The new DOT plan to fix Kent Avenue does a lot of things right. First and foremost, it makes business on Kent Avenue viable again. It retains the future Greenway’s bike lanes, and separates bike and car traffic. It acknowledges that Kent Avenue – and the neighborhood as a whole – is changing from manufacturing to residential. It mostly keeps truck traffic on existing truck routes.
But the plan could be better. The chief complainers about the new plan are residents along North 11th Street. On the one hand, North 11th Street has always been a truck route, so its a bit disingenuous of people to buy a condo on a mapped truck route and then complain when trucks use that truck route. On the other hand, North 11th Street has never been a good truck route, and as the neighborhood becomes more residential, is even less so. The big problem is not so much the presence of (new) residential buildings, but rather that North 11th is a crosstown street – all the stop signs and avenue crossings will create backups and increase chances for accidents.
There are solutions. The single biggest (and simplest) change that DOT should make is to add a left-turn arrow onto McGuinness Boulevard for traffic westbound on Greenpoint Avenue. DOT should be shifting as much southbound traffic onto McGuinness and Meeker as possible. Trucks coming down Greenpoint from Long Island City and the Greenpoint IBZ have plenty of room to make the left onto McGuinness (which is in effect three lanes wide in the eastbound direction there), but probably not enough time given the heavy eastbound traffic on Greenpoint.
By diverting traffic at McGuinness, we would reduce truck traffic from the narrow block of Greenpoint between McGuinness and Manhattan, reduce the number of trucks making the tight left off of Greenpoint onto Franklin, and reduce the number of trucks going down North 11th Street. The only trucks that should be going west of McGuinness are trucks making very local deliveries. Everyone else should be using McGuinness to get to Meeker, and from there taking either Union south (or getting on the BQE at McGuinness and Meeker).
Another thing that DOT should be doing is adding traffic lights and stop signs. Kent Avenue has to have traffic lights in the area between North 4th and North 14th. It is insane to have residential towers and public parks (well, plural in the future) that are only accessible by crossing a mini-freeway1. Wythe Avenue needs more stop signs and other traffic-calming measures in the area south of North 11th Street. Since truckers tend to prefer a straight unhindered route, this will discourage truck traffic in the area of Wythe that is not a truck route. The existing stop signs and avenue crossing on North 11th Street will probably have a similar effect – trucks won’t want to take North 11th if they don’t have to. But to make the intersections safer, there needs to be stop signs or traffic lights on the avenues too (there is already one at Berry and North 11th).
And finally, as I’ve said before, there needs to be enforcement of the truck routes. With the exception of the BQE, all of the truck routes in CB1 are for local traffic only. Trucks shouldn’t be using our neighborhood as a shortcut around the BQE. DOT, NYPD et al also need to step up and ticket trucks that use Wythe south of North 11th Street (despite the scare-mongering I hear in the neighborhood, DOT is NOT turning Wythe Avenue into a truck route).