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Whitestone Bridge traffic to create temporary tie-ups

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The MTA recently put into place a new traffic pattern at the Whitestone Bridge, and drivers are advised to follow certain recommendations in order to keep travel moving as quickly as possible.

Northbound traffic on the Whitestone Expressway approaching the bridge crawled last weekend, causing backups that cost travelers sizable chunks of time on their treks into the Bronx and onward.

The work, the second phase of a four-year, $200 million project to rehabilitate the aging bridge, which was built in the 1930s, would replace the entire original 1,785 feet of roadway near the Bronx end of the bridge and widen its lanes and install emergency shoulders there.

As a result of the work, one lane will be closed at a time until summer 2011, according to Judie Glave, a spokeswoman for Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges and Tunnels.

As such, drivers are advised to amend their driving habits.

“If you are a cash customer and you’re headed north to the Bronx, you should stay to the far right because that will bring you to the cash lanes on the toll plaza. It’s not as if you couldn’t get over otherwise, but that’s where eventually you’ll need to be,” Glave said, adding that E-ZPass customers should stay to the left. Signs are posted indicating these new suggestions.

Area residents and commuters have long complained about the setup of the bridge, which is different than the pattern in many other city bridges.

Glave argues that it is the nature of the beast for the Whitestone Bridge since the MTA does not offer lanes with both cash and E-ZPass capabilities.

“The way the plaza is configured makes it a little bit different. You have to have cash booths on both sides because of the highways that feed into it,” she said. “When those cash queues back up for whatever reason, E-ZPass users sometimes get backed up behind the cash users. If you had people cutting to the middle of the plaza instead, that would be very unsafe.”

The Throgs Neck Bridge is often a viable second option for traveling northbound from Queens, but there is still painting work continuing there. As such, Glave suggests that drivers consult the lighted-up sign on the Cross Island Parkway that indicates which bridge is the better option at any given moment.

In the end, the results will be worth the short-term headache, Glave said.

“When it’s done, you’re going to have a wider approach, the lanes are going be wider, there’s going to be emergency shoulders on the approach, but it’s just a matter of getting the work done one lane at a time,” she said. “This is the roughest part right here because they have to go on the roadway and re-deck it, and they have to go one lane at a time.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:31 pm, October 10, 2011
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