U.W.S. board: Traffic unsafe at Riverside Dr. and 79th St.

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | The Upper West Side’s Community Board 7 passed a resolution urgently calling on the Department of Transportation to mitigate heavy traffic, speeding and illegal U-turns at the intersection of Riverside Drive and 79th St.

The changes are desperately needed, the board said, to allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely enter and exit the adjacent Riverside Park.

According to the board, the intersection is one of the most dangerous on the Upper West Side, in terms of accidents. In 2014, the intersection was labeled a Vision Zero “priority.”

Traffic at the intersection is frequently backed up, with cars even blocking pedestrian crosswalks, due to the spot being an exit and entrance to both the West Side Highway and Riverside Park.

On Sept. 3, an overwhelming majority of the Upper West Side’s Community Board 7 voted in favor of a resolution urging the Department of Transportation to improve traffic safety at Riverside Drive and 79th St., along with nearby intersections. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

The resolution also calls for D.O.T to make changes at the nearby intersections of 78th and 80th Sts. and Riverside Drive, as well as along 79th St. at West End Ave. and Broadway, as well as Riverside Drive. According to the board, drivers making their way to the highway from 79th St. will frequently speed through all three of those three intersections.

Other issues mentioned were an excessive amount of honking at the intersection by the park entrance and also at the 79th St. traffic circle, especially during rush hour.

“This is only going to get worse with the rotunda project” said Howard Yaruss, the C.B.7 Transportation Committee chairperson. D.O.T is preparing for $200 million worth of renovations for the Robert Moses-built rotunda structure, including new concrete work, restroom upgrades and accessibility improvements.

After the community board previously complained that the plan left pedestrians and cyclists in danger, the agency went back to the drawing board.

In June, C.B. 7 voted to disapprove the proposed amended rotunda project on the grounds that the D.O.T. plan still would not adequately protect pedestrians and cyclists traversing the circular space. In the revised plan, D.O.T. proposed painting a bike lane in the 1930s-era roundabout. In its recommendations, the board said there needed to be a “physical protected separation” between car drivers and cyclists in the traffic circle, that signage needed to be increased and that “tactile warning treatments, such as rumble strips,” needed to be added to the traffic circle.

According to a D.O.T. spokesperson, work on the 79th St. rotunda could be begin as early as next August, with renovations expected to be completed by 2024 or 2025.

The September resolution by C.B. 7 called for safety improvements to be made by using L.P.I.’s (Leading Pedestrian Intervals), “School Crossing” signs, no-left-hand-turn signs and street treatments, such as rumble strips, among other things.