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CB3 Panel Asks City to Fix Clinton/Grand Traffic Bottleneck

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Clinton and Grand streets.
Clinton and Grand streets.

Last year the Department of Transportation implemented a number of changes designed to make Delancey Street and the surrounding streets safer for pedestrians.  For the most part, the wider pedestrian “safe zones,” longer signal times and altered traffic patterns were well received. But one part of the plan, which changed the direction of a two-block stretch of Clinton Street and allowed motorists to turn right from Grand Street, is obviously not working so well. Last night, Community Board 3’s transportation committee talked about what can be done to fix the problem.

Right now, traffic backs up for several blocks on Grand during the afternoon rush hour, as cars coming off FDR Drive make their way westward to get on the Williamsburg Bridge.  A very long line forms, at least back to Lewis Street, and some drivers attempt to maneuver around the traffic, creating a double turn.  A two-way bike lane on the west side of Clinton is sometimes taken over by cars. Pedestrians are caught in the crossfire, as drivers become increasingly aggressive.

Last year, the DOT prepared a slide show making the case for changes on Clinton Street.
Last year, the DOT prepared a slide show making the case for changes on Clinton Street.

Dominic Berg, a community board member who lives a short distance from the troublesome intersection, said he doesn’t believe the situation is necessarily dangerous to pedestrians but it is a significant “quality of life issue” because the crossing can become very chaotic.  He also pointed out that there’s no signage informing drivers that they don’t have to turn right on Clinton to reach the bridge; it’s also possible to turn right on Norfolk Street.

Colleen Chattergoon, a DOT representative in attendance last night, said the agency could look at changing the timing of the traffic signals in the area, add informational signs on Grand Street and ask the NYPD to staff the intersection with traffic cops. Some board members asked whether it might be possible to add a second lane of traffic on Clinton (between Grand and Delancey) to accommodate the heavy traffic. This would probably mean moving the bike lane to another street or making it a narrower “shared” lane with automobile traffic. Chatergoon said these steps would be a lot more involved and take more time. In any event, she said, DOT, would take into consideration the impact on Delancey Street and other thoroughfares.

The committee ended up passing a resolution asking the city to examine the intersection, and to consider changes to the bike lane. Chatergoon invited community board members to visit the area with DOT engineers who will be studying the problem areas.  The committee is also planning to draft a letter to the NYPD requesting traffic enforcement officers at Clinton and Grand for a few months.  There’s a downside to making the request, however.  As any New Yorker knows, traffic cops are only concerned with moving cars along — and not with the safety of pedestrians.


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  1. The traffic jam goes all day long, not just at rush hour, and it goes back farther than Lewis Street — sometimes all the way back to FDR north of Grand. It is a quality of life issue beyond pedestrian safety. I’m in favor of bike lanes, but not on Clinton Street, which is the access to the bridge and now down to one narrow lane.

  2. This is a really good report and I am glad that DOT is taking the issue seriously. One thing you don’t mention is that traffic also backs up on Clinton Street. The two streams of traffic trying to get through the intersection cause gridlock and the running of red lights.

  3. Adding another lane just “induces demand”, bringing even more cars and trucks.

    We need to toll the east river bridges.

  4. Is this not something that can be solved with better traffic routing for autos? The reason the bike lane is on Clinton Street is because the only entrance to the non-vehicular part of the bridge is at Clinton and Delancey. A lot would need to be done to make Norfolk or Suffolk a viable entrance & exit for bicycles and pedestrians. If a simple change relieves auto traffic while keeping the bridge accessible to bikes and peds, I’m all for it, but maybe autos coming off the FDR need to be gated or flow-reduced somehow if Grand Street keeps getting backed up. Let the FDR hold the backups, like at the Brooklyn Bridge. (It’s not great policy but it’s better than having those cars try to dart around where kids play)

  5. It is impressive how far the traffic backs up on Grand. When the main entrance was at Norfolk instead of Clinton, was the backup significantly less, or just less by the distance between Norfolk & Clinton?

  6. Yes, how does doubling the number of lanes available to cars/trucks reduce the problem caused by cars/trucks? This just makes it an even more accessible area to bother.

  7. This has less to do with limited lanes and more to do with a need for congestion pricing/East River tolls. Even if you doubled capacity on Clinton St it would eventually get backed up just the same.

    As for cars driving inside the bicycle path. Inexcusable and bollards should be installed.

  8. A walk only light for pedestrians would be a good idea. Ditching the bike lane would only help 15 cars.

  9. Actually even the article states that the 2-way “protected” bicycle lane is being illegally utilized by drivers during heavy periods of congestion with no relief. That means, even if you added an additional automotive moving lane to Clinton Street you wouldn’t see reduced congestion. In fact you may see enhanced congestion due to more likely vehicular related collisions between pedestrians and bicyclist having to navigate a wider road.

    The answer is tolling the East River Bridges and congestion pricing to keep excess vehicles out of this area.

  10. Dismantling the two-way “protected” bicycle lane on Clinton St will not reduce congestion.

    The article states quite clearly that drivers often utilize the bicycle lane as an automotive moving lane during times of peak congestion with no relief.

    Removing the bicycle lane may in fact lead to more congestion considering there will likely be more bicycle/pedestrian/automobile conflicts (collisions) due to a lack of proper bicycle infrastructure and a wider street to cross (Also imagine this area after SPURA is redeveloped).

