Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" means one lane will be closed at least 17 months; did ESDC bury the real reason for change?

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday sent out a Community Notice (embedded below) announcing a "Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" that will begin on August 1 and affect the area between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, a western boundary of the Atlantic Yards project.

Temporary? It will last at least 17 months, through early 2012. That's on the extended side of "temporary."

Change of traffic pattern? That means that one of six lanes on Flatbush will be closed. A "reversible center lane [will] provide a third travel lane in the peak direction." Expect new No Standing Anytime signs and traffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic.

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

Burying the real reason?

According to the notice, the work aims "to accommodate upgrades to the MTA vent structures along Flatbush Avenue."

Sure, but that seems to be the secondary reason.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum, excerpted below, the vent structure upgrades were driven by the need to build a lay-by lane, thus allowing for "pick-up/drop-off and loading/unloading activity adjacent to the arena."

Was this predicted?

Was all this expected? Not really (as far as I can tell), which means the impact on traffic was not studied in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

The FEIS, in Chapter 17, Construction Impacts, makes mention of the closure of lanes on Flatbush Avenue, but not to accommodate upgrades to the vent structures.

Moreover, that work was supposed to take a year, and the closure might occur during only part of the day.

From the notice:
To accommodate upgrades to the MTA vent structures along Flatbush Avenue, a part of the Atlantic Yards project, beginning on Sunday, August 1, 2010, the traffic pattern on Flatbush Avenue (between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street) will be altered. These changes will improve pedestrian conditions on the northeast side of Flatbush Avenue while maintaining three lanes of vehicular traffic in the peak travel direction. These changes will be in place through early 2012.

These blocks of Flatbush Avenue will be temporarily re-striped from six to five travel lanes. Two travel lanes will be maintained in each direction at all times, with a reversible center lane to provide a third travel lane in the peak direction. On weekdays, from 7 AM to 10 AM, there will be three northbound travel lanes and two southbound travel lanes; at all other times (including nights and weekends) there will be three southbound travel lanes and two northbound lanes. Pedestrian pathways will be maintained on each side of Flatbush Avenue, subject to intermittent overnight closure based on construction activities and safety concerns.

These changes necessitate the temporary removal of the southeast-bound B41/B67 bus stop on Flatbush Avenue at Fifth Avenue. Passengers can use the bus stop on Flatbush Avenue (at Bergen Street) for southeast-bound B41/B67 service or the bus stop on Flatbush Avenue (at Atlantic Avenue) for southeast-bound B41 service. Northwest-bound bus service will not be affected.
Temporary closure scrapped?

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), in Chapter 17, Construction Impacts, estimated work on Flatbush Avenue--not mentioning the vent structures--would occur over perhaps a year: "Phase 1B Construction, 4th quarter 2008 through 4th quarter 2009."

The FEIS also suggested that the closure could occur during only part of the day:
During the first half of this construction phase, substantial utility work would continue, requiring the closure of curb lanes along Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Cumberland Avenues, and Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, as reflected in the preliminary MPT plan shown in Figure 17a-8 [below]... Along the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, utility installation would require the temporary taking of the curb lane. To maintain peak traffic flow along Flatbush Avenue, this closure may need to be limited to only off-peak or nighttime hours. The appropriate MPT [Maintenance and Protection of Traffic] for this roadway segment would be determined in consultation with DOT.
(Emphases added)

So it looks like the Department of Transportation (DOT) agreed to a solution sought by the state and developer.

Impact after arena construction

The Final Environmental Impact Statement, in Chapter 12, Traffic/Parking, describes the impact of the project:
FLATBUSH AVENUE
The east sidewalk along Flatbush Avenue would be set back between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue to provide for a 10-foot-wide lay-by lane along the east curb to accommodate pick-up/drop-off and loading/unloading activity adjacent to the arena. This segment of Flatbush Avenue would operate with three travel lanes and the lay-by lane in the northbound direction, and two travel lanes and a curb lane in the southbound direction.
From the Technical Memorandum

