Plans are afoot to replace a stretch of roadway that Jonathan Lethem, in his 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn, called the worst surface in the five boroughs.
COURTESY PB Americas
On October 22, the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) met with community stakeholders to review eight designs to replace the Kosciuszko Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek. As part of Interstate 278—better known as the Brooklyn Queens Expressway—the 1939 steel truss span has been a cause of concern ever since Governor Spitzer ordered inspections of all New York State crossings following the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis.
While that study only recommended repair of the aging span, the DOT determined that replacement was the best solution, citing cost and the opportunity to increase traffic safety as the primary reasons. The bridge also topped the General Contractors Association’s list of the most decrepit state-owned bridges in the city. At 120 feet high, the existing deck was constructed to accommodate the large naval vessels that once traveled Newtown Creek, a usage now obsolete. This allowed designers to modify the span to eliminate a variety of trouble points.
“We’re going to lower the roadway 35 to 40 feet, so trucks won’t have to accelerate and decelerate so much when crossing,” said DOT spokesperson Adam Levine. “We’re also going to revise the ramps between the bridge and the Long Island Expressway, so there won’t be the same kind of merges and weaves that cause a lot of accidents. Couple that with the fact that we have to go out to do targeted repairs fairly often just to keep the span in relative good repair, and replacement is clearly the best option.”
Produced by DOT design consultant PB Americas, the eight replacement options ran the scale from a plain vanilla steel box arch, as seen in typical elevated highway crossings, to a cable-stayed solution resembling many of today’s high-design spans. Locals from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Long Island City, Queens, were asked to winnow the list down to three designs based upon which they found most visually appealing. They chose the concrete deck arch, through arch, and short-span cable stay proposals. In the next step, PB Americas will develop the three designs further, producing more renderings and 3-D animations for the next stakeholders’ meeting in January.
In its $25.8 billion, five-year capital plan released last month, the DOT allocated $403.9 million to the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement—a figure that Governor Paterson said was too high for the state’s budget to cover. Nonetheless, the agency is moving ahead with design development, and expects construction to begin in four years. Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration, which will pay 80 percent of the estimated total project cost of $1.7 billion, approved the project. If all goes according to the DOT’s current projections, completion could happen as soon as 2017.