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Locals: U-turn-about is fair play

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The city may finally reverse course on allowing U-turns at a crowded Brighton Beach intersection — but only after this paper helped the city figure out that the regulation was its responsibility.

The hectic intersection at Coney Island Avenue and Guider Avenue is set for a safety-minded makeover that has drawn positive reaction from community leaders. But the plan does not address the issue of a banned U-turn at the intersection that residents say is a major inconvenience.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) is urging the city’s Department of Transportation to lift the ban preventing motorists from making a U-turn from southbound Coney Island Avenue to a northbound section of Coney Island Avenue that leads directly to an eastbound Belt Parkway entrance, sparing drivers an annoying detour though local side streets.

“Many in my district have voiced their belief that lifting this U-turn ban as part of the new traffic signal timing would improve the intersecti­on,” said Cymbrowitz.

The traffic-pattern changes already planned are meant to address the dangers of the busy intersection, which sees the convergence of more than five directions of traffic, including Banner Avenue and an entrance ramp to the westbound Belt Parkway. But getting the ban on the U-turn lifted has been an exercise in bureaucratic buck-passing.

Cymbrowitz originally sent the request to the state’s Department of Transportation, because the city told him that the U-turn was prohibited by the state.

The chairwoman of Community Board 15 praised the city’s plan for the intersection’s redesign when it was announced last month, but pined for the U-turn ban to be lifted, claiming the board had been told for years that the ban was imposed by the state.

“We want to get that U-turn reinstated,” said Theresa Scavo. “The state Department of Transportation is claiming there is not enough of a turning radius there, but everyone used to do it.”

But the state agency responded to the requests by saying the U-turn ban was the city’s call.

Further investigation by this paper finally sorted out the jurisdictional confusion. Turns out it all stems from a 1997 study of city intersections by the state transportation department that included crossroads not under Albany’s jurisdiction — including Coney Island Avenue and Guider Avenue.

In that study, the state agency advised banning the U-turn and the city complied, but in the nearly two decades since then, the city agency apparently forgot that the ban was a recommendation rather than a requirement, claiming for years that it was powerless to lift the restriction.

The city is now taking responsibility for the ban, and is considering the request to rescind it as part of the intersection’s revamp, according to Cymbrowitz, who spoke with the transportation department’s Brooklyn borough commissioner Keith Bray.

Cymbrowitz said that the recommendation may have been correct in 1997, but he believes the time is right to let drivers make the timesaving maneuver again.

“At the time the U-turn ban was put in place it made sense, but the new signal timing and other measures to improve safety and traffic flow have made it feasible to once again allow drivers to make the U-turn,” Cymbrowitz said.

The city’s transportation department said that work on the intersection should be completed by this winter.

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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