BAY RIDGE — A plan by the Department of Transportation to reverse the direction of traffic on a single block of 99th Street is raising concerns for residents and Community Board 10.
Under the DOT’s plan, traffic on the block of 99th Street between Shore Road and Third Avenue would flow from Third Avenue toward Shore Road. Traffic currently flows from Shore Road toward Third Avenue.
The change in direction is part of an overall DOT plan to improve pedestrian safety in the area of Third Avenue from Marine Avenue to 99th Street.
DOT plans to paint curb extensions to shorten the distances pedestrians have to cross the street. The agency is also looking at installing a hardened centerline on Third Avenue. A hardened centerline is a series of structures, resembling bowling pins, which are placed in a row to slow down drivers making turns.
The plan includes moving a traffic light from the west leg of 99th Street and Third Avenue to the east leg. When the light was installed in 2015, residents objected to the west leg location. But moving the traffic light to the other side of the street would necessitate reversing the direction of traffic on 99th Street, DOT officials told Board 10.
While Board 10 endorsed the extended curbs and the hardened centerline, it voted at a meeting on Oct. 21 to reject changing the direction of traffic on 99th Street.
“We heard from residents who expressed concern that cars will go speeding down 99th Street,” Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told the Home Reporter.
Jayne Capetanakis, chairperson of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, told the board that residents spoke out against the proposal at a committee meeting on Oct. 17.
“We heard from many passionate people who felt they would not be able to get off their block, they were worried about snow removal, dangers from ice, and ultimately, they were concerned about safety,” Capetanakis wrote in her report to the board.
“Residents believed the changes would endanger the many children who live on those blocks and the high school students who walk those streets,” Capetanakis added.
Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls, is located at Shore Road and 99th Street. DOT officials visited the school to explain the traffic direction plan.
For now, Fontbonne officials are staying neutral.
“We don’t feel strongly either way,” Fontbonne Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric told the Home Reporter.
The school’s main concern is the safety of the students, according to Spicijaric, who said it wasn’t Fontbonne officials who suggested to DOT that traffic on the block be reversed.
The traffic direction plan is controversial, but the idea of installing pedestrian safety improvements enjoys widespread support.
The stretch of Third Avenue from Marine Avenue to 99th Street saw 16 accidents between 2013 and 2017, according to a PowerPoint presentation DOT made to Board 10. Seven of the accidents involved pedestrians hit by vehicles.
The area “has been of great concern to Community Board 10 and the residents that live along these streets,” Capetanakis said.
“There are long crossing distances of 75 feet at 99th and Third Avenue and 90 feet at Marine Avenue and Third. Soft, wide turns from Marine Avenue to Third allow vehicles to turn at higher speeds. The existing crosswalk is set back from 99th Street and does not extend to the curb on Third Avenue,” Capetanakis said.
DOT officials did not return messages from the Home Reporter.