They’re calling for a back-up back-up!
A pair of Bay Ridge pols on Friday urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to create a contingency traffic plan for neighborhood streets which often bear the brunt of closures of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
The city often opts to close the bridge when there are high winds, heavy rain, or truck traffic. According to Council Member Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Bay Ridge residents are then left to deal with the excess traffic on the residential roads, leaving cars and MTA buses gridlocked for hours.
Brannan and Gounardes said they want to work with the MTA to create a plan to better prepare southern Brooklyn roads for these closures and ensure safety for drivers and pedestrians.
“Frustrated drivers who were driving up on the sidewalk, which is never acceptable to have cars driving on the wrong way down the street,” Brannan said. “This affects not just the average driver or pedestrian but it affects first responders who are trying to get around.”
During the bridge’s most recent shutdown last week, an MTA bus full of passengers had to wait for over an hour to be let back on the bridge. Gounardes said this is one of the reasons why the neighborhood needs “comprehensive solutions.”
“We talk a lot about how we prioritize public transit in our city. Here’s a great example of how. Busses literally could not go anywhere,” Gounardes said. “There was no plan in place to give them, the group with the greatest number of people, access over this bridge.”
The pols were joined by locals, like Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann and Ridge resident Jay Brown, in calling on the MTA to develop a plan that would help them in case of bridge closures.
Brown was caught in last week’s traffic scuffle, and told press on Friday that roads were backed up in every direction — leading people to drive the wrong way down two-lane streets, endangering pedestrians. With the increase of bad storms in the city this year, locals fear this kind of driving drama would only increase without the proper preventative measures.
“We’re seeing this more often with the frequency of terrible storms that we’re encountering,” Brown said. “I didn’t see any traffic control. There was nothing that was here to manage the traffic and it’s an obvious problem.”
Brannan and Gounardes are hoping to work with the appropriate city agencies to address the issue. They specifically requested an early heads-up on when the bridge — or parts of it — might shutter so that locals have time to prepare and additional traffic control to keep the roads as clear as possible.
“We want to be partners in this and we’re not looking to throw this all on any one agency,” Brannan said. “The same spirit of safety which makes the MTA close down the Verrazzano Bridge when there’s high winds should be the same spirit of safety and why there should be a contingency plan for what happens to the neighborhoods around the bridge when you make those closures.”
A spokesperson with the MTA said the team only implements vehicle bans to ensure safety during inclement weather conditions. State and city partners, including the Department of Transportation and the New York Police Department, are notified before and during closures.
The representative also noted that the MTA does not have jurisdiction over the city’s roadways, and that the DOT would be the agency responsible for developing any bridge-related contingency plans.