The future of congestion - Workshop tackles Brooklyn traffic tie-ups

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Transportation planners were all ears this week, gauging borough residents’ fear, and loathing for current and future traffic conditions.

At a workshop convened at Borough Hall by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), officials detailed the group’s Regional Transportation Plan, an initiative which will lay the framework for improving local infrastructure.

A new plan is required by October 1, 2009, and a draft is expected by the spring, with public hearings to follow.

The federally mandated hearings, which are being held in all affected counties, are intended to shape a plan intended to guide the next 25 years of improvements. Studies and initiatives eligible for federal funding will be defined through the plan.

NYMTC’s Gerry Bogacz said the plan includes 10 regions for desired growth, which will be encouraged through “strategic transportation investments.”

Five of those areas are in New York City, with one, Downtown Brooklyn, in the borough.

“There is significant growth potential for Downtown Brooklyn,” Bogacz said.

He said robust employment and population forecasts for Brooklyn could make the borough emerge as even “more of a destination than it is now.”

In all, the ten areas, which also include Long Island City, Hudson Yards, Lower Manhattan and Jamaica, could include at least 70 million square feet of commercial space and 40,000-70,000 new residential units—a prediction that will necessitate improved infrastructure, he said.

Congestion in Brooklyn isn’t expected to be as bad as in say, Long Island.

Bogacz, the assistant director of the council’s planning group, said forecasts show that the suburban areas will see more traffic, measured in vehicle miles traveled, than the city, in the future. “The flip side is that there is congestion on the [public] transit system,” he said.

Midwood resident Florence Valentino said she was impressed by the presentation, but not by the turnout for the evening session.

“It should have been a little better publicized,” she said.

Valentino said her main concern was truck traffic, particularly on Bedford Avenue.

“My real issue is to get these massive trucks off Bedford,” she said.

Valentino, a member of Community Board 14, said she was a bit dubious public input would have an impact.

“I’ve been a round the block a few times on this thing,” she said, recalling a series of public workshops on trucks convened by the city. “At the end, after all the hours, and the many people involved, they decided they would try educate the truck drivers,” she said, a solution that has had no impact on the problem.

Voting members on the council include the counties of Nassau, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of City Planning, and both the city and state Departments of Transportation.

The council is responsible for $150 billion coming into the region in the next 20 years.

More information can be found at NYMTC.org. Comments, ideas and suggestions will be accepted anytime through October 31, 2008.

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