NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Traffic on the West Side Highway is about to move even slower. City and state officials want to reduce the speed limit in order to keep pedestrians and cyclists safer.
Expect to see speed limits dropped from 35 mph to 30 mph south of 59th Street by this Saturday. Department of Transportation officials said it’s one of many changes on that stretch of road that will hopefully lower fatality rates.
Route 9A may be called the West Side Highway, but new changes will be forcing drivers to treat it more like a street.
“Adjusting speed limits to safer travel speeds has been among the keys to saving lives under Vision Zero,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “With the growth of Hudson River Park and the Greenway, the country’s busiest bike path, never mind great gathering places like Chelsea Piers, it is quite clear that the old ‘West Side Highway’ is now more boulevard than highway — and this new speed limit reflects that evolution. We thank our partners at the State Department of Transportation for working with the City to make the West Side Highway safer for all of its users.”
Web Extra: DOT Lowering Speed On West Side Highway:
Some drivers told CBS2’s Christina Fan on Thursday the initiative is necessary.
“There are a lot of risk takers in traffic, a lot of guys skipping lights,” one driver said.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” another said.
The idea of dropping the speed between 59th and Battery Place is to make drivers yield more to pedestrians and cyclists. But some drivers have concerns, especially those wondering how congestion pricing will clog up perimeter roads even more.
“You’re normally crawling 15, 20 mph anyway,” one driver said.
Fan asked Trottenberg what impact the reduced speed will have on the impact of all the cars already there.
“I’m hoping New Yorkers will see a real benefit in congestion reduction all over the city, including the West Side Highway and FDR Drive,” Trottenberg said.
The DOT said it will be cracking down in the form of speed cameras. Officials said drivers often zip down the West Side Highway close to 40 mph, a speed at which nearly 90 percent of crashes with pedestrians are fatal.
But families wanted to know why the city isn’t building more overpasses to avoid car pedestrian contact altogether.
“There’s a real debate in the safety community about that, because on the one hand there’s a real belief in safety in numbers, but actually the way to make a street safe and humanize it is to have people out on it and not have them all go up above it,” Trottenberg said.
The DOT is also working on other design changes, including adding new right-turn traffic lights at southbound intersections. The agency also plans to extend curbs to keep cars from cutting too close to the sidewalk.
“It can’t hurt to have curb extensions, especially down by the schools where lots of kids are crossing,” a driver said.
But some drivers say this is just another attempt to shift blame of recent fatalities on to drivers when they are not the only problem. Some cited an increase in scooters and bikes on the roads.
“They are electric and they are going excessively fast, so I think that’s the problem,” one driver said.
Under the plan, pedestrians will be given additional time to cross the street at several intersections. The changes are expected to take place within the next month.