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City Takes Steps to Relieve Clinton/Grand Street Gridlock

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Back in June, Community Board 3 asked the Department of Transportation to fix the auto bottleneck at Clinton and Grand streets. This week, city officials came back to CB3 with a plan.

clinton and grand 1

Last year, the DOT changed the traffic flow on Clinton so that cars could turn off of Grand Street in order to access the Williamsburg Bridge.  The move was part of a larger street redesign program intended to improve pedestrian safety on Delancey and the surrounding area.  Since the changes were implemented, auto gridlock extending almost all the way to FDR Drive has become an everyday occurrence and the intersection is even less hospitable for people on foot.

clinton street dot slide
This slide was used by DOT last year to illustrate changes to Clinton Street traffic flow.
A long line of cars waits to turn from Grand Street to Clinton.
A long line of cars waits to turn from Grand Street to Clinton.

Tuesday evening, CB3’s transportation committee was briefed by Sean Quinn, a DOT planning coordinator.  He said the agency heard the community’s concerns and had been working on adjustments aimed at encouraging alternative routes to the bridge and improving signage, so motorists know about those alternatives.

First of all, DOT has already added five seconds to the signal at Clinton and Delancey streets, so a few more cars can make a right turn onto the bridge. The signal is now green for 35 seconds. Second, traffic engineers will be creating a second lane of traffic on Grand Street (by eliminating a painted median) so that cars who prefer to access the bridge via Norfolk Street have room to get through the Clinton/Grand intersection.

Still to come, the agency is working on adding signs on FDR Drive to advise motorists about the Norfolk Street route.  The road signs will also direct cars to the bridge via Houston/Essex streets.  This part of the plan will take some time to implement since the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over FDR Drive (they’re coordinating with state officials).

These changes were detailed in a letter DOT sent to the community board in August. You can read it here.

While there had been some talk over the summer of eliminating or reducing the size of the Clinton Street bike lane, Quinn said DOT decided against this move because the bike lanes in the area are heavily used.


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  1. Adding a 2nd lane of traffic to Grand Street requires the removal of pedestrian islands at the crosswalk at Clinton (and Pitt? And Bialystoker/Willett?) The original purpose of the traffic changes was to improve pedestrian safety in the wake of the death of Dashane Santana. So, speeding car flow is back to being the most important priority in our neighborhood?

  2. Adding a second lane of traffic on Grand St is not going to fix anything. That will only make it easier for drivers to cut the line and then you’ll have two lanes of traffic trying to turn right onto Clinton St. Very few drivers will choose to go down to Norfolk St to get to the bridge because doing so adds 3 additional traffic lights as compared to turning down Clinton St. The reason traffic backs up is because drivers take forever to make the turn onto the bridge itself. It’s really bizarre. Impatient drivers who were cutting off pedestrians at the Rite Aid a few moments ago then take all the time in the world to mess with their phones, stare off into space, talk to their passengers and in general do anything but turn onto the bridge. Cars quickly gap to 5 or 6 car lengths once the light is green. The most effective fix would be someone standing on Clinton St yelling “TURN, you idiots, TURN!”.

  3. I’m not thrilled with the idea of adding an extra lane on Grand, either. But I think they could take out just a few parking spots on Grand and have a dedicated right turn lane on Grand extending from Ridge to Clinton. If they also added some of those lane divider things like they use on the Varick approach to the Holland tunnel, it would stop most people from cutting the line and force those who choose the left lane to go ahead to Norfolk.

    But the most important change in my mind would be to add a second lane on Clinton between Grand (or at least Broome) and Delancey. I like the two-way bike lane, but moving the bike lane to Suffolk and opening up that space for another lane of cars would allow twice as many cars to turn onto the bridge with each green light, eliminating the bottleneck effect of that traffic light.

  4. Why is there no talk of directing traffic down delancey, underneath the bridge? This could serve as an alternative lane(s). Moreover, there are no direct access points to any residence public or private on Delancey. Why is there no discussion of enforcing traffic laws all along grand street? There are so many people and children on Grand Street ( all along it, not just at Clinton) that rely on “safe” crosswalks. Obviously, this is null when the drivers arrogantly neglect to heed traffic laws. A kid on a bike was hit today. What will it take to have the city address this problem in an effective manner?

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