Kosciuszko Bridge rendering courtesy NYS DOT
Last night, over on 39th Street in Sunnyside, the NYS DOT held a meeting to discuss the forthcoming Kosciuszko Bridge project. This is a BIG deal for anybody who lives in North Brooklyn, Western Queens, or who drives on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. It’s also a HUGE deal for us as taxpayers. The first phase of this project, which will build half of the replacement span and demolish the existing bridge is $555 million – the largest contract in NYS DOT history. The contractors as chosen and announced by Governor Cuomo are Skanska, a construction firm based in NYC, which will be managing partner; Ecco III of Yonkers; Kiewit of Nebraska; and HNTB of Kansas.
The “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” opened back on August 23rd of 1939, and was a pet project of Robert Moses. It was the first link in the chain which would eventually become the BQE. This post at my Newtown Pentacle blog displays a series of historic shots from that long ago time, and this one here at Q’stoner discusses what’s found in DUKBO – Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp.
Read more after the jump…
Pictured above is Robert Adams, P.E., who serves the State of New York as Project Manager for the endeavor. Mr. Adams led the meeting and laid out the logic behind eliminating the current structure, by listing its many shortcomings and detailing the expense of maintaining it, before describing the benefits that the new bridge will bring. Particular detail was offered about the traffic issues, short sight lines, lack of merging lanes, and confusing intersection with the Long Island Expressway offered by the current span which generations of New York drivers have had to deal with.
Accident prone, the 1939 bridge is also structurally deficient, which was demonstrated with photos of rust and decaying steel, although Mr. Adams stressed that the current Kosciuszko Bridge is safe and that DOT will be performing necessary maintenance on the structure up until the day it’s closed to traffic.
A pretty decent crowd assembled in Sunnyside for the meeting, with representatives from the Elected’s and various community organizations present. Personally, I was there wearing “three hats.” As Newtown Creek historian, I was gathering information for my permanent record about this tectonic change in the history of the waterway and its upland neighborhoods. As Brownstoner correspondent, I was there gathering information to pass onto all of you (I go to these meetings so you don’t have to). Lastly, I was there as a member of the Stakeholders Advisory Committee.
The SAC offers local based advice to the DOT, and includes community members like myself as well as business and political entities. As an example of the role SAC members play in the process, I often offer tidbits about the pedestrian experience of navigating DUKBO to the engineers. Last night, for instance, we discussed finding a way to preserve some of the 19th century flag stone sidewalks which line Calvary Cemetery on the Review Avenue side parallel to the bridge. The State DOT asks, in return, that we SAC members disseminate what we learn in these meetings to our various audiences or constituencies. Luckily, this is where all three of my hats can be worn simultaneously.
The Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC) was established to provide advice and assistance to NYSDOT in developing the Environmental Impact Statement/Alternatives Analysis and to serve as a liaison between the broader community and the project team. More specifically, the SAC is working with NYSDOT to develop the project’s goals and objectives and screening criteria; review project data and findings; provide input on preliminary recommendations; and help plan an ongoing program of public outreach.
Also, there was food. Coffee, water, soft drinks, snacks. For those of you who attend these sorts of community meetings with any regularity, you’ll realize how unbelievable it was that there wasn’t just a box of oreos and a 2 liter bottle of warm iced tea. The public outreach is being run and organized by the Helen Neuhaus & Associates organization, and both Helen and her team are real pros.
Helen has recently made a fantastic choice for the Project’s Community Liaison in hiring Christine Holawacz. I’m prejudiced toward Christine, she was chair of Newtown Creek Alliance for awhile, and served Greenpoint as Community Liaison for the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee – a community group organized in response to the construction of the NYC DEP’s gargantuan Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Her dedication and professionalism are legendary, and you couldn’t ask for a better hire.
Mr. Adams announced that the Community Liaison will shortly enjoy office space on both sides of Newtown Creek. The contact for Ms. Holawacz is (347) 988-4412 or email@example.com.
This is David Tullis, the Design-Build Manager from Skanska, which is the company that will be acting as the managing partner for Phase One of the project. Mr. Tullis detailed the construction techniques which will be used during the project and described some of the problems his team is anticipated to encounter. Traffic will continue to flow on the BQE while construction is going on, and there’s also the issue of minimizing the impact that communities that are within throwing distance of the bridge will feel from this mega project.
One of the impacts that the DOT/Skanska team actually hopes these communities will experience is an economic one, and they mentioned reaching out to area businesses and restaurants for supplies and worker meals. There will be a meeting in Queens, on August 13th, wherein area businesses will be instructed on the procedural methodology of becoming a part of the project. Another one will happen in Brooklyn, but that’s a different Brownstoner. They also announced a program which has set aside $70 million to ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses are included in the process. Keep an eye on the DOT site for announcements along these lines.
Mr. Tullis also discussed some of the early phases of the project which are already underway – soil testing, rodent control, etc.
Kosciuszko Bridge rendering courtesy NYS DOT
At the end of the game, when Phase Two of the project is complete – both Brooklyn and Queens will be receiving new parks and the areas surrounding the on ramps in DUKBO will receive “street-scaping,” as well as an iconic new cable stay bridge which both Mr. Adams and Mr. Tullis promised as altering the New York City skyline forever.
The redesigned BQE/LIE intersection also promises to ameliorate traffic slowdowns. Mr. Adams offered that “a minor accident on the Kosciuszko Bridge can shortly slow traffic down on the Triborough (he called it the Robert F. Kennedy bridge, which I do not) and Williamsburg bridges, and ripple eastwards up the LIE – all within minutes.” His team is working to make this congestion disappear.
The towers supporting the cables are going to loom some 300 feet over Newtown Creek, and will sport architectural lighting designed to show off the end product of the Kosciuszko Bridge mega project. The design lifetime, as they pointed out, is for the new structure to serve NYC for 100 years.
Cent’anni, I say, and Cin Cin.
Once complete, the new Kosciuszko Bridge will improve traffic safety, reduce congestion and improve travel speeds on this segment of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278) by including wider driving lanes; standard shoulder widths; extra lanes in both directions; and a reduced road incline, which will make it easier for trucks to maintain consistent speeds on the bridge. These improvements are projected to reduce motorists’ delays by more than 65% during peak hours.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge will be a cable-stayed design, which will create a signature skyline element between Brooklyn and Queens. Other features will include a new bikeway/walkway on the bridge, offering spectacular views of Manhattan; new parks and open spaces in both Brooklyn and Queens; improved access to the waterfront; and streetscaping enhancements of local streets within the project limits, such as decorative lighting, tree plantings and new sidewalks. The project is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s innovative New York Works Program, which was established to create jobs and spur economic development while rebuilding the state’s infrastructure. Over $70 million of the project is allocated to small businesses as part of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.