Winter 2004, p.10

Reclaiming the Streets
Houston Street Rebuild Once in a Century Chance for Greatness

Median tips extended through the crosswalk provide a valuable refuge for pedestrians. As part of the DOTís plan for Houston Street, many of these safe spaces would be eliminated for motorist turning.
Median tips extended through the crosswalk provide a valuable refuge for pedestrians. As part of the DOTís plan for Houston Street, many of these safe spaces would be eliminated for motorist turning.

The New York City Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction intend to spend $25 million to replace water and sewer mains and reconstruct Houston Street between Bowery and West Streets. The project is of great interest to pedestrians and cyclists because it will shape Houston Street for the next fifty to one hundred years.

At a raucous Manhattan Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting on January 13th, over 100 people braved the biting cold to voice their anger about the pedestrian unfriendly design proposed for Houston.

Speakers were especially alarmed by the Cityís call for left turn bays for motorists heading west on Houston Street, and its proposal to narrow medians and eliminate pedestrian islands at crosswalks. Many people made the point that this part of the plan was clearly aimed at increasing traffic capacity and speeds and would undercut pedestrian safety and encourage motorists to travel on local SoHo streets.

However, the Department of Transportation plan does contain some good, including a center median with a high curb and flower beds similar to those on Upper Broadway in Manhattan. The median will provide planting beds and protect pedestrians from errant motorists. The plan also does a good job of rationalizing the complicated Houston Street and Sixth Avenue intersection, including widening the sidewalks between Sixth Avenue and West Broadway on the south side of Houston Street.

T.A. urges the City Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction to work with the community to make Houston Street a safe and inviting street that serves the community, and not just drivers headed to the West Side highway. This is a once in a century chance to redesign the street for the better that no one can afford to waste. For T.A.ís full slate of recommendations, see www.transalt.org/testimony.

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