More than a year ago COWNA requested improvements to this intersection as part of our comprehensive survey of Columbia Street safety needs. Other neighborhood groups and elected officials have also pushed for improvements. Thanks are due to DOT for working hard to bring this proposal before our community, presumably as quickly as they were able to.
|Image from DOT|
The central failing of the proposal is its acceptance of the existing traffic conditions around the BQE entrance at Atlantic and the existing truck access to Pier 7. We all know that a significant contributor to the congestion around the intersection of Atlantic, Hicks, Furman and Columbia is drivers taking shortcuts on Hicks, Furman and Columbia to avoid the BQE. Any plan to improve pedestrian safety should have included a thorough analysis of these traffic patterns and measures to reduce the bypassing traffic. At the most dangerous intersection, the ramp from Atlantic to the eastbound BQE, the proposal suggests mainly new signage. This is hardly likely to result in a significant improvement.
At the truck entrance to Pier 7, the proposal includes only providing better sight lines. What really should be acknowledged is that the pier entrance is just in the wrong place. It should be moved to the intersection of Columbia and Congress, where there are already gates, and signalized. This would also allow the creation of a safe pedestrian crossing at Columbia Street and Congress, which is convenient for people approaching from Cobble Hill. The current proposal recommends introducing a new crosswalk at the BQE westbound entrance which puts pedestrians in conflict with vehicles exiting the BQE onto Columbia.
The proposal includes two welcome changes: widening of the sidewalk curving into the park at the south side of Atlantic by shifting the bike lanes into the street and changing the B63 bus route to eliminate the U-turn. Unfortunately, the bike lanes will be protected with jersey barriers, a distinctly second-rate configuration which will probably remain in place for years, slowly deteriorating.
This is essentially a 'painted-on-the-street' proposal and should be considered no more than a temporary placeholder approach until a worthy design that appropriately prioritizes and serves the park-going public is created.