New Times Square pedestrian, activity zones complete

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The reconstruction of Times Square has been completed just before the famous New Year's Eve festivities.

The city announced Wednesday that changes include improved plazas with pedestrian space, wider sidewalks, new benches and kiosks. There is also a new southbound bike lane.

The $55 million project to permanently convert pedestrian plazas along Broadway in Times Square between West 42nd and West 47th began in 2013.

The reconstructed pedestrian plazas comprise 85,000 square feet.

During the summer, the city began enforcing new regulations governing designated pedestrian and activity flow zones. Street performers, as well as vendors selling tickets to bus tours or comedy shows, must stay in specific areas.

A total of eight different zones stretches from West 47th Street to West 42nd, all regulated by the Department of Transportation and enforced by the New York Police.

City officials celebrated, and for the most part New Yorkers and tourists liked the new look..two acres and no cars.

"Well I am a native New Yorker, and I'm here visiting from Atlanta Georgia and I can honestly say it's nice," said Times Square visitor Annie Kademoff. "We get to walk around without crossing the street and fearing for our lives, the cab drivers running us over and stuff like that."

Tourism jumped more than 40 percent during construction. 350,000 visit Times Square every day, and in the middle of all that, construction just kept plugging along.

"I knew it was gonna get done, kind of like a root canal gets done-ya know sometimes the construction was really tough," said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.

The people who run Times Square are elated by all the changes: the costumed characters are less aggressive and don't roam so freely, the crowds are huge but at least have more room now, and city officials swear even traffic congestion dropped 4 percent in the area by pushing everything over to 7th Avenue.

"And this was actually a win win," said former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "We were able to design a space that worked better for cars and better for people."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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