June 21, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will go ahead with a planned curbside bus lane on Fresh Pond Road despite significant pushback from residents, business owners and elected officials.
A representative from the DOT said Wednesday that the agency is moving forward with the plan to install a bus lane along the stretch that will go between Metropolitan and Putnam Avenues. The DOT says that it has taken the public’s calls for alternative measures–such as synching the traffic lights to aid the flow of southbound traffic and consolidating bus stops–into consideration.
“Many of the suggestions we’ve received from area elected officials, businesses and the community are included in this plan,” a spokesperson for the DOT said. “However, DOT believes that a la carte treatments like only adjusting signal timing will not address the severe congestion and safety concerns which currently exist on Fresh Pond Road. The plan we’ve crafted, and adjusted multiple times during our 15 community meetings, is a comprehensive design which aims to address the concerns for bus riders and motorists using Fresh Pond Road.”
The bus lane, first announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April as part of the Better Buses Action Plan, is intended to alleviate the frequently backed up traffic conditions on Fresh Pond Road in the afternoons and evenings when bus ridership on the Q58 is highest. Bus speeds during that peak time drop to an average speed of 3 miles per hour–about the same pace as walking.
A southbound curbside bus lane will be implemented along the corridor and would be exclusive for buses from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Vehicles making right hand turns would also be able to use the lane.
Residents and business owners expressed concern about lost parking spaces at a June 12 Community Board 5 meeting where DOT gave a presentation on the bus lane. They called on DOT to consider implementing alternative measures before turning the curbside space into a bus lane.
DOT presented an updated version of the plan to the Community Board 5 transportation Committee on Tuesday after hearing from residents at the June 12 meeting. The bus lane is still set to go ahead as planned, and the Transportation Committee will provide their official recommendations to DOT at next month’s full board meeting.
The bus lane debate has drawn the attention of local elected officials. Assembly Member Catherine Nolan sent a letter to DOT on Monday, echoing the concerns of her constituents.
Council Member Robert Holden took to social media yesterday to express his frustrations with the DOT’s unwillingness to try the alternative strategies before implementing the bus lane.
“My office went on two tours of Fresh Pond Road and gave the Department of Transportation at least half-a-dozen recommendations to improve traffic flow before the drastic step of installing a bus lane,” Holden wrote on Facebook. “I’m frustrated with the DOT and I don’t know why they haven’t yet attempted to implement these minor changes, such as new turning lanes, removing one or two parking spots at certain intersections and synchronizing traffic lights.”
Holden said he will be organizing a meeting with local business owners and stakeholders to discuss how the proposed bus lane will affect them.