Volume 74, Number 3 | June 8- 14, 2005

Villager photo by Josh Argyle

A police officer directed traffic near the Holland Tunnel entrance at Hudson and Canal Sts. last week.

Input sought on Canal traffic study’s second phase

By Albert Amateau

The long drive to a safer and saner Canal St. may get a little momentum on June 7 and 8 when residents, businesses and community groups will be able to give transportation officials their ideas for long-term improvements for the congested and dangerous corridor.

The open meetings to be held at New York Law School in Tribeca and Confucius Plaza in Chinatown will be the first of several by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council on phase two of the Canal Area Transportation Study, which is expected to be completed by June 2007.

After the NYMTC study is completed two years from now, officials hope to have long-term recommendations to make the traffic-filled street safer. The first phase of the study led to modest changes, including high-visibility crosswalks and traffic-calming markings on Canal St., traffic signal timing changes and redesigned signage at the Holland Tunnel entrance on Canal St.

The second and final phase of the CATS study of the river-to-river corridor, centers on Canal St. between Chambers and Houston Sts., and follows the completion in the fall of 2003 of the 18-month first phase with the short-term solutions to pedestrian and auto safety and traffic congestion.

“The issues are essentially the same,” said Aizaz Ahmed, director of the CATS phase two study, at a June 1 press briefing. “Phase one dealt with short term solutions and phase two deals with long-term solutions. We will be able to consider possible capital improvements as well as traffic management changes.”

The long-term recommendations are likely to be incorporated into the city Department of Transportation plans for the reconstruction of Canal St. between the West Side Highway and the Manhattan Bridge, to be undertaken soon after the completion of the phase two study. “It will be an opportunity to make changes like curbs and sidewalks,” said Gerry Bogacz, planning group director of NYMTC.

Bogacz said the agency, made up of regional transportation departments along with “stakeholders,” including community boards, civic and business organizations, will depend on local organizations and elected officials for input to the phase two study.

The Wed., June 8, meeting at the Confucius Plaza Community Room, 33 Bowery, will be from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. with a presentation at 7 p.m.

A stakeholders committee will meet at least six times over the next two years in addition to joining NYMTC agencies at meetings marking major milestones in the study. Community workshops will also be held to identify medium- and long-term issues, Ahmed said.

Several issues that overlap short term and long term will continue to be on the agenda of the phase two study. Within the next year, NYMTC hopes to install signs to promote the use of the broad mezzanine at the Canal St. station of the A, C, E, subway line as a safe Canal St. crossing for pedestrians. New signs for traffic coming off the Manhattan Bridge and for pedestrian crossings on Canal St. are also expected.

Red light cameras at the Greenwich St. and Hudson St. intersections at Canal St. are also being considered to enforce traffic laws.
Bogacz said the proposed Chinatown Local Development Corporation, being organized by several neighborhood groups, including the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Asian American Federation of New York, is expected to administer several Canal St. improvements. The L.D.C. would administer a pilot installation of muni-meters for parking and oversee a proposed street closure at the Walker, Baxter and Canal Sts. triangle to provide space for legal vendors, Bogacz said.

NYMTC officials said the confusing and dangerous Hudson St. intersection at Canal St. and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel has benefited from the exclusion from the tunnel entrance of trucks with more than three axles. But they acknowledged that Tribeca and Hudson Sq. residents are still not satisfied with the consistency of traffic control officers at the three-way intersection.
Marc Ameruso, a Community Board 1 member and Tribeca resident, is a member of the NYMTC Traffic Enforcement Subcommittee who has been monitoring the tunnel entrance at Canal St. He said on June 1 that the coordination of Port Authority and Police Department traffic officers still leaves much to be desired. “When they are on duty, everything works smoothly, but they seem to think there’s no traffic on weekends. It sometimes takes four or five stoplight cycles to clear the gridlock,” Ameruso said.

Nevertheless, Ameruso said the CATS project has benefited the neighborhood. “Overall, NYMTC has been very successful in getting all the agencies together to come up with solutions,” he said.

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