Thursday, February 25, 2010

State Unveils Designs for New Kosciuszko Bridge

By Conor Greene

The state has unveiled four potential design options for the new Kosciuszko Bridge, which will replace the crumbling structure that currently carries vehicles on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek.

At a public session last Thursday in Christ the King High School, state Department of Transportation officials presented residents with four renderings for the new bridge, which is expected to cost at least $1 billion. While the four designs are all similar in terms of cost and how they function, they ranged from a simple box girder option to a more elaborate cable-stayed version.

The existing Kosciusko Bridge opened in 1939 and was ranked last by the General Contractors Association of American among bridges throughout the city. Named for a Polish Revolutionary War general, it carries 160,000 vehicles per day. The new bridge is expected to have a 75-year service life and will include nine total lanes of traffic between Greenpoint and Maspeth. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and take about five years, according to the state.

“Safety is a top priority... and these four designs offer a glimpse of a signature bridge that, in a few years, will provide safe and reliable travel for generations to come,” said acting state DOT Commissioner Stan Gee in a statement. “All four conceptual designs will improve mobility and long-term safety for all who live and work in Queens and Brooklyn.”

At Thursday’s session, DOT project manager Robert Adams stressed that construction is planned so as to have as little impact as possible, with six lanes of travel open for drivers throughout the project. “The department has been committed since the very beginning to maintain all six lanes throughout construction with no detours,” said Adams.

To accomplish this, the new bridge will be built next to the existing structure, and all six lanes of traffic will be shifted onto what will eventually be the eastbound structure. The existing bridge will be demolished, and a new structure for westbound traffic will then be built in its place.

The current bridge carries three lanes of traffic in each direction. The final product will include five lanes into Queens and four into Brooklyn, along with a pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians that promises to provide a “terrific view of the Manhattan skyline,” according to Adams. The new bridge will also feature standard-width lanes, shoulders for disabled vehicles and better sight lines for drivers, according to Adams. “This will have significant improvements on the merging problems that exist today,” he said.

The state is continuing to negotiate with property owners within the 1.1 mile construction zone to acquire easements and land needed for the project. That is expected to be completed by 2013. The state is also working with the city Parks Department on a new greenspace that is planned for beneath the approach to the bridge on the Queens side, but Parks was unable to provide details about that.

The project will be paid for with 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent from the state. While state officials are hesitant to put an exact price on the project, the DOT’s five-year capital plan includes $400 million for it. “We have money to build this worked into our five-year program,” said Adams.

The new design is expected to be chosen later this year, after the DOT finishes gathering public input and comments.

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