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Amtrak removes Astoria’s 31st Street scaffolding

Amtrak began taking down scaffolding from its train overpass on 31st Street in Astoria following a two-year maintenance and repair project that drew numerous complaints from community residents, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said.

The councilman is hoping Amtrak will now focus on repainting Astoria’s Hell Gate Bridge as well as adding video surveillance to that structure upon the completion of the 31st Street upgrade.

“I’m pleased to announce we can now return to a cleaner and safer area, free of construction equipment, large puddles of stagnant water or ice and the threat of falling debris,” Vallone said.

The scaffolding “served as a constant reminder that this project seemed to have no end in sight,” the councilman said.

Construction crews began removing the scaffolding, which was on the train overpass at the 31st Street viaduct near 23rd Avenue in Astoria, last week.

In 2006, pieces of concrete had fallen from the overpass, nearly striking pedestrians.

Amtrak worked with the city Department of Environmental Protection to create a new drainage system around the overpass to contain water seepage as well as renovated brickwork so pieces would not drop off as part of the $14 million upgrade.

The project, which began more than two years ago, often irked Astoria residents, who complained to Vallone’s office about construction equipment occupying several parking spaces along the busy 31st Street strip. The councilman said the scaffolding also created a sheltered dark space, which attracted vagrants.

Now, Vallone wants Amtrak to repaint the Hell Gate Bridge in its original black and called on U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to secure federal money for the project.

The bridge has not received a new coat of paint in three decades.

Vallone also wants surveillance cameras to be placed near the bridge, which he said is a potential target for terrorists.

A spokesman for Amtrak said the company is looking into the feasibility of placing cameras on the bridge, but that re-painting the structure was too cost prohibitive at this time.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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