Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Park Ave Now has Crosswalk Signals (at least at 59th street)

Waaay back in Oh-Seven, Gothamist reported that crosswalk signals were in the works for Park Avenue above Grand Central. Now, in the past 2 weeks, this battle waged over the city's sidewalks in midtown for over 100 years has finally come to a close. There are suddenly brand shiny new crosswalk signals (with buttons to push to cross) and sounds for the hearing impaired on Park Avenue at least on 59th street.

I happened to traverse this same path last week on May 19th, and there were no signals. Now, today on my way to the same Crate and Barrel the signs had magically materialized,complete with a little picture key as to what the walking figure, the blinking hand, and the solid hand really mean. Turns out that all New Yorkers have been doing it wrong for years. The flashing hand does not indeed mean: dash-across-the street-as-quickly-as-possible-before-the light-turns-yellow-when-the-hand-stops-blinking. In fact, the flashing hand means DO NOT start crossing, only finish crossing if you have already started. Who knew?

The signals are nice, and really take the pressure off while dogding traffic, but they border on annoying. They repeat over and over. Don't walk. Wait. Don't walk. Wait. Don't walk. Wait. The entire time you stand there, as if the light didn't seem long enough when you are trapped in the median in the middle of park ave because it's so wide you couldn't quite make it across in time (I HATE it when that happens)! But they are state of the art.

The reason the MTA has waited so long to install these, and risked so many pedestrian lives in the process is because Park Avenue is this segment of town is not really a road. That's right. It's an 18-24 inch thick "deck" constructed over the trains entering and leaving Grand Central, which thousands of cars barrel over at high speeds during rush hour. That makes me feel safe, I don't know about you. I mean who wouldn't want TONS of metal on top of a platform that is a mere 1.5 feet thick? Porches never collapse-right?

So, the main fear was that if the MTA dug holes in this narrow layer of pavement to install the typical traffic and crosswalk signals that it would cause massive flooding into the train tracks. Yet, the city and the MTA managed to come to a 35 million dollar solution, to overhaul the roads surrounding Grand Central. This agreement was settled in 2007. The results are just appearing around the area now. Hey, I mean at only $5.7 million put towards the traffic signals who's really in any rush to get the job done? Fingers crossed that when I take the Metro North this weekend no tunnels of water come pouring down through the new holes in Park Ave.

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