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Bus Lanes Get Aid Support

July 9, 2010

Andrew Grossman, The Wall Street Journal

The federal government will cover half the cost of New York City's plan to remake 34th Street by 2012 by creating physically separated, dedicated bus lanes.

The city is hoping to speed crosstown buses on the busy midtown corridor—where bus speeds average 4.5 miles per hour—by 20% to 40%. The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that it will give $18 million to the project as part of a $293 million grant program for mass-transit projects. It's the largest grant for a bus program in the package.

"I don't think you could have a stronger vote of confidence in the importance of this project than what we received" from Washington, said city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

The city is still studying traffic patterns on 34th Street and hasn't settled on final designs for the corridor. It's considering creating a new pedestrian plaza in the middle of the street between Fifth and Sixth avenues with a two-way bus lane through the center. Cars would run one way next to the bus lanes. Other options don't include the pedestrian plaza.

The 34th Street project is another step in a joint push by the city and Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make buses run faster along key corridors. In October, officials plan to launch bus service with dedicated lanes, fare collection machines on the sidewalk instead of on buses and fewer stops along First and Second avenues. They're also planning similar projects for Nostrand and Rogers avenues in Brooklyn and connecting Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The city and MTA launched the first such bus line—dubbed Select Bus Service—along Fordham Road in the Bronx in 2008 Buses have made the 5.5 mile trip across the Bronx 20% faster, according to the MTA.

Stamford, Conn., also won $16 million from the federal government for its $65 million project to widen some of its streets and install dedicated bus and bike lines along a corridor linked to its Metro-North Railroad station.