Queens Boulevard -- a notoriously dangerous thoroughfare known locally as "The Boulevard of Death" -- is undergoing a $100 million makeover to prevent pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, city officials announced Thursday.
The upgrades include more crosswalks, bicycle lanes separated from motor vehicle lanes by barriers, expanded medians and reconfigured intersections to encourage motorists to slow down, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a news conference in Woodside. Shovels are now hitting the ground, the mayor said.
"Queens Boulevard is tragically legendary," de Blasio said. "We all became used to the phrase 'The Boulevard of Death.' . . . So now work has begun to turn Queens Boulevard into a boulevard of life."
Assemb. Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) said at the event that as a child growing up in the area, he was forbidden to cross the boulevard.
Since 1990, 185 people have been killed on Queens Boulevard, most of them pedestrians, de Blasio said.
The first phase of the project under the administration's Vision Zero initiative to end traffic-related deaths will upgrade a 1.3-mile stretch between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in Woodside. Work will last through October.
Between 2009 and 2013, 42 people were killed or severely injured on the stretch.
Lizi Rahman, whose 22-year-old son, Asif, was killed while riding his bicycle on Queens Boulevard in 2008, said she was grateful that lives would be saved going forward.
"If there was a bike lane, perhaps my son would still be alive," she said.
Asif Rahman aspired to be a music teacher and hip-hop artist, his mother said, adding, "After his death, our house became silent."