Speed limit reduction among safety changes coming to West Side Highway

The West Side Highway near West 34th Street. (Wikimedia Commons/Roger Rowlett)

BY GABE HERMAN | A large stretch of the West Side Highway is getting a lower speed limit as part of an effort to improve traffic safety under the Vision Zero program, officials announced on Oct. 10.

Starting Oct. 12, the speed limit will drop from 35 mph to 30 mph from Battery Place up to 59th Street — an area that has had 10 traffic deaths since 2013.

Other changes include extending walk times for pedestrians at several crosswalks; adding curb extensions at intersections to keep cars from turning too close to sidewalks; adding right-turn traffic signals for cars; and installing speed cameras. Most changes will be implemented in the coming weeks and done overnight to minimize traffic disruptions.

With the growth of Hudson River Park and the Greenway, the country’s busiest bike path and … great gathering places like Chelsea Piers, it is quite clear that the old ‘West Side Highway’ is now more boulevard than highway — and this new speed limit reflects that evolution,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

A 2017 effort by local elected officials and community boards asked the state’s DOT to study the road’s safety from Lower Manhattan to Midtown. The new traffic changes from state and city agencies are a response to that study that found that conditions could be made safer, according to a spokesperson for State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“I am thrilled that New York State is responding to our calls for safety enhancements by making crucial changes to the street design and by working with New York City to reduce the speed limit on the West Side Highway,” Hoylman said. “These enhancements will protect New Yorkers from harm and create a safer West Side Highway for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.”

In lowering the speed limit, the state DOT cited a nationwide study which found that reduced speeds in cities can significantly lower pedestrian deaths and injuries. The state agency has asked the NYPD to increase enforcement of traffic violations along the road.

“The reduction of speed of the West Side Highway by 5 mph to 30 mph may not seem like a lot,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, “but it cuts the chances of pedestrians dying from being hit by a vehicle in half. I applaud city and state DOT for this action.

“We must make our streets safer for pedestrians and reduce the tragic loss of life that is too often the result of dangerous driving,” Nadler continued. “The West Side Highway is not some interstate highway in a rural area, but a boulevard street in Manhattan that is adjacent to a park, pedestrian walkway and bike path. This speed reduction initiative will help to create a safer environment for all New Yorkers.”

More from around NYC