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Rail bridge in Woodside nearly fixed

Amtrak expects repairs to be complete this week on a crumbling concrete railroad bridge in Woodside that captured the attention of Borough President Helen Marshall.

The bridge, at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Broadway, is part of the Northeastern Corridor line that connects Grand Central Station to Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is part of a rail line dating back to 1917, when the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road completed the Hell Gate Bridge.

"It is apparent that the concrete is actually dislodging from the primary structural members as evidenced by the missing concrete at almost all of the spandrel locations and along many of the girders," Marshall wrote in a letter to Amtrak. "In one particular instance, the concrete which covers a primary girder which spans the eastbound lanes of Broadway has a horizontal crack running almost the entire length of the span."

A group of engineers inspected the bridge last week, Amtrak said.

"They're going to do sounding, where they tap the concrete with hammers to find those spots before they chip," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole. "If there's pieces that look like they're loose, they'll take those down before they fall."

Marshall was pleased by the speed of Amtrak's response, but would not praise the repair work until she has had the chance to examine it, said her spokesman, Dan Andrews.

"It couldn't be in the nature of a patch job," Andrews said. "The damage was too severe."

Cole said he was not sure of the operational life span of concrete roadway bridges. The line was recently upgraded to accommodate Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains that run up and down the East Coast, he said.

Amtrak bridges in Queens have been the source of problems in the past. On Aug. 16, 2006, a piece of concrete fell from the bridge over 31st Street near 23rd Avenue in Astoria, nearly striking a pedestrian. Amtrak responded two months later, filling in cracks and refastening loose concrete.

Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Metro-North Railroad have also devoted $100 million to refurbishing the Hell Gate Bridge, Cole said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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