A project by the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC), in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), is improving safety for students traveling to and from schools on the Upper West Side, and in Morningside and Washington Heights.
As part of the citywide “Safe Routes to School” initiative to improve the safety of students and caretakers traveling to and from neighborhood schools, the DDC is expanding sidewalks at key intersections, extending them as much as 18 feet into the street in order to improve pedestrian visibility, reduce the distance pedestrians must walk in the street to cross intersections, and better control the flow of vehicular traffic.
“DDC is committed to improving student and pedestrian safety through the installation of strategically placed sidewalk extensions that allow for greater visibility between drivers and foot traffic,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “Wherever possible, we incorporate design elements that support Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero citywide safety initiative.”
The $5.5 million project affects 33 corners at 16 separate intersections on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues near MS 54 and Ascension School; on West End Avenue and Broadway near Collegiate School; and on West 175th Street near Incarnation School. The work, which requires the relocation in many areas of storm drains, street lights, fire hydrants, fire call boxes, and underground utilities and water mains, is expected to be fully complete next year.
Emmanuel Louijeune, 25, a resident engineer who started working for the DDC in 2013 as an intern, is managing the work in the four school zones. He says the project will increase sidewalk capacity, slow down vehicle traffic and decrease the amount of time students have to walk in the street.
Louijeune, who moved to the United States from Haiti in 2006 and currently lives in Canarsie, says he has noticed changes in traffic patterns at locations where the curb extensions have been completed.
“I definitely notice drivers slowing down and that’s a good sign,” he said. “In New York City there are so many things that can distract pedestrians and motorists so it’s important to design our roads with safety in mind for all.”
With the school year starting back up, Louijeune says the work is being completed on a schedule that provides for least disruption of school activities. Construction occurs from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. to ensure that students are not put in harm’s way near active work sites.
“The work is critical, valuable to the City and important to all people using the streets, not only students for increased safety in daily activities,” said Louijeune.
Under “Safe Routes to School,” the NYC DOT examined the City’s 1,471 elementary and middle schools and identified 135 to receive upgrades to surrounding infrastructure within, a 700 radius of the school. Improvements can include new traffic and pedestrian signals, the addition of exclusive pedestrian crossing timers, speed humps, speed detection signs, high visibility crosswalks and new parking regulations, as well as roadway reconstruction, realignment of curbs and sidewalks, curb extensions, installation of raised or extended medians, and bus-only lanes. Of the 135 schools, 25 are located in the Bronx, 46 are located in Brooklyn, 23 are located in Manhattan, 33 are in Queens and 8 are in Staten Island.