Queens Beep Pledges Big Cash for Queensboro Bridge Pedestrian Project

Pedestrians and cyclists in both directions currently share this narrow path. File photo: Melodie Bryant
Pedestrians and cyclists in both directions currently share this narrow path. File photo: Melodie Bryant

Mo’ money, fewer problems.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards will announce on Tuesday that he will allocate $3 million to underwrite a security fence on the Queensboro Bridge to reduce yet another hurdle for the city in its stated plan to create dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists on the dangerously packed span.

“The Queensboro Bridge serves as a gateway to Manhattan and the western side of the World’s Borough, and it is about time we ensure the bridge is safe for all who utilize it — and not just drivers,” Richards told Streetsblog. “Traffic safety is a critical issue at this moment in our city’s history, and we need to protect our cyclists and pedestrians as well.”

Queens residents, their elected officials and activists from decades ago have long sought the conversion of the so-called South Outer Roadway into a dedicated pedestrian path. The Department of Transportation offered many reasons for why it could not provide the space, including the supposed need for a security and suicide fence on the path between Crescent Street in Long Island City and Second Avenue in Manhattan.

It’s unclear why Richards’s infrastructure contribution is needed; Mayor de Blasio announced in his State of the City address in January that the city would move past its earlier concern and convert the southern-most lane on the 112-year-old span into a dedicated pedestrian path, allowing the shared two-way bike and walking path into a dedicated bike lane.

But he didn’t say anything about funding the so-called “Bridges for the People” plan. Soon after the speech, Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ben Kallos said the DOT had requested capital money from them. With each council member’s $500,000, plus Richards’s $3 million, the funding should be more than enough for the DOT, which has not put a price tag on the entire project yet, but has claimed (implausibly) that the security fence would cost up to $12 million.

The agency had asked Richards for $1.5 million, but he doubled it.

“[The borough president’s] funding has been an integral part of making this project a reality,” said DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen. “Our plan is to begin work this year, with a target of opening the new configuration for pedestrians and cyclists by the end of 2022.”

The bridge is experiencing explosive growth in bike traffic. A full presentation on the DOT’s planned work is here.


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