By Daniel Massey
An $8 million complete overhaul of the deteriorating Cross Bay Boulevard overpass in Lindenwood will begin in August, the city Department of Transportation announced last week.
The construction work will put a slight strain on traffic in the area but is necessary because the support structure of the bridge is “not in great shape,” said Keith Kalb, a DOT spokesman.
The bridge’s teal deck is spotted with patches of rust and the rebar inside the support columns is exposed.
“The work really needs to be done as soon as possible,” Kalb said. “The bridge needs to be rehabilitated.”
The face-lift, to be performed by College Point’s Judlau Contracting Inc., will replace the bridge’s superstructure and increase the overpass’ vertical clearance by 1 1/2 inches to 14 feet, 4 1/2 inches.
The thoroughfare, built in 1949 and used by thousands of vehicles each day, runs from North Conduit Avenue to South Conduit Avenue and carries four lanes of traffic on each of its parallel spans above Conduit Boulevard.
More than 50 years of heavy traffic combined with the bridge’s proximity to the water has led to the need for rehabilitation, Kalb said.
Community Board 10 Chairwoman Elizabeth Braton agreed that the bridge must be fixed but expressed concern about the impact of the project on traffic flow. Cross Bay Boulevard is already congested in the late afternoon without the construction, she said.
“It’s a necessary evil. The bridge work must be done. We don’t have any options of saying don’t do it,” she said. “But it’s an extremely difficult area to get around. There’s no short cut to get around. It’s going to be difficult.”
Judlau, which was handed the job last month, will begin preliminary work in August. The main portion of the project, which will involve shutting down one lane of traffic on both the east and west sides of the bridge, will run from March 2003 until June 2004, Kalb said.
“Three lanes will be maintained in each direction throughout the entire project,” he said. “There should be minimal impact on the community.”
Braton said the community board will watch to make sure the DOT keeps traffic flowing.
“We will be monitoring to make sure they hold to their promise to make three lanes,” she said. “We plan to hold their feet to the fire.”
Kalb said the DOT has done all it could to ensure the construction will not inconvenience the residents of Ozone Park, Lindenwood and Howard Beach. The city’s contract with Judlau provides incentives at a rate of $5,000 for each day the work is completed ahead of schedule. Conversely, Judlau must pay the city $5,000 a day for each day its work exceeds the agreed-upon June 2004 deadline.
“This roadway needs to be repaired,” he said. “It’s always an inconvenience for any neighborhood when a major project occurs. But if we let it get worse, we’ll have to shut the whole thing down and everybody loses.”
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.