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State DOT says NE Queens construction needed

But the three main...

By Kathianne Boniello

State Department of Transportation officials said the construction slated to swallow a not-quite two-mile stretch of northeast Queens this year is a necessary move to revitalize a major part of the city’s transportation infrastructure.

But the three main projects — the reshaping of the Cross Island Parkway-Long Island Expressway interchange, the reconstruction of entrance and exit ramps between the LIE and the Clearview Expressway, and sewer work in Bayside — have raised concerns among residents about too much construction in one area.

Both the Cross Island Parkway and the Clearview Expressway are less than two miles apart, and the Oakland Ravine sewer project, meant to alleviate flooding in Bayside Hills, would concentrate on local streets near Queensborough Community College that are in between the two highways.

The three projects have provoked some loud questioning from members of Community Board 11, which covers the area where the projects are located, who have wondered if the state has considered the potential impact of the work on the community.

The agency definitely has, state DOT spokesman Alex Dudley said in a telephone interview Monday.

“What we’re seeing is a long renovation of the infrastructure of Queens that is ultimately extensive and extremely important,” Dudley said. “There is a high concentration of work going on.”

Most of the work was expected to be completed at the same time, by 2003. If the agency carried out the projects back to back instead of simultaneously, Dudley said, the construction would seem never-ending.

The Cross Island Parkway-LIE interchange project began last year and was expected to include the repair of several overpasses on the expressway in Little Neck and Douglaston, closing of the westbound Exit 31 for Douglaston Parkway on the LIE, and extending parkland back to Alley Pond Park, among other work.

The Clearview Expressway-LIE project — scheduled to begin next month — will involve the reconstruction and repaving of entrance and exit ramps between the two highways. Dudley said the Clearview project would have less impact on local residents than the Cross Island Parkway work and traffic on the LIE would not be disrupted during the project.

The Oakland Ravine sewer project, scheduled to begin in July, was championed by the Bayside Hills Civic Association to improve sewers in the area near Oakland Lake and Queensborough Community College. Local streets around the college and other parts of Bayside and the Northern Boulevard overpass at the Cross Island Parkway will be torn up so the work can be done.

Dudley said the state tries to lessen the impact on affected communities by involving residents early in the process and holding meetings to get their suggestions on the best ways to prevent construction-related traffic problems.

“If we didn’t feel the work was essential, we wouldn’t be doing it,” said Dudley, who noted some of these projects have been in the planning stages for several years.

Dudley said because many of the major highways in the area were built around the same time “most are now ending their useful life,” but when the projects are finished, the work “will not need to be redone for 50 to 60 years.”

While local residents may complain about the projects and many might wonder if it is wise to do them at the same time, Dudley said no one has complained that the undertakings are not essential.

“I don’t think anyone who uses these roads would argue that it doesn’t need to be done,” he said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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