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Large Scale Street Construction Projects About to Begin on the LES

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It was a Power Point Fiesta. Last night a parade of city officials came before CB3’s transportation committee to outline several major street construction projects that will have a major impact on the neighborhood.  Each of the projects is designed to improve pedestrian safety, extend Lower Manhattan’s network of bike lanes and beautify heavily trafficked streets. Here’s a summary:

EAST HOUSTON STREET: A sweeping reconstruction of Houston from the Bowery to the East River. In the second phase of a project that began on the West Side, the city will rebuild the entire street, including sewer lines, sidewalks and the roadway itself. They will also install new greenways and bike lanes. The work will begin in a few weeks and continue for three years. Expect lane closures, street closures and a lot of noise and dust. The Department of Design and Construction said they were committed to working with residents to minimize the inconveniences. They’re even installing “Rodent Control Stations.”

EAST SIDE HIGH SPEED BUS SERVICE“Select Bus Service” will run on the M15 route, along 1st And 2nd Avenues, from 125th Street to Houston. There will be dedicated bus and bicycle lanes and passengers will pay curbside before boarding. There will be two Lower East Side bus stops: Allen/Houston and Allen/Grand. Representatives of the LES Business Improvement District expressed concerns last night that the stops could “negatively impact businesses” by eliminating loading zones and parking metered spaces (more on that later). Construction is expected to begin in the fall. Not everyone is convinced the East Side bus plan makes sense. 2nd Avenue Sagas has been covering the issue extensively.

BOWERY RECONSTRUCTION: This project involves installing a center median and greenway on the Bowery from Canal to East Broadway. There will also be safer pedestrian crossings and clearer markings, but no reduction in automobile lanes. Construction is scheduled to begin next month. The Community Board was fairly supportive of the project, but there are bound to be concerns in Chinatown about what is NOT being addressed in the redesign. In the aftermath of several pedestrian deaths and injuries, community activists have called for new safety measures near the Manhattan Bridge. The Bowery project does not include any substantial modifications to the traffic flow off of the bridge.

The city wants to discourage bicyclists from using Delancey Street

NEW BIKE LANES TO WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE: In an effort to discourage bicyclists from using Delancey Street, the DOT is adding bike lanes on Rivington, Stanton and Suffolk Streets. The idea is to create an alternate east/west route for bicyclists traveling to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. City officials say the new route will create a safe way for bicyclists on the East Side to access the Hudson River Greenway. They indicated a small number of parking spaces will be sacrificed and some loading zones eliminated, but since the impacted streets are not heavily traveled, they expressed confidence businesses would not be adversely affected. Marin Tockman, a volunteer with the bicycling advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives, praised te new bike routes. But referring to the death of a bicyclist on Delancey earlier this year, she called on the DOT to make Delancey Street safer. DOT officials responded that the best strategy for improving safety is to encourage bicyclists to use the alternate route.

In general, community board members were supportive of the projects. But it’s safe to say they have some concerns about the impact years of ongoing road work will have on the neighborhood.  City Councilmember Margaret Chin has also been taking a look at the city’s plans. In a statement this morning, Chin’s communications director, Jake Itzkowitz, summed up her take on the proposals: “We’re concerned about the loss of parking. The councilmember also still has serious ongoing concerns about the Grand Street bike lane, especially considering the accident this week, and believes that the DOT should be removing all or part of that lane before installing any new ones.”

On top of these initiatives, Lower Manhattan residents will soon have to maneuver around both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, which are undergoing reconstruction.  We’ll have more details soon about how those major construction projects will impact auto, train and bike commuters.

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