From 99th Street to Ditmars Boulevard, DOT officials added five new crosswalks, two new signals, eight new trees, one Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) and 78 new or upgraded pedestrian ramps.
The changes include a new left-turn bay at 108th Street, improved medians, and an additional 120 afternoon parking spots in front of commercial businesses.
“We took a hard look at Astoria Boulevard and put together a redesign,” said Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia. “Altogether, these improvements help calm traffic. They make it safer for our seniors and school children to cross.”
With a mix of residential and commercial uses, Astoria Boulevard has as many as 2,000 vehicles using it during peak hours. Drivers also use the corridor as an alternative to the nearby Grand Central Parkway.
As a result, the boulevard has also seen a higher volume of accidents. Since 2009, at the intersection of 103rd Street and Astoria Boulevard there have been nearly 20 injuries and one fatal crash.
Garcia said Astoria Boulevard ranks in the top-third of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Queens.
After a pedestrian fatality in 2013, DOT officials studied the intersection, ultimately deciding to take out a section of the median to add crosswalks and traffic signals.
“The circumstances certainly inspired us for a safety need,” she said. “We always look for opportunities to make our streets safer.”
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said the boulevard redesign had been in the works for years. Many East Elmhurst residents struggled with the lack of crosswalks while meandering through traffic on the thoroughfare.
“For those who drive through our community, understand that this is a community, this is not a highway,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “Just because you got off the Grand Central because there was traffic does not mean you can get on Astoria Boulevard and repeat the same amount of speed.”
She added that a new junior high school is soon opening up on the east side of Astoria Boulevard.
“We need to ensure that the way these streets were constructed many years ago now is reflective of the population that we have,” she said, “and that every corner is a safe corner.”
Inspector Michele Irizarry, commanding officer of the 115th Precinct, called Astoria Boulevard a “focal point” of their enforcement.
“This is one of our priorities throughout the precinct, not just because of the initiative, but because it is a source of major complaints,” she said. “Speeding summonses is something that we really try to work on diligently everyday.”
In addition to this project, Garcia said DOT will address two more intersections, 108th Street and Kearney Street. Ferreras-Copeland has already allocated $800,000 to make the changes, and work is expected to begin in 2019.
“This is only the beginning and only the first steps,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “We want to be able to change the culture on Astoria Boulevard, and that does not happen overnight.”