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Work under way to make Brooklyn's 4th Ave. safer

September 24, 2012 5:22:58 AM PDT
Some big changes are under way to try and improve a dangerous roadway in Brooklyn.

A two-and-a-half mile stretch of Fourth Avenue between 15th and 65th streets in Sunset Park is getting a makeover to try and curb pedestrian accidents.

As many as 1,400 vehicles travel down the road every hour, and it's also one of the busiest pedestrian areas of the city. According to the Department of Transportation, Fourth Avenue is in the top 10 percent of the most dangerous roads in New York City.

Cars and trucks barrel down the street at an alarming rate, with the 30-mile-an-hour speed limit seemingly ignored. Overflow traffic from the Gowanus Expressway often uses the road as an alternative, making for dangerous congestion.

Plus, Fourth Avenue is lined with schools, churches and subway stops.

Nearly 100 pedestrians have been killed or severely injured since 2006. The medians narrow from 6 feet down to 20 inches at many crosswalks, making it tricky for people who can get stuck in the middle.

The problem stems from the 1970s, when the street was widened to accommodate more truck traffic.

"Dealing with congestion by widening a road is sort of like dealing with obesity by loosening your belt," Tri-State Transportation's Ryn Lynch said. "It doesn't work in the long term. And if wider roads meant less congestion, Los Angeles would be a drivers' paradise."

But now, changes are in the works to widen the medians, reduce the lanes from three to two and eliminate left-hand turns.

But will it make a difference?

"We'll see from the data if it helps," Community Board 7's Jeremy Laufer said. "But I think at the very least, it will give pedestrians a fair shot at crossing the street in one traffic cycle, in one crossing cycle."

But critics are skeptical that the changes are too confusing.

"We're wasting tax money," one area resident said. "That's the way I see it."

On weekdays between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., northbound drivers will be allowed to drive in the parking lane, effectively creating a third lane to accommodate the morning rush hour. Once this phase in complete, the DOT will expand work into Park Slope and Bay Ridge.

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