    The solution is to discourage automobile usage in this area. It’s obvious this congestion is caused because the Williamsburg Bridge is free to cross. Congestion Pricing/East River Tolls would spread out and reduce the traffic across those bridges and tunnels.

  11. Eventually that will also become congested. The bottleneck is the bridge itself.

    Also, imagine the area after SPURA is redeveloped.

    Congestion Pricing/East River Tolls is the answer.

  12. Clinton St was designated the primary route from the FDR onto the Williamsburg Bridge to reduce speeding, red light running and the amount of traffic on local streets deeper in the neighborhood. It’s an attempt at getting those cars out of there at first opportunity.

  13. It would be advisable to move the bike lane one block west to Suffolk as NO ONE uses that street since it’s cut off as a delancey cross street. They can turn Suffolk into a two way bike lane and feed the bike traffic back to the crossing to the bridge via the walking space between Suffolk and Clinton on Delancey.

  14. Right. But I am just trying to understand (since I am not at the eastern end of Grand very often) if switching the entrance from Norfolk to Clinton has changed the situation on Grand other than moving the horrible intersection from Norfolk&Grand to Clinton&Grand.

  15. I totally agree. But you have to admit that congestion pricing / east river tolls are not very likely to happen in the near future. So what else can be done? The only obvious thing is to keep cars out of the protected bike lane on Clinton. But that isn’t enough to be a game changer. (And I fear a traffic cop at the intersection is just going to wave cars into the bike lane!)

  16. Congestion pricing will come up again next mayoral term. Some people may not like it, but it only becomes increasingly necessary with time.

    Right now the best way to keep automobiles out of the bicycle lane would be to install bollards are the entrances.

  17. Well the problem isn’t the bicycle lane, the problem is the cars. Too many cars, only so many lanes on the bridge. Adding a moving lane to Clinton St will NOT solve the congestion problem. The bicycle lane is already being utilized by automobiles during periods of heavy congestion with no avail.

    The only solution is East River tolls (short term) and more mass transit options (long term).

  18. You are so right,but all these clowns here want all the things they buy to magically appear on the shelves.

  19. The drivers already use the bicycle lane as a moving lane, not just get confused at the entrance. That means that if there were two moving lanes on Clinton St there would still be traffic.

    The problem isn’t the Clinton St bicycle lane; it’s too many cars trying to utilize too little space throughout. That includes Grand St and the Williamsburg Bridge. There are too many cars coming into Manhattan period during rush hours. This area is especially stressed due to the free bridge.

    If the bridges were tolled, it would better disperse traffic into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and congestion pricing would reduce the number of cars in the CBD.

    Also take into account the SPURA redevelopment, there will soon be a lot of pedestrians at those Clinton St intersections. One lane is much safer to cross and will lead to less space conflicts and collisions.

    And automobile related taxes don’t even come close to covering infrastructure cost. Automobile infrastructure is subsidized by all kinds of taxes including the leaching of mass transit funding.

  20. The problem, in my eyes, anyway, isn’t one of pedestrian safety. It’s the near-constant line of traffic extending from Clinton all the way back to Madison/FDR, with horns honking day and night. It’s a true quality of life issue. (As I type this, on Grand & Madison, I hear multiple car horns blaring outside my window).

  21. The traffic on Clinton Street, a narrow residential street, north of Delancey should be reversed and the speeding trucks, cars and motorcycles should be directed to Essex Street, a large commercial street with 4 lanes. It just doesn’t make sense for traffic from the Williamsburg Bridge to pour onto a tiny residential street. Clinton Street is so narrow that on more than one occasion, speeding jumbo trucks had uprooted a few of Clinton Sts’ enormous old trees years before the bike lane ever existed. At least the bike lane acts as a buffer of protection for the trees.

  22. you keep crying about tolling the east river crossings. that will not stop the traffic. if you have to travel you will pay the toll. all that does is keep the poor from traveling. heres a suggestion why don’t we toll the bikes crossing the bridges that way we dont have too many bikes in the way.

  23. There always seems to be traffic and it does get dangerous for pedestrians! At Grand and Pitt Sts., drivers enter the bus lane or the median lane to bypass others. Drivers coming off Montgomery St. speed around the corner to get onto Grand. Pedestrians on the crosswalk have to walk extra cautious, so as not to get hit by turning cars.
    On Clinton and Broome Sts., there is no light or even stop sign, so drivers plow through, never slowing or stopping for pedestrians. Pedestrians have to stand in the bike lane and wait for a line to form, in order to cross safely! Especially the elderly and families with small children. This is very dangerous. When the DOT first discussed making these changes at a CB3 meeting, many neighborhood people, including myself said this would happen and asked for them not to do this. The DOT promised that they would work hard from keeping these things from occurring and would consider at least putting up a stop sign.
    This traffic congestion will only get much worse when the new apartment buildings and stores are built on the SPURA sites.

  24. Another required change is to switch back Broome St between Norfolk & Clinton Sts back to east bound from west bound. It was originally east bound but was temporarily changed to west bound due to construction. But somehow DOT made it permanent. No one is making a left turn from Clinton onto Broome then right turn onto Norfolk then right turn onto Delancey to Williamsburg Bridge anyway.

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