A woman in her 50s was fatally struck by a driver while attempting to cross a notoriously deadly intersection in Woodhaven, Queens on Thursday morning.
Police say the pedestrian was crossing Woodhaven Boulevard against the light at Jamaica Avenue just before 6 a.m., when she was run over by a 62-year-old man driving a Lexus. The driver remained at the scene and has not been charged. The woman was transported to Jamaica Medical Center in critical condition, where she later died.
Woodhaven Boulevard, which runs from Ozone Park to the Queens Center Mall, has long been considered one of the borough's most dangerous thoroughfares. In recent years, the city Department of Transportation has pushed for major changes to the boulevard, including an ongoing Select Bus Service expansion that would bring much-needed pedestrian improvements to especially treacherous intersections.
But those efforts met with fierce opposition from drivers and some vocal business owners, who last year successfully fought off a DOT initiative to ban left turns at the chaotic crossing. In an interview with Transportation Alternative's Jessie Singer, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that Woodhaven and Jamaica "might be the most challenging intersection in New York City."
If you ever get a chance, go out to this intersection. You have to be out there and feel the energy of the cars and people out there, because it’s a major subway stop, it’s a major commercial area, and it’s a major traffic intersection. And as Vision Zero goes, it was just unfortunately very off the charts.
For this one, we decided to ban the left turn. And the opposition was among the fiercest I’ve ever seen. The opposition was so furious that we went back, and we rethought it.
The agency ultimately settled on a compromise, so that left turning cars were not banned, but rerouted, Trottenberg said. She added, "Woodhaven is such a big, complicated roadway. There will be a Woodhaven 2.0 at some point, where we’ll go back, make refinements, and make it even better."
The NYPD Collision Investigation Squad is investigating this morning's fatality. We've reached out to the Department of Transportation about the intersection and will update once we hear back.
Transportation Alternatives Joe Cutrufo said that regardless of the preliminary specifics of this incident, the fatality highlights the problems of poor street design.
"While early reports say the pedestrian was crossing mid-block, early reports about pedestrian deaths often turn out to be wrong," Cutrufo said in a statement. "Regardless, people don't take their lives into their own hands because they want to. They do it when streets have been designed without their needs in mind—where the free movement of cars and trucks is prioritized over pedestrian safety. Fortunately we're moving away from that here in New York, but there are plenty of intersections, especially along multi-lane arterials like Woodhaven Boulevard, where more work needs to be done."
UPDATE: A spokesperson for DOT provided Gothamist with the following statement:
"All of the safety enhancements have been implemented at Woodhaven Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, an intersection that has historically been one of the worst in the City when it comes to the number of crashes and the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries. Safety enhancements at this location include new ADA compliant pedestrian and bus islands added, re-aligned left turns, and additional overhead lighting. Additional safety improvements elsewhere on the corridor are still ongoing.
As part of continuing Woodhaven SBS improvements, DOT is currently implementing additional traffic calming measures to further improve crossing the corridor in this area. We aim to complete installation of a new traffic signal and pedestrian crossing at Woodhaven Blvd and 88th Avenue this year."