BY JON CRONIN
The Van Wyck Expressway will get a new lane in 2023 at a cost of $1.22 billion, the state Department of Transportation told Community Board 10 at its recent meeting.
Robert Adams, a representative for the state’s Department of Transportation, said that as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to make JFK International Airport more accessible, the DOT will conduct studies and engage the public to get their opinion during the next four years about creating an extra lane of traffic for the northbound and southbound routes of the Van Wyck Expressway.
Currently, the plan will only cover the 4.3-mile corridor between JFK and the Kew Gardens interchange, which brings together the Jackie Robinson Parkway, Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway. It will also stay within the footprint of the current expressway.
To make space for a new lane in each direction, the state will have to rebuild the 20 bridges in that 4.3-mile corridor. Adams said that many of those bridges, which were built in the early 1960s, are in need of repair, and showed photos of mesh that has been placed underneath them to catch falling concrete.
Adams also said that many of the on-ramps on the expressway need to be spaced better and some “are just too close to each other.”
He noted that the estimated number of travelers for JFK Airport will jump from 59 million passengers to 72 million per year by 2030.
The total volume of traffic on the Van Wyck Experessway is more than 170,000 vehicles per day. Adams said that during peak time, it takes a car traveling north on average 25 minutes to travel the 4.3-mile corridor and 17 minutes to travel south. When there is no traffic, it takes an average of five minutes.
Community board members agreed that the project would be a “nightmare” for the surrounding neighborhood during construction. Several long-time community members stated that they could not remember a time when the Van Wyck Expressway was not impeded by some type of construction.
Peter Granickas, a CB 10 member, said he was dismayed that the traffic could increase so much—yet there would be only a 25 percent increase in space with the new lane.
Granickas also pointed out that the ramp to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is constantly backed up with traffic.
“If you need to get there, you’re just gonna die,” he said.
During the meeting, it was suggested that an additional road, referred to as a “skyway,” be built above the roadway. To that Adams responded, “Great idea.”