Clinton St. bridge access to be curbed during L work

The traffic scene on Grand St. a typical night around 11 p.m. in mid-September as seen from the apartment of District Leader Daisy Paez’s daughter. Photo courtesy Daisy Paez

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | The Department of Transportation plans to bar drivers’ access from Clinton St. to the Williamsburg Bridge entirely during HOV-3 hours — from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. — while the L train is being repaired, city officials recently announced at a Community Board 3 Transportation Committee meeting.

The L shutdown would add to the existing traffic chaos at Grand and Clinton Sts., which Lower East Siders have complained about for years.

Some 71 percent of drivers on the southbound F.D.R. Drive take the Grand St. exit, then take Clinton St. to Delancey St. to reach the Williamsburg Bridge, according to the agency. That totals around 600 cars per hour during peak hours, according to D.O.T.

During the 15-month L shutdown, the department plans to restrict this route to the bridge. Drivers on Clinton St. would instead have access to Delancey St. South. Cars would be diverted to Norfolk and Essex Sts., and there would be high-occupancy-vehicle enforcement on Delancey St., the agency said earlier this month.

But the bulk of D.O.T.’s long-term traffic fixes at Grand and Clinton Sts. likely won’t come until after the L train shutdown and Essex Crossing construction are completed, according to city officials.

Earlier this month, D.O.T. representatives updated the C.B. 3 committee on completed actions taken to mitigate area congestion from traffic headed toward the bridge.

But similar to the agency’s June update, signage fixes and traffic signal changes were the majority of what has been completed.

“What we’re trying to do here is reduce little by little the amount of traffic that’s going up Clinton St.,” Sean Quinn, D.O.T. senior director of bicycle and pedestrian programs, told the committee. “So we’re taking little pieces of the traffic here and there and trying to get them to use different routes and sort of free up the roadway capacity on Grand and Clinton.”

City officials said they have updated signage on the southbound F.D.R. Drive to encourage drivers to take the E. Houston St. exit instead of Grand St. — the latter which dumps drivers onto Clinton St. as an access point to the bridge.

The city has also removed construction barrels on Broome St., further encouraged drivers to use Norfolk St. for bridge access with wayfinding signage, extended Grand St.’s evening traffic-signal progression hours, and moved an illuminated “No Honking” sign. The department has also reviewed signage to ensure its accuracy and done a walk-through of the area with the community, according to the D.O.T. presentation.

But GPS and mapping programs continue to guide drivers to take the Grand St. exit, leading them to Clinton St.

Eighty buses an hour would be coming over the Williamsburg Bridge under the M.T.A.’s L shutdown mitigation plan. Photo by Sydney Pereira

Quinn admitted more signage won’t necessarily change that fact without physical changes.

“People are going up Clinton because they think it’s easier and faster,” he said.

A few of those heftier physical changes are in progress.

Like D.O.T. said this summer, the department plans to add vertical, flexible poles to separate through and left-turn lanes on Grand St. approaching Clinton — aiming to prevent nonturning lanes from turning left. It also plans to add a protected left-turn lane signal from southbound Essex St. onto Broome St. this month.

This fall, D.O.T. is expected to ban left turns onto Clinton St. from Madison St. and E. Broadway during evening peak hours — which would ideally cut down the traffic of backed-up cars on Grand St. trying to turn onto Clinton.

Quinn said D.O.T. would have further updates for the board on its traffic solutions studies at the end of this year.

Consideration of other possible long-term changes — including restoring Norfolk St. as the main bridge access route and adding a protected left-turn lane at Essex and Delancey Sts. — will be held off until after the L train shutdown.

A review of reversing Broome St.’s direction to prevent left turns from Broome St. onto Clinton St. is a possibility, but not until after Essex Crossing construction is completed.

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