How One Bridge Becomes Three
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Dec 23, 2008 | 1426 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Kosciuszko Bridge is out, soon to be replaced by three slimmer bridges over Newtown Creek, and the State Department of Transportation (SDOT) provided a timeline for construction as they released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) at a meeting of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee last Thursday.

The FEIS comes several months after the initial environmental impact statement, and incorporates comments made by city agencies, the advisory committee, and the general public. The reconstruction of the bridge, which connects Greenpoint and Maspeth via the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. The bridge was built in 1939, but it was its inclusion in the BQE that has led to its status as one of the most dangerous bridges in the state. Its high grade and narrow width have seen an inordinate amount of accidents, and its age has left it with a number of severe structural issues.

“We’re finding more cracks on the Kosciuszko Bridge every day, and that’s why we need to do this, rather than just rehabilitate the bridge,” said an SDOT representative last week.

The release of the statement brings the new bridge’s construction one step closer to completion.

Of the many proposed plans to rehabilitate the bridge, the state is moving forward with Alternative BR-5, which would create two new bridges on the eastbound side of the Kosciuszko Bridge before demolishing it and replacing it with a third bridge in its place. Alternative BR-5 was deemed to be the most desirable option based on SDOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released earlier in 2008, and the comments received thereafter. The plan will create four lanes of westbound traffic, three eastbound lanes and a bikeway/walkway on the west side of the bridge.

BR-5 differs form the other multi-bridge strategies by placing both bridges on the eastbound side, moving the Brooklyn portions of the bridge farther south and away from residential development. It will also minimize both construction time and cost by creating two new bridges to carry traffic across Newtown Creek while the original Kosciuszko Bridge is torn down.

The FEIS indicates that property will be seized in order to construct the additional bridges on the Brooklyn side. Property near Cherry Street and Gardner Avenue will likely be utilized for the extension of the bridge. The specifics of the property use will be worked out in the final design phase of the project, which is set to begin this year.

The FEIS includes a summary of the public comments made regarding the project as described by the DEIS. A majority of comments supported the final bridge plan, but even more comments expressed their concern regarding the fair acquisition and successful relocation of the Brooklyn based-businesses.

Officials were ill-equipped to answer specific real estate questions at Thursday’s meeting, but assured the committee that SDOT employees who specialize in the issue would be present at the next meeting.

When releasing the FEIS, SDOT representatives assured the advisory committee that earlier opposition to the construction by descendants of Native Americans who once inhabited the area had been worked out, with representatives of two tribes to be present during the excavation and archeological investigation of the site.

Another issue discussed at the meeting was the impact of construction on monuments at nearby Cavalry Cemetery. SDOT was confident that by using modern construction techniques that minimize vibrations, there would be few if any damages to the cemetery’s historic monuments and gravestones.

When asked if the recently discovered cleaning-chemical plume under and around Meeker Avenue would have any impact on the rehabilitation of the bridge, SDOT officials said that tests in the area are ongoing, and while they needed more information about the plume, they did not expect it to interfere.

The next phase of the plan is the design phase, during which specific questions about acquiring property, the creation of park space, and the timeline of the project will be addressed.

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