Most of 14th St. in Manhattan to close to private vehicle through traffic

One of the busiest streets in New York City is about to get a major makeover.

In June, the city will turn 14th Street between 3rd Avenue and 9th Avenue into a first-of-its-kind "truck and transit priority street," cutting off all private vehicle through traffic to make way for buses, trucks and emergency vehicles. Under the 18-month pilot plan, private cars will only be allowed to do local drop-offs and pick-ups and will have to make the next available right turn off of 14th Street.

The plan is a modified version of a busway that was proposed in the wake of the planned L-train shutdown, which will now just be a "slow down," with significantly reduced night and weekend service. It was announced Wednesday just two days before L service will scale back.

"This has been a long effort to redesign 14th Street," Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

She explained that the original plan was changed to allow for truck traffic along 14th Street in response to concerns from businesses and residents.

"I think we've come up with a design to ensure bus speeds and reliability for the M14-SBS, will enable on both sides of the street local pickup and drop-off and the accommodating of businesses and restaurants," Trottenberg said.

The plan was praised by transit advocates and bus riders sick of sluggish service.

But drivers were less enthusiastic. Yellow cabbies expressed concern the closure will make it even more difficult for them to cruise for fares.

And while area residents like Elissa Stein of the 14th Street Coalition are pleased that trucks can stay on the major cross street, they worry the rest of the congestion will just relocate to narrower, residential side streets.

"Now we're going to get all the overflow traffic on side streets which is creating dangerous situation," she said. "No one is thinking about the people who live here, and we feel like we've been sold out."

The changes won't start until June while the DOT finishes prep work and the MTA gets ready to roll out express Select Bus Service. An exact date has not been set.

Stein wondered why such drastic changes were needed now that the L-train will continue to run normally on weekdays.

"The train isn't closing, so why do we need to implement a whole above-ground structure for something that isn't going to happen anymore?" she asked.

As for enforcement, officials say the rules take effect, there will be a 60-day grace period during which they'll do outreach and education. After that, a combination of police and automated cameras will issue tickets with fines up to $150.

Once the traffic changes take effect, Trottenberg said the city will monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as needed.