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Bridge repairs slow traffic on Queens Blvd.

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Drivers headed into Manhattan endured a morning of headaches as they crossed the Queens Boulevard Bridge Monday, the first day of an 18-month, $40.8 million repair project on the ailing structure.

City Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Cocola said such delays were expected this week as motorists got used to new traffic patterns.

“Whenever you do a project of this magnitude, that first week always causes consternation because you’re asking the motorist to do something that he or she doesn’t normally do,” Cocola said.

Evening commuters headed back into Queens with little problem Monday in spite of DOT concerns that the bridge’s closure to eastbound traffic would cause backups in Long Island City during the evening rush. By Tuesday morning westbound traffic flowed easily onto the span with little of the previous day’s gridlock.

The 90-year-old bridge will be rebuilt in two stages with nine months spent on each half. Two lanes of Manhattan-bound traffic will continue passing across its span throughout the 18-month construction period.

Cars coming from the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge must 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.

The DOT has advised commuters to avoid the detours by leaving Manhattan on the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge, which sends cars onto Northern Boulevard by way of Jackson Avenue.

“We were encouraged by what happened [Monday] night because it did seem as if a lot of people heeded our word and took the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge on their way home,” Cocola said.

In addition to informing local media outlets about the construction, the DOT has distributed fliers to motorists on either side of the bridge for the past week.

The DOT plans to monitor surrounding roadways, most notably the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge, to make sure they are not overcrowded with traffic avoiding the detour and the Queens Boulevard Bridge.

“We worry about that dynamic where this place is so crowded nobody goes there anymore,” Cocola said.

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

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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