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NYC plans to close Broadway blocks near Times Square

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  • Christopher Miller
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/nyregion/26broadway.html?_r=1&emc=eta1 ========================================================= Mayor Plans to Close Parts
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2009
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/nyregion/26broadway.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

      =========================================================

      Mayor Plans to Close Parts of Broadway to Traffic
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      By WILLIAM NEUMAN and MICHAEL BARBARO
      Published: February 25, 2009
      The city plans to close several blocks of Broadway to vehicle traffic
      through Times Square and Herald Square, an experiment that would turn
      swaths of the Great White Way into pedestrian malls and continue Mayor
      Michael R. Bloomberg�s effort to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown.

      (image)
      The New York Times
      Broadway traffic would also be barred in Herald Square.
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      Although it seems counterintuitive, officials believe the move will
      actually improve the overall flow of traffic, because the diagonal
      path of Broadway tends to disrupt traffic where it intersects with
      other streets.

      The city plans to introduce the changes as early as May and keep them
      in effect through the end of the year. If the experiment works, they
      could become permanent. The plan was described by several people who
      were briefed on it this week.

      Mr. Bloomberg was expected to announce the plan Thursday.

      A City Hall spokesman declined comment in advance of the announcement.

      The plan calls for Broadway to be closed to vehicles from 47th Street
      to 42nd Street. Traffic would continue to flow through on crossing
      streets, but the areas between the streets would become pedestrian
      malls, with chairs, benches and cafe tables with umbrellas.

      Seventh Avenue would be widened slightly within Times Square to
      accommodate the extra traffic diverted from Broadway.

      Below 42nd Street, Broadway would be open to traffic, but then would
      shut down again at Herald Square, from 35th Street to 33rd Street.
      Then, below 33rd, it would open again.

      The plan is the latest move by Mr. Bloomberg to change the way the
      city thinks of its streets, making them more friendly to pedestrians
      and cyclists and chipping away at the dominance of the automobile.

      Once the changes are in effect, a large stretch of Broadway in the
      heart of Midtown would be radically changed.

      Last summer, the city narrowed Broadway from 42nd Street to 35th
      Street by setting aside two lanes on the east side of the street for a
      bike lane and promenade with tables, chairs and planters.

      That project, called Broadway Boulevard, met with some skepticism at
      first but quickly became a popular lunch spot for office workers and
      tourists. Under the new plan, officials are considering creating a
      similar promenade from 47th Street north to the vicinity of Columbus
      Circle.

      A theater industry executive who was briefed on the plan this week
      said the reaction among Times Square business leaders was largely
      favorable.

      ���I think it potentially could be a big plus if it speeds up traffic
      flow through the Times Square area,��� said the executive, who spoke on
      condition of anonymity because the briefing was considered
      confidential until the mayor announces his plan. ���If you have a major
      pedestrian area, that actually could be something welcoming and
      lovely.���

      Cora Cahan, president of the New 42nd Street, a nonprofit group that
      oversees seven historic theaters, said she was not briefed on the
      latest plan but had seen preliminary proposals last year.

      ���I think it���s very worth trying,��� she said, adding that Times
      Square badly needs more room for pedestrians.

      The plan has some risks, especially if it does not deliver on the
      promise of decreasing congestion.

      New York drivers, including cabbies and truck drivers, can be zealous
      in defending their use of the city���s streets. Their passion helped
      doom Mr. Bloomberg���s congestion-pricing proposal last year to charge
      drivers to use the most heavily traveled streets of Manhattan.

      Some may also question the timing, now that the city is struggling
      with a recession. The theater executive who was briefed on the plan
      said one worry was whether taxis and other vehicles would have
      difficulty leaving people in front of theaters.

      Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow for transportation for the Regional
      Plan Association, an independent organization, said planners had been
      calling for similar changes for years.

      He said Broadway tended to foul up traffic at each intersection with
      an avenue. To allow for green lights on Broadway, the duration of the
      green lights on the avenues and cross streets had to be shortened,
      backing up traffic.

      ���The lower the volume is on Broadway ��� or if you eliminate it
      altogether ��� then traffic is going to move better,��� Mr. Zupan said.
      ���That���s one of the positive things that���s going to come out of
      this. The win-win is that the space that you���re freeing up will be
      used by pedestrians.���

      Next Article in New York Region (3 of 19) ��A version of this article
      appeared in print on February 26, 2009, on page A26 of the New York
      edition.
      ��
      =========================================================

      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada



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