or deaths occur.”
DOT is investing nearly $1 million in changes along Northern Boulevard. The councilman said he supports measures like an extended bike lane network, reducing the speed limit, and creating slow zones on the corridor.
City officials also spoke about successes on Queens Boulevard. Since DOT made significant structural changes to the thoroughfare, including a protected bike lane, the boulevard has not had a fatality in two years.
“That didn’t just include a bike lane, but numerous safety measures,” Van Bramer added. “If we hadn’t taken those measures, I believe you wouldn’t have seen what we’ve seen over those last couple of years.”