Aug. 19, 2019 By Allie Griffin
Despite months of pushback from community members, business owners and local elected officials, the Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the Fresh Pond Road bus lane will begin this month.
The DOT’s contentious proposal, part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Better Buses Action Plan, will create a designated bus lane southbound along Fresh Pond Road from Bleecker Street to Putnam Avenue which will be open to buses and right turning vehicles only, Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
In addition, the plan includes additional metered parking on side streets off of Fresh Pond Road, new truck loading zones and bus stop consolidation. Fresh Pond Road between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue will be resurfaced, according to the DOT’s announcement.
The proposal was first announced in April and is meant to alleviate the heavy traffic flow on Fresh Pond Road in the afternoon and evenings when the Q58 bus’s ridership is highest. According to the DOT, buses average a speed of three miles per hour, about the same pace as walking during the peak hours.
It soon came under fire by community members and business owners who were concerned that the loss of 70 parking spaces to make way for the bus lane would hurt local businesses along Fresh Pond Road.
While the DOT said that the plan’s 60 metered parking spots on side streets would counter the loss, many community members disagreed. At a July Community Board 5 meeting, the plan was rejected.
Local elected officials have echoed their constituents’ concerns. Councilman Robert Holden and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan have both issued letters to the DOT Commissioner arguing that a different less drastic approach to Fresh Pond Road’s traffic congestion would be more efficient and less disruptive for businesses.
A popular suggestion by community members is to better synch the traffic lights along the street to ease the flow of traffic. Community Board 5 and Holden have asked DOT for a trial period of these smaller traffic flow measures to see if they will alleviate the backup enough before moving forward with the creation of the bus lane.
“This bus lane would have been an easier sell to the community if the DOT had slowly phased in other recommendations first,” Council Member Holden said. “Instead, the DOT’s community input process was ineffective, they ignored the votes of the community board, and they will end up making more changes to the bus lane once they realize the flaws in their plan after the fact. I will be sure to keep a close eye on Fresh Pond Road going forward and hold DOT accountable for this decision.”
The DOT has not yet said whether the traffic lights will be synced or what date the plan’s changes will begin. However, the hours of the bus lane have been reduced per community input from its original 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. bus-only designation.