Today’s news:

Renovations to begin on Queens bridges

City Department of Transportation...

By Dustin Brown

Commuters headed to Queens Boulevard from Manhattan will have to change their daily driving routine when 18 months of renovations begin on the Queens Boulevard and Honeywell Street bridges on Monday, April 2.

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall outlined the traffic changes at a news conference Tuesday.

The projects are being undertaken by Perini Construction at a cost of $40.8 million for the Queens Boulevard Bridge and $31.8 million for the Honeywell Bridge. Both pass over the Sunnyside Yards to connect Northern Boulevard with Skillman Avenue.

The 90-year-old Queens Boulevard Bridge will be rebuilt in two stages with nine months spent on each half. This will enable some traffic to continue passing across its span throughout the 18-month construction period.

Both bridges will undergo reconstruction that includes new steel, new sidewalks, an improved overhead lighting system, and the installation of an Intelligent Transport System to focus closed-circuit television cameras along the bridges. This will help engineers to evaluate traffic and provide motorists with real-time data on screens along the roadway.

Queens Boulevard Bridge will remain open to two lanes of Manhattan-bound traffic, while traffic coming off the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge to Northern Boulevard will not be affected.

Cars coming from Queens Plaza South and the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge will bypass Queens Boulevard Bridge by turning right onto any one of three side streets — Crescent Street, 27th Street or Jackson Avenue — and passing onto 44th Drive/Thomson Avenue, which joins Queens Boulevard after 10 blocks.

Assistant Commissioner William Hirsch said traffic should remain unaffected along every route except for outbound Manhattan travelers who must follow the detours.

“The difference in time should basically be the difference in length that you see,” he said.

He also said the use of three streets to simultaneously divert cars onto Queens Boulevard should prevent excessive traffic buildup.

“In some cases, it should act as a pressure valve. In case one route backs up, there will be others,” Hirsch said.

The Honeywell Street Bridge was closed in 1979 for failing to meet safety standards, and Weinshall said its reopening should improve traffic flow in the area surrounding the Sunnyside Yards.

Weinshall stressed that while she is confident the planned detours will enable traffic to proceed smoothly through the area, the DOT will monitor conditions and make adjustments where necessary.

“Traffic engineering is not a precise science,” Weinshall said. “If by chance we’re wrong and have made a mistake, we would quickly step in to try to rectify the problem.”

DOT’s agreement with Perini includes both incentive and disincentive clauses to encourage construction to be completed in a timely manner. The company will receive $50,000 for every day ahead of schedule it completes the Queens Boulevard construction, up to a cap of $3 million. It will be penalized $50,000 daily for an unlimited period if the project is delayed.

A similar agreement is in place for Honeywell, with the daily rewards and penalties both set at $15,000. The projects are expected to be completed in October 2002.

“Anytime you do a major reconstruction people are inconvenienced,” Weinshall said. “That is why the incentive clauses are a big plus for us. If we can work with the construction company and get out of the community before the 18 months, it’ll be better for the community.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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