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Church ave. traffic fix

One−way traffic could be in Church Avenue’s future.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which has been studying congestion on the corridor between Utica and McDonald avenues for the past year, has come up with a host of practical recommendations to improve traffic flow along the thoroughfare.

It also has raised the question of recreating the strip as a one−way street, heading westbound, and has asked stakeholders in the area for their input on the idea before initiating a study.

The possibility was raised during a public meeting held earlier this month. The suggestion was couched as a “bold idea” and introduced to those at the meeting after a host of ideas for improving pedestrian safety, easing congestion, and improving parking turnover along the strip.

Among the benefits of one−way traffic enunciated by DOT in a handout is the elimination of delays “to left turning vehicles waiting for gaps.” In addition, the agency contended, “double parking will cause less problems.” While a one−way Church Avenue is “expected to attract westbound through traffic currently using Linden Boulevard⁄Caton Avenue to access Prospect Expressway,” DOT noted, “Most eastbound traffic to be diverted is local.”

Lloyd Mills, the chairperson of Community Board 17, mentioned the one−way idea to board members gathered at New Life Tabernacle, 4905 Avenue D, for their May meeting, and was greeted with laughter. “They asked me to mention it at the meeting, and come back to them with feedback,” Mills told his listeners, urging them to “get involved. You have to live with the changes,” he stressed. Mills also said the board would be holding a public hearing on the idea next month, “So everybody will be involved in these changes.”

Besides the idea of reconfiguring the busy thoroughfare as a one−way street, DOT has come up with ways of redesigning various intersections, to minimize traffic back−up, including adding dedicated right and left turn lanes in some places, installing “yield to pedestrian” signs at key locations, changing timing of traffic signals to allow for smoother vehicular flow and also to allow pedestrians to begin crossing prior to vehicles being given the signal to move, and prohibiting certain turns at specific locations.

The agency has also proposed constructing pedestrian islands in some places, increasing the length of bus stops to help eliminate buses stopping in the roadway or blocking crosswalks, relocating bus stops, and initiating the ParkSmart pilot program, which would vary the cost of meters based on demand at different times, to “increase parking utilization.”

Particular attention is being paid to Church Avenue’s intersections with McDonald Avenue, Beverly Road, Ocean Parkway, Coney Island Avenue, East 18th Street, Ocean Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, East 21st Street, Nostrand Avenue, New York Avenue and Utica Avenue.

At Coney Island Avenue, DOT proposes “removing Albemarle Road from the intersection” by blocking that street’s westbound lanes, and allowing only right turns from Coney Island Avenue. At Church Avenue, the agency recommended dedicated left turn lanes from Flatbush Avenue, as well as 16−foot−wide parking lanes on Flatbush, to accommodate double parking.

Mark Dicus, executive director of the Church Avenue Business Improvement District, said that the BID was “Generally supportive of the recommendations.” In particular, he cited the inclusion of commercial delivery zones along the strip, the ParkSmart program and pedestrian safety improvements. “I think the changes they recommended will improve congestion on Church Avenue,” Dicus opined. “The question is, would the bolder move have a substantially greater impact?”

A major issue for the BID, Dicus added, is the intersection of Church and Flatbush Avenues. “Our concern is really about getting traffic through the intersection,” Dicus emphasized. There is not enough room, he noted, for dedicated right turn lanes, meaning that if drivers want to turn right, traffic often backs up behind them. Dicus said that the BID supported eliminating left turns at the intersection “at peak times,” to improve traffic flow. He also said that the BID had suggested possibly moving the crosswalks several car lengths from the corner along Flatbush, to allow cars to turn, so that the cars behind them could get through.

Dicus also said the BID would like to see the through truck route moved from Church Avenue eastbound to another street.

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