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City touts plan to ease traffic on Main Street

The city Department of Transportation presented to Community Board 7 last week its proposal to table a long-awaited plan to convert Main and Union streets in Flushing to one-way in favor of a new plan to test what it calls a modified two-way street.

Maura McCarthy, the DOT’s Queens borough commissioner, laid out the department’s new proposal and explained the reasons for the change at the board’s Feb. 17 meeting.

The DOT would like to pilot the new proposal, McCarthy said, for a number of months to see if it is the best way to address serious traffic concerns in downtown Flushing as the district awaits an influx of new development, including the $800 million Flushing Commons mixed-use project.

But CB 7 officials, who worked with the city for more than two years to create the original one-way pair plan, were incensed about the proposed changes, saying they should have been consulted.

“I’m getting upset that we spent two years on this and all of a sudden light bulbs are going off,” said CB 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian.

After introducing the changes to the chagrin of many who attended the meeting, McCarthy qualified the proposal, saying it is not a done deal.

“This is a proposal, we’d like to pilot it. This is not the final end,” she said. “Might we eventually go to a one-way pair? We might.”

The new plan, which would leave both Union and Main streets two-way, would restrict left turns from Northern Boulevard to southbound Main Street and from northbound Union Street onto Northern Boulevard, restrict all turns from Main Street onto Roosevelt Avenue and reverse 40th Road for bus circulation, according to McCarthy.

The changes would have the added benefit of requiring that only four bus routes be changed as opposed to the 30 that would need to be changed under the one-way pair proposal, according to McCarthy. The modified two-way plan would also require the removal of less parking spaces, she said.

A key overall result is that Main Street would flow better, she said. But Apelian was not satisfied with that expected outcome.

“We’re not trying to get a little bit better for today, we’re trying to accommodate a million square feet,” he said, referring to new development in coming years.

McCarthy said it became apparent to the department that the changes, which the MTA is currently reviewing, were necessary as it studied the one-way pair plan.

She said a major problem with the one-way pair plan is that it would require a high number of right turns.

“The volume of right turns is dramatically increased for the volume of vehicles and buses, which gave us pause because for truck and bus drivers that’s a blind spot,” she said.

Another issue that made the department reconsider the one-way pair plan is that the crowned shape of Main Street between 40th Road and 39th Avenue will not allow people with wheelchairs to board buses there if the sidewalks are widened, she said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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