Posted on April 24, 2010
Following on the heels of the much-disputed pedestrian plaza near New York’s 42nd Street and Times Square, another such plaza is in the works for the area between 17th and 18th Streets, north of Broadway near Union Square. The plan is expected to be brought before the local community board on Monday. Also in the works: A walkway along 34th Street, between Herald Square and the Empire State Building, which would turn the thoroughfare—one of the city’s most crowded--into a one-way street. Buses would still run in both directions, in specific lanes that would be separated from pedestrians by concrete barriers. The plan is intended to give pedestrians more room to navigate, and also to speed up ponderously slow cross-town buses—some of the slowest in the entire city. Travel time for the buses could improve as much as 35 percent. Riders would be able to pay for their ride before they boarded, and the buses could send a signal that would keep the traffic lights green as they approached an intersection. Cars, however, would not be allowed on the block between 5th and 6th Avenues; they would go westbound from 6th Avenue the West Side Highway, and eastbound from Fifth Avenue to the FDR Drive. Not surprisingly, many bus riders support the plan, while drivers of cars are less optimistic, fearing that the closures will make their commute even worse. The project is expected to be finished at the end of 2012, with final designs due next year; it’s expected to cost about $30 million. The plan was first proposed back in 2008; a public hearing was held last week. The change would significantly alter both the traffic patterns and the layout of the streets in midtown Manhattan.