Friday, February 8, 2008

The State Bureaucracy: Our Ramp Doesn't Measure Up

Commissioner Astrid C. Glynn, NYS Department of Transportation

Douglas A. Currey, Regional Director, NYSDOT

The State bureaucracy has spoken: the t-bone entrance is "below current standards." But the State also feels that to improve the lane "would require major capital work," which "is not feasible." On the other hand, some minor steps are being taken. In my view, these are no more than cosmetic.

The State position was outlined in a January 29 letter by Douglas Currey, Regional Director of the State's Department of Transportation, to Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board Six. Hammerman had previously written to DOT to express concern over the safety issues posed by the notorious t-bone entrance to the BQE near Congress Street.

Here is the text of Currey's letter:

This is in response to your recent letter regarding safety concerns at the entrance ramp from Congress Street to the westboud Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

My staff has investigated the conditions at this ramp, including a review of the accident history, and determined that the acceleration lane for entering traffic is below current standards. To improve the acceleration lane would require major captial work on the Congress Street overpass, which we feel at this time is not feasible. As such, we have recently implemented several other measures to enhance safety at this location. For example, we have installed a curve warning sign with an advisory speed limit sign on the mainline at the ramp. We have also installed solid white barrier lines between the travel lanes to discourage lane changing on the mainline, so that more gaps in the mainline flow of the right lane can occur. In addition, we are evaluating the installation of a ramp metering system for this location so that we can regulate the pace at which vehicles enter the mainline flow.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

I do understand the problem the State has: many of its highways have severe safety flaws, and not all of these can be corrected all at once. (For instance, I have noticed some very dangerous t-bone entrances to the FDR Drive in Manhattan). Here are my suggestions:

1. The public needs to know the extent of the problem at the various locations that have been implicated in the numerous accidents. I have requested such comparative data in my FOIL request, but this request remains unfulfilled. Mr. Currey says that he has reviewed the accident history here at this t-bone, but he does not disclose what his review has revealed.

2. If there is no money to fix the most dangerous conditions, the really bad ramps should be closed. If, for example, the bad t-bone here at Congress Street were closed, the inconvenience to the public would be minimal; there are a number of safer entrances to the BQE within minutes of this one. I personally never use this entrance; I find alternate routes without trouble.

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