Queensboro Bridge to get fresh coat of paint

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A six-year repainting of the Queensboro Bridge is slated to start at the end of this year to protect the structure’s steel from corrosion, city officials told the Community Board 1 District Cabinet last week.

The $102.7 billion project represents the first time since 1978 the entire span of the bridge connecting Long Island City to Midtown Manhattan will be repainted.

“The bridge, as you can all see, desperately needs to be repainted,” said Jennifer Dee, the director of community affairs for the city Department of Transporta­tion’s bridges division, at a presentation before the district cabinet last Thursday. “When the bridge is not painted, steel corrodes and all the construction we’ve done thus far is affected by it.”

The city began advertising the project in April, and in June the city is expected to open bids from contractors interested in performing the work in June. The anticipated start date is December, and the project is slated to take six years to complete.

Rehabilitation on the bridge has been underway since 1981. Seven major projects have been performed over the past two decades on the span, which is both a city and federal landmark.

“It’s beginning to become a structural consideration, not only aesthetic,” said Stanley Fried, a project manager for the repainting. “Every bit of steel throughout this bridge and the approach will be painted. We are beginning to lose steel and we have to take care of that right away. You can see the corrosion is starting to take place.”

The current coat of paint will be removed before the new paint is applied, and the existing color scheme of tan and brown will be maintained for historical reasons.

The work will be performed inside containment structures that are “specifically designed to prevent any type of debris — lead dust, paint dust — from getting out into the environment,” said Brendan O’Shea, a project manager. All of the lead paint removed from the bridge will be stored in sealed drums at designated staging locations and removed within 45 days.

Lane closures will only occur at night, with the maximum closure of two lanes only permitted between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Community members peppered the project team with questions at the district cabinet meeting, asking why the timeline is so lengthy and what was being done to prevent the project from disturbing residents who live around the span.

“Nobody’s worried about the community sleeping at night,” said Jerry Walsh, the president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, which covers the neighborhood directly north of the bridge approach on Queens Plaza. “No one cares about the traffic and the trucks with their big fog horns.”

The contractor will be required to use state-of-the-art equipment that minimizes noise levels, said Al Novak, a deputy chief engineer with the DOT. He added that lane closures would be timed in such a way that traffic would not back up significantly into Queens Plaza.

The speed of the project is limited because work can only be performed at five spots at any given time due to weight constraints, Novak explained.

“The containment adds weight to the bridge, not only because of the weight of the containment but because it acts like a big sail,” he said.

Each location is expected to require approximately six months of work.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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