A Dangerous Intersection Gets Its Fix

Members of Brooklyn CB 8 voted unanimously last month to support the Department of Transportation’s plan to make the dangerous intersection of Atlantic, Washington, and Underhill avenues safer for pedestrian crossings. DOT officials said they hope the construction will begin this summer.

According to the most recent DOT tally, a total of eight pedestrians were struck by oncoming traffic at this intersection between 2005 and 2009. Between 1995 and 2005, an additional 15 pedestrians were hit and injured here, according to the CrashStat report issued by Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes bicycling, walking, and the use of public transport. In this 14-year span, there have not been any pedestrian fatalities.

Angie Chait, a Prospect Heights resident, said a Mack truck nearly clipped her while she crossed the intersection with her newborn son in October. As the driver rushed to make the light, Chait said, there wasn’t sufficient space for her to flee the truck’s path.

“I jumped back to the median, which is woefully small and not wide enough to protect pedestrians trying to cross,” she said.

Ms. Chait’s complaints highlight those of neighborhood residents who cross this intersection to catch the Clinton-Washington C train across the way. The mix of long crosswalks and brief walk signals leaves pedestrians running to make it across. If pedestrians can’t cross in time, the refuge median in the middle of Atlantic Avenue offers only a narrow buffer space between a pedestrian’s safety and six lanes of high-speed traffic.

Jeff Sherman, an architect, said he instantly noticed the intersection’s flawed design when he moved to Prospect Heights 11 years ago.

“This one was so threatening, dangerous, and discordant with the neighborhood, and the solution was so easy to imagine,” he said.

This past August, Mr. Sherman drafted a construction plan to place protective bollards at the median and extend curbs in each corner of the intersection.

In addition to the construction plan, he circulated an online petition that he advertised on posters stuck around the intersection, local blogs, and on the Huffington Post. A total of 337 Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights residents signed to have the DOT implement these changes.

The petition worked. Mr. Sherman, along with several neighborhood residents, met with the DOT twice: first in November to propose the draft, then later in January to hear the DOT’s findings.

The DOT incorporated the entirety of Mr. Sherman’s proposed revisions and added several new features.

The most significant change this summer will be the extension of all the intersection’s curbs and medians, which will shorten crosswalks by 32 feet on the south end of the intersection, 20 feet on the west end, and eight feet on the east end.

“These are extremely long and don’t give people space to rest,” said Kelly Sanders, a DOT official, about the intersection’s crosswalks.

Other plans include a ban on left-hand turns from Atlantic Avenue onto Washington Avenue and greenstreets expansions.

Mr. Sherman said he feels relieved that CB8 approved the plan.

“It’s such a good vs. evil choice,” he said.

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