The June 2009 Technical Memorandum states:
As described in the FEIS (and as shown in Figure 4), it was proposed that the east sidewalk along northbound Flatbush Avenue on the arena block would be set back between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue to provide for a 10-foot-wide lay-by lane along the east curb to accommodate pick-up/drop-off and loading/unloading activity adjacent to the arena. The Flatbush Avenue lay-by lane described in the FEIS had two lay-by sections: a northern section just south of Atlantic Avenue that included a bus stop and approximately eight parking spaces, and a southern section just north of Dean Street with approximately six parking spaces. Construction of these two lay-by sections would require the relocation and reconstruction of a series of existing subway vents along Flatbush Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue. Due to the complexity in relocating these vents, a modified design for the lay-by lane entails the relocation of a smaller portion of the existing subway vents. As shown in Figure 5, the lay-by lane just south of Atlantic Avenue would remain unchanged, however, there would be no lay-by lane created along northbound Flatbush Avenue between 5th Avenue and Dean Street. The lay-by lanes on the other three sides of the arena block would not change.
It also states:
Change in Lay-by Lane Configuration on Flatbush Avenue
Under the plan for the arena block described in the FEIS (as shown in Figure 4), the east sidewalk along northbound Flatbush Avenue would be set back between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue to provide for a 10-foot-wide lay-by lane along the east curb to accommodate pick-up/drop-off and loading/unloading activity adjacent to the arena. This segment of Flatbush Avenue would operate with three travel lanes and the lay-by lane in the northbound direction, and two travel lanes and a curb lane in the southbound direction.

The FEIS assumed approximately 61 vehicle spaces of lay-by lane capacity on the arena block under the plan assessed in the FEIS. This included approximately 14 spaces along the east side of Flatbush Avenue—8 to the north of 5th Avenue and 6 to the south; 7 spaces along Dean Street; 6 spaces along 6th Avenue; and 34 spaces along Atlantic Avenue. These estimates assumed 22 feet per space, and exclude the curbside space within the Flatbush Avenue/Pacific Street intersection that would be newly signalized and reconfigured with a new crosswalk under the traffic mitigation plan as outlined in the FEIS (see Figure 19-1 in the FEIS). Also excluded is 150 feet of curb length along Flatbush Avenue north of 5th Avenue assumed to be occupied by a bus stop for northbound B41 and B67 buses, as well as the northbound B63 that would be re- routed to operate along Flatbush Avenue between 5th and Atlantic Avenues.

In addition to taxis, black cars, and buses serving remote parking garages and ‘park & ride’ lots on Staten Island during Nets games, the FEIS assumed that pick-up and drop-off activity by commuter vans serving the new subway entrance on the project site would also be accommodated in the lay-by lanes proposed along both Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

As currently envisioned, a lay-by lane would be located along the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic and 5th Avenues, but the east sidewalk along Flatbush Avenue between Dean Street and 5th Avenue would not be set back and a lay-by lane would not be provided along this block. (As a result, the east sidewalk on this block would be wider than the design analyzed in the FEIS.) Instead, no stopping would be permitted along northbound Flatbush Avenue between Dean Street and 5th Avenue and this block would function with three northbound moving lanes with no parking lane. North of 5th Avenue, the lane configuration of Flatbush Avenue would remain unchanged from what was analyzed in the FEIS.

Overall, the current plan would reduce the number of lay-by spaces along Flatbush Avenue by a total of approximately 6 spaces. Along the arena block frontages, approximately 8 spaces would remain on Flatbush Avenue (compared to 14 under the plan assessed in the FEIS) and 47 spaces would remain along the lay-by lanes on Atlantic Avenue, 6th Avenue, and Dean Street. In addition, substantial curbside space would continue to be available in the proposed lay-by lanes along Atlantic Avenue adjacent to Blocks 1120 and 1121 and along the north curb of Pacific Street adjacent to Block 1120 (see Figure 12-5 in the FEIS).
Flatbush Avenue MPT Community Notice

From the FEIS

The figure below indicates lane changes on Flatbush Avenue. It also indicates the closing of the Sixth Avenue Bridge, a plan that has since been rescinded, given the reconfiguration of a smaller arena and thus arena block.
Fig17a-8

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