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City, state agree on terms of $112M LIE redesign

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State and city officials announced Monday they had reached an agreement on a $112 million plan that would improve traffic on the Long Island Expressway in eastern Queens and restore 12 acres of the original Alley Pond Park.

The new plan, which calls for extending High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on the LIE through Nassau County, is an alternative to earlier proposals calling for the HOV lanes to be built from Nassau across the border 1.1 mile into Queens.

Instead, the interchange between the LIE and the Cross Island Parkway will be redesigned to allow for more efficient traffic flow. The new interchange will restore a dozen acres in Alley Pond Park, reuniting parts of the preserve that were separated 40 years ago when the existing highway ramps were built.

The plan was originally announced in May 1998 by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Gov. George Pataki after Padavan led the fight against HOV lanes in Queens by filing a lawsuit against the state.

"On behalf of the people of northeast Queens," Padavan said. "I would like to commend Gov. Pataki for recognizing that we could save Little Neck homes, preserve Alley Pond Park and also ease LIE and Cross Island Parkway connections through one coherent design."

The LIE improvement plan was developed by the state Department of Transportation and the city Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Group. Construction was scheduled to begin this summer.

DOT Commissioner Joseph Boardman said "the governor directed DOT to find a better way to accomplish this important project, and we have done just that. This is a win-win solution."

The project will maintain the current buffer between the LIE and residential homes by converting the existing shoulder area into entrance/e­xit/breakd­own lanes, while the interchange between the expressway and the parkway will be reconstructed within the boundaries of the existing ramps.

The new interchange calls for two direct ramps, one from the southbound Cross Island Parkway to eastbound LIE, and one from the westbound LIE to southbound Cross Island.

The Alley Pond Park segment of the project will include the restoration of a sediment-filled pond in the southeast corner of the interchange as well as improved access to the park with new and reconfigured interpretive trails. Alley Pond Park has 654 acres.

New landscaping in the southeastern section of the park will help screen the preserve from the expressway, and two new detention ponds will be created in the northeast section of the LIE/Cross Island Parkway interchange to improve the quality of storm runoff into Alley Creek. The ponds will be stocked with wetland plants to remove pollutants from the runoff.

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