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Expanded sidewalks and car-free streets may be coming to midtown this summer

By Clayton Guse
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There's perhaps no better test of a New Yorker's patience than walking along Seventh Avenue through midtown during the summer. The sidewalks become jam-packed as tourists flood into Times Square, making the hike between the popular attraction and the area's other proverbial hellhole, Penn Station, the stuff of nightmares. 

But a new plan put forward by Manhattan Community Board 5 aims to make traversing Seventh Avenue in midtown a much less miserable experience for pedestrians. 

The idea is to make a handful of simple, effective changes to the streetscape, including widening the sidewalks on the west side of Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 33rd Streets. The new sidewalks would be made of epoxied gravel and would provide an additional 10 feet of space for pedestrians.

The plan also calls for bus-boarding islands to be constructed next to existing stops on the west side of the avenue and for the addition of left and right turn lanes to help improve the flow of traffic through the area. Curbs would be extended across from each left turn lane, encouraging drivers who aren't turning to stay in the through lanes. 

Here's how the new street design breaks down: 

Image: Courtesy Manhattan Community Board 5

The community board didn't stop with Seventh Avenue, though. It also pitched a plan to launch a pilot program to close off two blocks of Broadway to cars this summer. Inspired by the success of 30 blocks of Broadway going car-free on Earth Day, the plan aims to ban vehicle traffic on Broadway between 36th and 37th Streets and from 39th and 40th Streets from June through August. 

The shutdown streets would give way to sprawling recreational areas that would include benches, artwork, moveable furniture and seating. 

The board will vote on each of the plans at its next meeting on June 8. Here's hoping it passes all of them—we're excited about any strategy to make traveling through midtown more pleasant.

[h/t StreetsBlog NYC]

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