President Obama’s visit

President Barack Obama returns to the Big Apple on Thursday, meaning a Gridlock Alert for that day. The president will likely helicopter from JFK to an upper Manhattan location and back, so Lower Manhattan should be spared the worst of the traffic disruptions.

If you venture uptown, however, be warned: RFK-Triborough Bridge and FDR Drive north of 59th Street will have temporary closures in both directions around 3-4 p.m and again around 10-11 p.m. During his visit, the President will stop by fundraisers at Daniel restaurant on E 65th St. between Madison and Park avenues, Spike Lee’s townhouse on E 63rd St. between Lexington and Third avenues, and the Apollo Theater on W 125th St. between Frederick Douglass Blvd. and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. Drivers should stay south of 59th Street and west of Central Park, or use the West Side Highway.

Monday is the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year and 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. Alternate side parking is suspended citywide, while all other parking regulations remain in effect. (Remember to feed the meters!) Chinatown marks the beginning of the Lunar Year with festive dragons, dances, and firecrackers. More than 200,000 people are expected to witness the Lunar New Year celebrations, which kick off with 600,000 rounds of firecrackers at 11 a.m. in Sara Roosevelt Park between Grand and Hester streets. A parade will wind around Mott, Bowery, East Broadway, Bayard, Elizabeth, and Pell streets until around 3 p.m. There will be some intermittent lane closures during that time frame. Drivers heading from the Manhattan Bridge to the Holland Tunnel or vice versa via Canal St. should expect turbulence.

From the mailbag:

Dear Transit Sam,  
What’s the story with the traffic light on the corner of Vesey St. and Broadway in Lower Manhattan? The green signal letting traffic go from Vesey St. to the east side of Broadway or to Park Row (toward Brooklyn Bridge) only lasts for approximately 10 seconds.
John via e-mail

Dear John,
The geometry of this intersection creates long crosswalks. As a result, the traffic signal cycle includes an exclusive phase for pedestrians to cross without turning vehicles. The New York City Department of Transportation has since studied the intersection and found that, although it might be short, the green light is long enough to allow the number of cars waiting at the light to clear the intersection.
Transit Sam  

Confused about ever changing traffic regulations and transit operations? Need winter driving tips or help navigating around lower Manhattan? Want to know when the President next comes to town, or which line is next for the MTA’s new FASTRACK program? If so, please e-mail TransitSam@downtownexpress.com or write to Transit Sam, 611 Broadway, Suite 415, New York, NY 10012

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