Today’s news:

MTA to allow Bronx-bound trucks on Throgs Neck

Transit officials said Tuesday the Throgs Neck Bridge will be reopened to most trucks Saturday following a fire that damaged the structure and traffic is scheduled to return nearly to normal Aug. 10.

“Safety is our highest priority, which guides our plans to restore this critical regional link to normal operation,” said Susan Kupferman, president of MTA Bridges & Tunnels. “Our goal is to make these necessary structural repairs as quickly as possible while minimizing the impact to customers,” Kupferman told a news conference at Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters in Manhattan.

Officials of the MTA said that on July 25 trucks weighing up to 105,000 pounds can again use the bridge. All Bronx-bound trucks have been banned since the fire July 10, while one of three northbound lanes on the bridge and the Cross Island Parkway on-ramp have been closed.

MTA officials said the bridge operations arenow slated to be restored to what they called near normal Aug. 10, when the third lane and the on-ramp will reopen.

“We are making progress on all three of our goals related to the Throgs Neck: mitigating traffic, identifying repair plans and fully investigating the cause of the accident,” said Helena Williams, interim MTA executive director. “We regret the continued inconvenience to our customers, but we are pleased that we can return to near normal operations soon.”

The MTA said Bridges & Tunnels Department engineers and health and safety staff, along with outside experts on infrastructure, fire and steel structures found significant damage in the fire area and are expediting the repairs, which involve steel reinforcement and replacement.

Bridges & Tunnels and the FDNY has investigations in progress into the cause of the fire. Both agencies said they believe the fire was caused by a spark from a contractor’s torch being used to cut steel on the roadway that ignited construction material on scaffolding below the bridge.

Kupferman said her agency is holding the contractor responsible for repairs and costs incurred and requiring an independent safety monitor, paid for by the contractor and reporting to Bridges & Tunnels, to monitor all work.

Contractor employees directly involved in the incident have been removed from the project.

MTA officials said the following actions have been in place since the fire to ease traffic conditions:

• all planned construction on the Bronx-Whitestone and Robert F. Kennedy bridges has been temporarily suspended. When necessary, potholes are being filled at night to the extent possible.

• extra tow trucks have been assigned to key locations at all three bridges in order to remove disabled vehicles.

• additional Bridges & Tunnels officers have been assigned to process toll traffic. Toll collection sites are being reversed where possible to add capacity where needed for toll processing.

• Bridges & Tunnels continues to coordinate with Transcom, a safety agency coalition, and state and city transportation agencies to keep motorists informed. More than 24 additional signs were installed on approaches to the bridge in addition to several signs provided by the state Department of Transportation.

The Throgs Neck bridge opened Jan. 11, 1961, linking Bayside and the Throgs Neck area of the Bronx. The 1,800-foot main span bridge carries 112,000 vehicles on an average day. The bridge was one of many commissioned by Robert Moses and designed by famed bridge designer Othmar Ammann.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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