By JON CRONIN
Living in New York City, residents expect traffic and city leaders expect to hear complaints about commutes, construction noise and overdue projects.
This week, the Queens Tribune has identified five road projects that are clogging up the borough’s arteries, and provided an update on when they will be completed.
The Kew Gardens Interchange
There are not many north-south routes in Queens—and the Van Wyck Expressway is the largest. At the centerpoint of the borough, the Van Wyck intersects with the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Grand Central Parkway, forming the Kew Gardens Interchange, which has been under construction for multiple years.
When heading in either direction during rush hour, commuters add—at minimum—20 to 30 minutes to their drive while passing through the intersection.
According to the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), the project is now in its third phase, and is scheduled to be completed under budget by Oct. 21, 2019, a month earlier than originally projected.
This phase is replacing the Van Wyck’s southbound route over the Grand Central Parkway and constructing a third lane. The southbound corridor will also receive new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Those three southbound lanes will then also merge with two lanes from the Grand Central Parkway over a longer distance.
The interchange project has an announced phase four, and the DOT is in the early stages of the community-engagement process for adding an additional lane between John F. Kennedy International Airport and the interchange. Updates along the corridor will continue for the foreseeable future.
Maspeth: Metro-Fresh Pond Bridge
Although Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road in Maspeth are not main thoroughfares, the streets feed the bedroom communities of Maspeth, Ridgewood and Middle Village.
The replacement of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge deck began in the summer of 2016, but when the contractor awarded the project, he did not have a large enough crew to finish, so the project stalled. There was no activity at the site for months and it missed the estimated January 2018 completion deadline. In March, the project was picked up by a new contractor: Beaver Construction.
Gary Giordano, the district manager for Community Board 5, said that traffic at the site is still heavy, especially during rush hour heading westbound on Metropolitan Avenue. The construction has restricted the traffic flow to one lane in each direction.
The community has been vocal about the fact that the bridge is a nightmare to navigate during rush hour, and owners of shops around the project have noted that they are losing money as the project impedes customer traffic.
The purpose of the project is deck removal and replacement; removal of the bridge’s top slab; and replacement and rehabilitation of the superstructure steel framing.
Giordano said the new contractor is working faster. He said that there are longer working days and weekend shifts at the site to finish quickly. He believes the work will be completed in late December or earlier.
“There are a heck of a lot more workers on the site than the previous contractor,” Giordano said.
Astoria: 31st Street N And W Repairs
After nine months of closures on the N and W subway stations at 30th and 36th avenues running along 31st Street, Astoria is still experiencing street traffic and no on-street parking due to construction zones. Shop owners noted in March that it was difficult to see their stores along 31st Street with construction fencing and equipment blocking views from the street.
In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that the N and W trains’ Astoria Boulevard station would undergo a major renovation project that would include the construction of street-to-mezzanine elevators and two mezzanine-to-platform elevators; repair of structural columns and foundations; and the replacement of damaged concrete platform surfaces, stairs, light posts and signs. Work was expected to have begun in September and the station will remain open until February, at which time the station will fully close for approximately nine months.
The Belt Parkway
The Belt Parkway has been the bane of commuters’ existence for more than a generation. Currently, both the state and city DOT have projects on the parkway.
The city DOT’s project began in 2009 and encompasses seven bridges on the roadway that were all built in the late 1930s and are in need of rehabilitation. The bridges in the city DOT project include those spanning Bay Ridge Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, Gerritsen Inlet, Mill Basin, Paerdegat Basin, Rockaway Parkway and Fresh Creek Basin.
On a Facebook page updating drivers on the project, the DOT stated that the old Mill Basin Bridge in Brooklyn was being dismantled between Sept. 7 and 10. During that time, the Mill Basin channel was closed to marine traffic on a periodic basis. The Mill Basin Bridge reconstruction will be completed in 2021.
In October 2017, the state DOT started work on a $49 million project to rehabilitate three bridges around the city. In Queens, the Lefferts Boulevard Bridge over South Conduit Avenue and the Belt Parkway is currently being rebuilt. The project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2018.
According to the state DOT, the pavement at the bridge approaches will be resurfaced, and the bridge lighting above and below the decks will be upgraded with LED lights.
Kosciuszko Bridge Maspeth
Despite the new bridge, traffic is still backed up carrying commuters from Maspeth to Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The bridge span that opened last year has three eastbound and three westbound lanes. When the new bridge opens next year, there will be five Queens-bound travel lanes on one bridge and four Brooklyn-bound travel lanes on the other, with a 20-foot–wide trail. The new bridge is expected to carry approximately 200,000 commuters daily.
The $555 million first span of the new bridge was opened in May 2017 as part of an $873 million project. The second span is slated to open in 2019, ahead of schedule, according to the governor’s office. It will completely replace its now-destroyed 78-year-old counterpart.
When the original bridge opened in 1930, it was designed to handle 10,000 cars per day. The old section of the Kosciuszko was imploded in July 2017 using a method called energetic felling, and a new section of the bridge to replace it is scheduled to be completed by 2021.
“We do not lament the passing of the old bridge,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said after the demolition of the old Kosciuszko Bridge.