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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release #08-025

DOT Announces Safety Upgrade at Park Avenue and 33rd Street/ Trial Closure of Park Avenue Tunnel’s Southbound Lane

Closure starting Aug. 3rd is aimed at reducing pedestrian accidents at Park Avenue and East 33rd Street, which has a high accident rate despite prior safety improvements

NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced that as part of the agency's ongoing effort to improve pedestrian safety citywide, the DOT will widen sidewalks, build a sidewalk extension and refuge islands and install new signs at Park Avenue and 33rd Street in Manhattan to make the intersection safer for crossing pedestrians. A major element of this pedestrian safety strategy is the trial closure of the southbound lane of the Park Avenue tunnel from 40th to 33rd Streets starting the evening of Sunday, Aug. 3rd, to assess the impact on reducing accidents and traffic movement. DOT will closely monitor the entire area following the closure to assess its impact on accidents and traffic movement. The changes will be reviewed in the coming months and further refinements to the safety strategy can be made if necessary.

Despite the historic drop in pedestrian accidents citywide, the intersection of Park Avenue and 33rd Street consistently records a high number of pedestrian accidents, with 20 such accidents recorded between 2004 and 2006. Pedestrians crossing against the traffic signal were involved in 80% of these accidents.

"Last year, New York City recorded the lowest number of fatal pedestrian accidents since records were first kept in 1910, and under our strategic plan we intend to cut that historic number in half by 2030," said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "We are targeting our greatest efforts to safety projects where there are accidents involving seniors and schoolchildren, and at locations where accidents persist despite previous safety enhancements."

In 1999, the DOT installed pedestrian fencing and prohibited pedestrians from crossing the north side of the intersection at Park and 33rd. The agency also banned westbound vehicle travel by installing barriers at the intersection, and it upgraded signs and installed flexible barriers between the tunnel entrance and exit. A review of accident data shows that despite these measures, visibility remains an issue both for drivers and pedestrians at the south end of the tunnel. This is compounded by a great number of pedestrians crossing against the traffic signal. There are also no pedestrian refuge islands at the southern crosswalk and insufficient parallel clearance for southbound vehicles in the local and tunnel lanes.

Starting August 3rd at 10 p.m., the Park Avenue tunnel will be closed to traffic in both directions and barriers will be installed to direct traffic onto the surface lanes of Park Avenue and 40th Street. Work is expected to be complete on Wednesday, Aug. 6th, when southbound traffic will remain diverted to surface lanes at 40th Street, and a single northbound lane will reopen at 33rd Street.

At Park and 33rd, DOT will construct a nine-foot extension to the sidewalk at the southeast corner and a 10-foot pedestrian island at the south crosswalk, shortening the distance that pedestrians need to cross by 20%-from 94 feet to 75 feet. Pedestrian crossing on the north side of this intersection will remain prohibited.

As part of the project, DOT will build an eight-foot pedestrian island in the south crosswalk at the tunnel entrance at Park and 40th. And below 33rd Street, the southbound lanes will be restriped to account for the removal of the tunnel lane.

The change is the latest DOT initiative to improve pedestrian safety, coming just three months after the agency made significant changes in traffic movement at Tillary and Adams Streets, at the Brooklyn foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. At that location, left turns from northbound Adams onto Tillary are now prohibited, as are left turns from eastbound Tillary onto the Bridge. The signals were also re-timed, allowing additional pedestrian crossing and reducing the time motorists wait for a signal phase.

The department also continues to make safety improvements at its pilot locations for Safe Streets for Seniors program, installing pedestrian refuge islands, retiming traffic signals, prohibiting turns, widening sidewalks and narrowing streets in neighborhoods with high numbers of senior accidents. DOT this week also announced the second 135 schools citywide that will receive comprehensive safety treatments as part of the agency's Safe Routes to Schools program. Taken together, the two projects are the largest traffic-calming programs of their kind in the nation.

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