The West Side Highway could be slated for a safety overhaul.
The state will explore options to improve safety along the thoroughfare, following urging from local elected officials. State Sen. Brad Hoylman’s office is working with the state’s Department of Transportation to develop a study of a segment of the highway stretching from the Battery to 72nd Street.
“I think they agree it’s time to take a comprehensive look at safety — pedestrian, drivers and cyclists — on the West Side Highway,” said Hoylman. “It’s a booming corridor with a highway that intersects one of the busiest parts of the nation. They see the reasoning … and we hear it from our constituents.”
This spring, Hoylman penned a letter to the state, co-signed by 11 other elected officials, requesting a study on “how to improve traffic safety” along the span of highway. They cited the growing recreational use of the West Side’s waterfront that flanks the highway on one side as well as massive residential and commercial development — like Hudson Yards and the St. John’s Terminal — that sits on the other.
The department’s Acting Commissioner Cathy Calhoun and Regional Director Sonia Pichardo met with some of the elected officials last month, where they agreed on a “limited, expedited study” for safety improvements.
Traffic volume is highest at the 72nd Street end of the stretch, which serves more than 104,000 daily vehicles in each direction, according to published state DOT traffic volumes from 2015. Traffic gets lighter as it heads south, with just over 58,000 vehicles using the stretch near the Holland Tunnel each day.
As of September, there were nine traffic deaths from the Battery to 72nd Street since 2013, according to the city’s Vision Zero data. Hoylman and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said they’d like to see some concepts that the city regularly implements brought to the highway — such as left turn bays, lane narrowings, slow zones, speed cameras and better infrastructure for pedestrian crossings.
“Manhattan is one of the densest, busiest street environments you’ll find anywhere, and traffic safety here has to be a top priority for every level of government,” said Brewer in a statement. “I’m pleased that the state DOT is working with us and pursuing an expedited traffic study. For now, we can all agree that more needs to be done, and hopefully after this study it will be.”
If or when the study will actually bring changes to the highway remains to be seen. Hoylman and said he hopes the agency gets started on the study within the next year. Diane Park, a state DOT spokeswoman, said timelines haven’t been established yet.