BY JON CRONIN
In mid-Feburary, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the multi-million dollar reconstruction two-phase project for the Kew Gardens Interchange is “substantially complete,” yet according to the state Department of Transportation’s website, phase 1 of the project is projected to be almost two years behind schedule.
The first phase, which entails replacing four bridges, rehabilitating two more bridges and the widening of the Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens Interchange had an initial end date of Jan. 30 2015 and is now projected to be finished on Oct. 31 2016. The contract was awarded for the first phase of the project on July, 1 2010 with estimated cost of $146, 592, 130. The project has gone over budget by $9, 263,765.
The now $155 million portion of project is underway at the interchange and is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2016. It includes rehabilitating a portion of the Van Wyck Expressway, the exit ramp from northbound Van Wyck to westbound Queens Boulevard, four bridges over the Van Wyck, the Van Wyck Bridge over Main Street and the Queens Boulevard Bridge over Main Street. This project also includes constructing an auxiliary lane on the Van Wyck between the Grand Central Parkway and Queens Boulevard and providing a dedicated exit lane southbound to Hillside Avenue.
The second phase of the project will be finished almost two months ahead of schedule. The contract was awarded on April 30, 2012. It was estimated to be finished at Feb. 23, 2017 and is slated to be finished on Dec. 27, 2016.
The details of the second phase of the project included, “replacing the one-lane ramp connecting the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike with the northbound Van Wyck Expressway with a new two-lane ramp. A new deck was installed on the eastbound Union Turnpike bridge over the Grand Central Parkway connector ramps, and a new deck and steel girders were installed on the bridge where Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway merge,” according to Cuomo’s press release.
According to Diane Park, a public information officer for the NYS DOT phase 1 of the project “has involved very complex operations, including constructing a new bridge to carry Queens Boulevard over the Van Wyck Expressway while maintaining traffic on the Boulevard, ensuring pedestrian access, maintaining traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway below, and ensuring the safety of workers and the public above and below the deck. As part of the widening of the Van Wyck, we were constructing a new wall about 2-3 feet away from the E/F subway line, which was also a very challenging operation. Additionally, constructing a new tunnel at the Briarwood subway station with two separate entrances, including an ADA compliant elevator, required extensive coordination with other agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Lead paint was also found in the tunnel; it had to be removed and the tunnel made safe before work could proceed.”
The NYS DOT has also looked to make the project more environmentally friendly and sustainable over the years with improvement to local drainage system improvements were made with inclusion of bio-swales, which creates natural retention of water through soil and reduces contamination from runoff to nearby Willow Lake. The streets will also feature new longer lasting LED lighting and new landscaping elements were added.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin
UPDATE 4/12/2016: According to Park, Cuomo’s announcement in February was specifically regarding the Phase 2 project, which is “substantially complete” and was approximately one year ahead of schedule and $9M under budget. The release from February also clearly stated that the Phase 1 project was ongoing and scheduled to be completed in 2016.