Kew Gardens interchange renovation plans unveiled

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Private architects and DOT...

By Alex Davidson

The state Department of Transportation unveiled tentative plans Monday night in the major renovation and construction project slated for the Kew Gardens interchange and its nine bridges on or above the Van Wyck Expressway.

Private architects and DOT officials presented the detailed preliminary designs to public officials and community board representatives at the monthly meeting of the borough president’s borough board.

“This is really much more than reconstructing some bridges,” said William Nyman, of the bridge engineering firm Hardesty and Hanover. “This is a boroughwide project, and even wider than that.”

Nyman, who presented the plans with Michael Bergmann, a structure supervisor with the state DOT, said the state must rebuild nine bridges that converge at the Kew Gardens intersection of the Van Wyck Expressway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Grand Central Parkway and Union Turnpike because they are old and have experienced heavy traffic since they were built in the 1960s.

He said the primary focus of reconstruction and renovation will be the interchange and its bridges, but a secondary focus will take in the surrounding areas and traffic problems feeding into and stemming from the interchange.

The secondary area, Nyman said, is along the Van Wyck from Jewel Avenue to Jamaica Avenue; the Jackie Robinson from Queens Boulevard to the Van Wyck; the Grand Central Parkway from Jewel Avenue to Parsons Boulevard; and Union Turnpike from Queens Boulevard to Main Street.

Projects in the secondary focus area could include the renovation of highway on-ramps, pedestrian walkways and highway-service road connections, Nyman said.

No specific cost was assigned to the federally funded project, Nyman said, but it will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Nyman said engineers and state planners are in their “scoping” phase, which involves inspecting the nine bridges, collecting data on traffic numbers and patterns in the area and making spotted, interim repairs to lessen the length of future construction.

This phase of the construction will last through 2003, he said, with a preliminary design phase continuing from 2004 to 2005, the final design period from 2004 to 2008 and then construction could start sometime in 2008.

Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz and Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) told planners that Queens cannot afford to have long-term highway and surface street closures because borough residents depend on commuter buses. They were reassured by Bergmann that there would not be any highway or street closures because of construction.

“Certainly, we don’t want to hurt any people getting to work,” Koslowitz said.

Nyman said the Kew Gardens interchange developed in the 1930s during the start of road construction in the area. The addition of highways and more homes in the 1950s and 1960s added increased traffic and congestion at the site, he said.

Bergmann said he hopes preliminary studies limit potential traffic delays to borough and city residents because of construction. The state DOT is considering safety concerns, highway connections, traffic patterns, pedestrian and bike issues and the impact of potential construction in formulating its final plan, he said.

“We don’t expect any backups beyond what is there today,” Bergmann said. “If we take one lane out on any of these highways, we’ll back up Long Island.”

Both Nyman and Bergmann stressed that they are still in preliminary stages of construction planning. They said they will meet continuously with elected officials and community board members throughout the design process.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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