Perhaps the Van Wyck Expressway at the Kew Gardens interchange won’t be a traffic nightmare for Queens residents much longer.
Work has finally been wrapped on a $159 million reconstruction of the highway near the Grand Central Parkway that aims to improve traffic flow and ease congestion, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday.
The Van Wyck and Grand Central, along with the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike, all intersect at the Kew Gardens interchange, a notorious reference point on daily radio and television traffic reports. Cuomo says the new and improved Van Wyck “will improve its safety and reliability, allowing commuters and commercial vehicles to get where they need to go quicker and without delay.”
Crews widened both lanes of the Van Wyck between 82nd and Hillside avenues and rebuilt the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck to the westbound lanes of Queens Boulevard. Four bridges over the Van Wyck were also reconstructed, and an extra lane was added to the expressway between the Grand Central Parkway and Queens Boulevard. An exit-only lane was also created on the southbound Van Wyck leading to the Hillside/Jamaica Avenues exit.
One of the most challenging features of the project was the construction of a new bridge carrying Queens Boulevard over the Van Wyck. Not only did workers have to go about the project while keeping Queens Boulevard open to traffic, they also had the difficulty of completing the work around the E/F subway lines, both of which run directly below the boulevard.
This affected commuters heading to and from the Briarwood E/F stop for months on end. Those same commuters now benefit from reconstructed entrances to the station, including an elevator, a pedestrian tunnel, new public plazas and landscaping along Queens Boulevard.
“A modern transportation infrastructure is a key component of Governor Cuomo’s initiative to create jobs and stimulate the state’s economy,” said State Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll. “The improvements at the Kew Gardens Interchange have already begun to provide improved operations and a quicker, safer ride, enabling people and goods to get to where they need to be faster.”
Local lawmakers including state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Council members Karen Koslowitz and Rory Lancman hailed the project’s completion.
There’s still more work to be done along the Van Wyck; the state DOT plans on widening the highway between 72nd Avenue and Main Street, adding an extra lane in each direction. Work is also ongoing at various entry and exit points at the interchange itself.