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Flushing set for new bridge constuction

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A $140 million project to build a replacement bridge over the Flushing River on the Whitestone Expressway will begin next April and will require the state to seize three parcels of property from asphalt businesses near the waterway, state officials said Monday.

A public hearing on the project, which was approved in September 1999, was held by the state Department of Transportation at a meeting of Community Board 7 Monday night. The state is required to hold such proceedings whenever it plans to seize private property for public purposes.

Expected to take three years to complete, the $140 million project financed with state and federal funds calls for the replacement of the bridge that traverses Flushing River and the reconstruction of the Linden Place exit, said Daniel Wan, an engineer at Hardesty and Hanover, a firm hired as consultants by the DOT.

The improvements will increase the speed that vehicles have to stop safely on the five-lane bridge from 30 mph to 50 mph, a contributing force in the high rate of accidents on the expressway, Wan said. It will also eliminate what is called “traffic weaving” on the Linden Place exit by placing the approach to the exit on the bridge rather than where it is now just north of the bridge.

As a result of the construction, two asphalt plants — one on each side of the river — will be forced to give up some land and relocate at least part of their facilities. But the officials said Monday night that they did not expect the project to affect any residential communities. Under eminent domain procedure law, the state is permitted to acquire private land for public use, provided that the state demonstrates its necessity for overall public improvement.

The DOT sends out appraisers to determine the market value of the property and any monetary damages, if any, incurred as a result of the seizure, awarding compensation based on the results of these assessments.

“We feel that our property is unique,” said Michael Ricigliano, who is an attorney for 32-02 College Associates, one of the asphalt plants. In an interview, Ricigliano said it was too early to say what impact, if any, the relocation would have on his client’s 25-year-old business, one of the few remaining private asphalt contractors in the city. Representatives of the other business, Anthony Grace and Sons, another asphalt plant, did not speak at the meeting Monday.

State officials said the bridge repair is to be carried out in four stages while the Whitestone Expressway and the Van Wyck Expressway remain open. To accomplish this, temporary structures will be erected and a roadway cutting through a grassy patch dividing the expressway will be laid, so that traffic can be detoured, Wan sad.

A more detailed survey of traffic patterns and what impact the construction will have on them has been submitted to the Department of Transportation and is under review. The new bridge, which will comprise three separate structures, will still have five lanes to support the 85,000 vehicles a day that travel over Flushing River.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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