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DOT unsure if Steinway bridge can reopen in fall

The bridge, which allows vehicles and pedestrians to cross over the Grand Central Parkway, was closed July 30 for two weeks after sections of the structure fell a week earlier, causing a driver to slam into the slabs and fracture his leg. The two slabs had been cut for removal as part of a project to replace the overpass, which was closed after the accident as a precautionary measure, the city Department of Transportation said. The department hired Manhattan's Weidlinger Associates to conduct a forensic engineering study to deduce why the pieces had crashed down, and the firm was expected to determine if the bridge should be closed more than two weeks, a period which ends in the next few days.The $15.3 million bridge project was scheduled to be completed by November 2005, and it was not immediately known if the collapse would delay work. On July 1 Cal-Tran, a New Jersey company hired to do the work, started precutting part of the bridge into slabs for a phased removal later. But after the collapse, the process of removing the other slabs began immediately during an emergency work session, with the Grand Central Parkway closed during the job. The DOT said precutting is a standard procedure and Cal-Tran had done overpass projects elsewhere in the city without any complaints.While the Steinway Street Overpass is closed, drivers are advised to follow detours recommended by the DOT. Those heading north on Steinway Street should take a right at Astoria Boulevard South, a left at 49th Street, a left at Astoria Boulevard North and a right back on to Steinway. Those heading south at Steinway should take a right at Astoria Boulevard North, a left on 37th Street, a left at Astoria Boulevard and a right back on to Steinway.To help with the detour, 37th Street will switch from a two-way road to a one-way heading south between the two parts of Astoria Boulevard. Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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