Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé said on Sept. 13 that she supported a plan to cut part of Grand Avenue from four lanes to two — from two to one in each direction — to increase pedestrian safety. A number of residents, however, have criticized the proposal, known as a “road diet.”
Mulé, speaking at the Baldwin Civic Association, said she did not favor the plan until she met recently with Department of Public Works officials. “I went in very skeptical,” she said. “It doesn’t make any intuitive sense.” She said she changed her mind after seeing a working model of the proposal. “It shows traffic does not slow down appreciably,” said Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport.
Residents will be able to see the model at a meeting to be scheduled by the legislator’s office and the DPW. “Everyone needs to see the model before forming a final opinion on it,” Mulé said.
She added that county officials would consider residents’ concerns before moving ahead with the project.
Under the plan, sections of Grand Avenue would be reconfigured from two lanes in both directions to one with a center-left turn lane — the limits include approximately 400 feet north of Merrick Road, to about 480 feet south of Sunrise Highway; then, from Smith Street to Florence Street.
County officials said they believed that the change, along with the synchronization of traffic lights, would allow drivers to travel along Grand Avenue at more consistent speeds, while improving pedestrian safety with new crosswalks and curb bump-outs.
According to officials, the project is part of the county’s capital plan.
Some residents said, however, that they believe the plan would significantly slow traffic on Grand Avenue, causing congestion. “There’s going to be a traffic jam that’s going to go way south of Merrick Road,” said Jules Tannen, of Baldwin. “I don’t see any good coming out of it.”
Resident Harold Eichenbaum said it sometimes takes him 10 minutes to drive from Merrick Road to Sunrise Highway on Grand. “Who knows how long that will take if they do this?” he said.
Resident Jack McCloy said there might be too many cars on Grand for the plan to work. According to the Federal Highway Administration, road diets are not recommended for streets with a daily average of 20,000 or more vehicles. In those cases, reducing the number of lanes has increased congestion, which drivers attempt to bypass on smaller side streets.
As of 2014, portions of Grand Avenue saw more than 20,000 cars per day in both directions, according to the county.
“And if they’re going to develop that stretch,” McCloy said, “that’s going to bring that number even higher.”
Mulé said the road could be changed back to two lanes in both directions if the project proved “disastrous.” “It’s just paint that they’re using,” she said.
Residents at the BCA meeting asked whether the Baldwin Fire Department or Nassau County Police Department favored the plan. “They’re warming up to the idea,” Mulé said. She added that both fire and police officials have been involved in discussions about the proposal.
Baldwin Fire Chief Michael Esposito did not return a call seeking comment. Deputy Inspector Michael Holfester, deputy commanding officer of the Baldwin-based 1st Precinct, told the BCA that the road diet could reduce speeding on Grand.
“Sometimes that kind of project can alleviate that,” Holfester said. He could not say whether Inspector William Leahy, the 1st Precinct’s commanding officer, favored the plan.
County officials also said they believed the project could improve the visibility of Grand Avenue storefronts. In 2015, the Planning Department that said such initiatives “send a clear message to existing and prospective property owners, tenants and developers that Grand Avenue is a priority for reinvestment and business development.”
McCloy said he disagreed with that approach. “There’s nothing really to look at along that stretch right now,” he said. “You’ve got a billiards hall, a library, a Fire Department and a few vacant storefronts. What are people going to be looking at?”