One of the Most Dangerous Streets in the Bronx Is Getting a Road Diet

White Plains Road, running 2.8 miles between East Tremont and Birchall Avenues, is one of the Bronx’s most dangerous streets, with more traffic deaths and severe injuries than 90 percent of the other streets in the borough. Most of this wide, overbuilt road is set to receive a road diet by September, converting two lanes to one lane in each direction while adding a striped center median and turn lane. The plan has already gained the unanimous support of both community boards along the street.

It's a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT
It’s a start: A road diet would refresh painted markings and drop much of White Plains Road, shown here between Story and Lafayette Avenues, from four lanes to three. Image: DOT

Since 2007, there have been eight fatalities on this section of White Plains Road, with an average of 230 injuries each year. The intersection with Morris Park Avenue ranks as one of the top 20 pedestrian crash locations in the city, according to DOT, with five pedestrians killed or seriously injured from 2007 to 2011 [PDF]. DOT brought radar guns out to the street and found that between 48 and 68 percent of drivers were speeding, which is the leading cause of fatal crashes in NYC.

The road diet should cut down on speeding, but there is one section of White Plains Road that won’t be getting a lane reduction. The half-mile section between the Bruckner and Cross Bronx Expressways will retain a layout that squeezes as many car lanes as possible into the street’s 60-foot width. DOT said that it is proposing more modest tweaks to intersections on this stretch because of congestion in this area, which carries more cars than the rest of the street.

On this stretch, DOT is proposing turn restrictions where White Plains Road crosses the Cross Bronx Expressway and Westchester Avenue. The plan would ban left turns from eastbound Westchester Avenue to northbound White Plains Road and from the westbound Cross Bronx service road to southbound White Plains Road. It also adds high-visibility zebra crosswalks to White Plains Road and Westchester Avenue, where markings have worn away.

Areas receiving a road diet will see parking lanes widened to 14 feet. That’s enough space for bike lanes, but there are none in the plan. Similar extra-wide parking lanes have been installed on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, among other locations.

While this road diet will yield safety benefits for cyclists and pedestrians, car-centric metrics still factored heavily in DOT’s analysis. If a project degrades Level of Service, which measures how quickly drivers can pass through an intersection, the agency is less likely to pursue it. Of the intersections along White Plains Road that DOT presented to the community boards, LOS was affected at only one location: Story Avenue between 8 and 9 a.m., where the agency expects LOS to fall slightly from “B” to “C.”

The plan runs through Community Boards 9 [PDF] and 11 [PDF], with the majority of the project in CB 9. Last month, DOT presented the road diet to the boards, which both voted unanimously in support of the plan. As part of its vote of support, CB 9 requested that DOT install parking meters on both sides of White Plains Road between Story and Lafayette Avenues.

CB 11 supported the road diet, but requested that DOT not implement a lane reduction where White Plains Road crosses the Amtrak rail line between Unionport Road and East Tremont Avenue. That bridge, split into northbound and southbound sections that are 25 feet wide each, is narrower than the rest of White Plains Road, which is 60 feet wide from curb to curb. Currently, the bridge has parking on both sides and two narrow car lanes in each direction.

DOT proposes one lane in each direction and an extra-wide parking lane, but CB 10 district manager Jeremy Warneke said that one of the board members who works at the nearby ConEd facility would prefer two lanes in each direction without parking, and the board agreed. DOT said it is reviewing the requests from both community boards.

DOT said the project could be implemented as soon as September.