The Chinatown side of the Manhattan Bridge, where the bridge's upper and lower roadways fork from the intersection of Canal Street and Bowery, is a scary amalgam: Canal Street foot traffic meets faded crosswalks flooded with heavy car traffic that switches direction depending on the time of day. All of this may change by the fall, though, thanks to a safety improvement plan [PDF] endorsed by the Manhattan Community Board 3 Transportation Committee on Tuesday night.
A rendering of happier pedestrians to come. (DOT)
As it now stands, the crisscrossing Manhattan-side bridge entrance is in the top 10% of Manhattan spots where crashes result in severe injuries or death. According to the DOT, eight cyclists were injured here between 2009 and 2013. Of sixteen pedestrian injuries in the same period, seven were serious and one, in 2009, was fatal. Factor in 133 injuries to motor vehicle occupants, and that adds up to 157 injuries total.
Between 3 and 9 p.m., the lower deck entrance to the Manhattan Bridge is currently Brooklyn-bound. But at all other hours of the day, traffic flows the opposite way at that entrance, towards Manhattan. The DOT has dubbed this daily reversal "inefficient and subject to non-compliance." No kidding. Under the new plan, the lower roadway will be Manhattan-bound 24 hours a day, while the south branch of the upper roadway will remain Brooklyn-bound. Brooklyn and Manhattan traffic will no-longer be forced to criss-cross.
The untangling of car traffic will also free up space for wider curbs: a combination of painted pedestrian space near the fork of the upper and lower bridge entrances, and wider sidewalks on Canal and Bowery, will reduce the crossing distance at the base of the bridge from 84 feet to 32 feet (a 42% "exposure" reduction, according to the DOT). The current asphalt desert will be chopped up even further, with pedestrian islands on the north and south sides of Canal Street, and a third one on the east side of the Bowery. Not to mention repainted sidewalks and new signage on adjacent Bowery Slip where, according to the DOT, over 1,500 pedestrians cross per hour.
A breakdown of the proposed traffic flow and shorter crosswalks at the base of the Manhattan Bridge (DOT)
Streetsblog reports that the Community Board 3 committee voted 6-0 in favor of the DOT's plan. However, the final vote won't take place until the Board's next full meeting, on May 26th. Assuming approval, the DOT will get to work this summer. The DOT said in a statement that it will "continue to work with the local community boards and stakeholders to refine the proposal going forward."