Today’s news:

Plans for Church Avenue Moving Forward

Plans to ease traffic along Church Avenue are one step closer to fruition.

The final public meeting regarding proposals for the thoroughfare, which is included in the city Department of Transportation’s Congested Corridors program, was held recently in the heart of Flatbush, and those who attended the meeting seemed relatively satisfied with what was offered, though indicating that the agency’s plan still needs some refining.

The goal of the changes, according to the presentation made by DOT at Erasmus High School, 911 Flatbush Avenue, is to “Reduce vehicular congestion and improve air quality, mobility and safety to enhance the quality of life for all users (vehicle, transit, pedestrians, bicyclists) who live, work and shop” in the area around Church Avenue, between McDonald and Utica Avenues. The controversial idea of making Church Avenue a one-way street is not part of the proposal.

To accomplish its objectives, the agency has proposed specific changes at key locations along the strip. These include prohibiting southbound left turns from Ocean Avenue onto Church Avenue to ease traffic backups there, as well as prohibiting all left turns from Utica Avenue onto Church Avenue, and all left turns from Bedford Avenue onto Church during the morning and evening rush hours.

In addition, the agency plans to widen sidewalks at the intersections of McDonald Avenue, Beverly Road andConey Island Avenue to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians.

The agency also intends to add raised pedestrian islands at Ocean Parkway and Ocean Avenue to enhance safety at those locations. At the intersection of Albemarle Road and Coney Island Avenue, DOT’s current plans include closing off the westbound lane of Albemarle, which has been a nexus of safety concerns.

Northbound left turn bays would be installed on Ocean Avenue at Church Avenue, and north and southbound left and right turn bays on Flatbush Avenue at Church. On New York Avenue, some parking would be removed to provide dedicated right turn lanes in both directions.

The agency also has indicated that, in certain locations, it wants to install munimeters, which can increase the number of cars that can park on an individual block, as well as institute a ParkSmart pilot program, which would alter the cost of parking depending on the demand at different times of the day.

In addition, all along the avenue, DOT plans to make changes such as upgrading road markings and pedestrian ramps, and constructing pedestrian islands, as well as lengthening and relocating bus stops.

The agency also intends to add “Yield to Pedestrian” signs along the strip, as well as changing traffic light sequences to give pedestrians a chance to cross before traffic begins moving at certain locations, such as East 18th Street, as well as to enhance traffic flow,to “reduce aggressive behavior due to excessive delays.”

Mark Dicus, the executive director of the Church Avenue Business Improvement District, said that the BID was basically supportive of the proposal, though some locations need to be “fine-tuned.”

DOT is proposing to “add some metered parking in our district, which we like,” noted Dicus. However, he said, the BID had concerns about the plans for East 18th Street. “We are asking them to consider a more aggressive approach there,” specifically to move the crosswalk and the bus stop further west, Dicus said.

Changes already made at Flatbush Avenue, Dicus deemed as “generally moving in the right direction. There just needs to be significant enforcement of the changed traffic patterns,” he went on, noting that the 70th Precinct had “agreed to step up enforcement there.”

Rickie Tulloch, a member of Community Board 17, said that, in his view, the proposal was, “A good plan except they have to tweak it.”

Specifically, Tulloch said he was concerned about the prohibitions on left turns at Bedford Avenue proposed by DOT, noting that such a move would “create more of a problem” in an area where there are already traffic “bottlenecks.” If that proposal goes forward, Tulloch predicted, “They are going to have traffic backed up to Sears.”

The other change that Tulloch said he would like to see made is the removal of evening rush hour left turn restrictions at Caton and Ocean Avenues, to complement the proposed elimination of left turns onto Church Avenue from Ocean Avenue, a move he said he thought was “good.” Keeping the left turn restriction at Caton, Tulloch said, would be a burden on East Flatbush residents, who would have to travel down to Albemarle Road to make the turn from Ocean.

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