Gansevoort traffic goes in right direction
A long-awaited improvement is taking place at the gateway to the Meatpacking District, at Ninth Ave. between 14th St. and 16th Sts. Department of Transportation construction crews are reworking what residents and community groups have long regarded as one of the most dangerous stretches in the city, improving pedestrian safety and rationalizing a confusing pattern of auto traffic that contributed to the death of Amelia Chimienti, 82, on Feb. 5, when she was hit by a truck while crossing 16th St. on the east side of Ninth Ave.
As part of the $200,000 Ninth Ave. Plaza project which has been billed as an interim solution by D.O.T., Community Board 4 and the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project traffic on Ninth Ave. between 14th and 16th Sts. was changed to all one-way downtown, continuing south on Hudson St. In addition, D.O.T. is reducing the number of auto lanes while adding a bike lane on Ninth Ave. The agency also is creating green space and much-needed pedestrian stopovers by running a large triangular plaza and median up the middle of Ninth Ave. between 14th and 15th Sts. The triangle where Ninth Ave. and Hudson St. intersect, on the south side of 14th St., is being extended, and a neckdown is being added at the southwest corner of Ninth Ave. and 14th St.
At C.B. 4s request, D.O.T. is also studying barnstorming, a traffic-light timing approach where all pedestrian crosswalks around the intersection of Ninth Ave. and 14th St. would be used simultaneously for short bursts of time. Barnstorming is especially effective at complex intersections such as this one.
By D.O.T.s own admission, this interim solution is not perfect. The median at the Ninth Ave. and 15th St. crosswalk accommodates too few pedestrians, and, despite the sidewalk extensions and neckdowns, 14th St. and Ninth Ave. is still a six-street intersection with confusing traffic-turn options. Preliminary reports indicate that confusing traffic lighting for cars traveling east on 14th St. across the intersection may also cause false starts.
In their proposed design for the area, due out by September, the improvement project group in concert with consultant Sam Schwartz and the Regional Plan Association calls for connecting the median and large traffic triangle above 14th St. with the western sidewalk of Ninth Ave., thereby creating a large, user-friendly pedestrian space and eliminating one street from this monstrous intersection. This proposed idea and others seem like good recommendations for D.O.T. to consider in drafting their final plan for the area, which will be realized in two to three years.
But D.O.T. should be praised for its rapid response to C.B. 4s initial 2006 request for a southbound-only Ninth Ave. and because this interim solution accomplishes much of what the community groups have set out to do. The arrival of new D.O.T. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who brings a progressive vision to the table, also bodes well for not only the Gansevoort District but the city under Mayor Bloombergs new PlanNYC 2030 initiative.