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Agencies await public review of $100M LIE project

State and federal transportation agencies are seeking public comment on a $100 million project to fix bridges and improve interchanges where the Long Island Expressway meets the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway, the state Department of Transportation said.

Since the project is still in the early stages of planning, no construction date has been set, but work could not begin any earlier than 2007, when an environmental review should be complete.

The proposal was first made several years ago, and the work is badly needed to ease congestion and improve safety on the Long Island Expressway in Flushing, said City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the Council’s Transportation Committee.

“Everybody throughout this region knows how bad it gets,” Liu said. “Some days the backup can extend for miles.”

The state DOT said traffic flows had increased and commuter patterns had changed since the interchanges were built between the 1930s and 1960s, with the existing highway configuration outdated and inadequate.

Vehicular and pedestrian bridges near the interchanges are also aging and need to be either repaired or replaced, the state DOT said.

Liu said funding for the project would come from the state and from federal highway funds, and that costs would probably approach $100 million.

Though no specific construction plans have been made, Liu said the project “will take place in a manner that will not carry significant negative impacts for residents.”

Under federal law, the project must undergo a review to assess its environmental and community impact and to allow the public to voice its concerns. The review will be done under the auspices of the Federal Highway Administration in conjunction with the state DOT.

To assess the impact, four versions of the project will be considered, including only performing routine maintenance on the bridges and roadways. The other three vary on how ramps, bridges and service roads will be improved or placed.

An open house for the public will be held May 5 at Forest Hills High School at 6:30 p.m., and community members can sign up before the meeting to speak.

The final report from the review process should be published in late 2006 or early 2007, the DOT said.

Liu said he hoped the project would go through and expects it will help the borough and the region.

“Better transportation infrastructure leads to better economic and job opportunities for all.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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