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Maspeth bridge plans on ice

By Nathan Duke

The $630 million upgrade of Maspeth's Kosciuszko Bridge has once again been delayed after the federal government decided last week that it needed to review the cost and construction schedule for the 69-year-old bridge, a spokesman for the state's Department of Transportation said.

The DOT, which previously had six plans to refurbish the bridge, recently chose an option to replace the Kosciuszko by building parallel bridges on both sides of the structure, DOT spokesman Adam Levine said. But the upgrade has been delayed two months until a Federal Highway Administration study of the project, which began earlier this week, is completed, he said.

“We had been told that this was not something that was required for projects like this, especially ones this far along in the pipeline,” Levine said. “They'll be looking at whether the estimate we put together is sufficient to do the work and whether our schedule is efficient.”

The bridge connects Maspeth to Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Levine said the federal government will also review potential risks to the upgrade posed by nearby construction projects by other city and state agencies as well as rising construction costs.

The federal government previously would not undertake assessments of highway projects that cost less than $1 billion, but new regulations were put into place in 2005 to review all projects that cost more than $500 million, Levine said.

Once the federal study is completed and a report has been issued, the DOT will assess the findings, complete an environmental impact statement and within 30 days release its decision, Levine said.

The DOT probably will begin construction on the bridge in 2010, he said.

Karp Associates, a Maspeth-based door manufacturer, would be the largest business to be displaced by the upgrade. George Kosser, Karp's vice president, said he would need to purchase new equipment and be fully operational in another location before closing down the company's 43rd Street location. He said the DOT will give Karp 36 months to move off its current site after the DOT decision is released.

But he said the continued delays of the project is making it difficult to plan Karp's move.

“I found a property in Brooklyn where I want to make an offer, but I can't,” Kosser said. “It's not fair to us. At some point, the state has an obligation to move forward on their commitment and act. To say this is upsetting is an understatement. Planning for our future is very difficult. The state should be helping to minimize our problems.”

The bridge's upgrade was delayed earlier this year after the state's Historic Preservation Office expressed concern that its Warren truss-type structure could have historic value and decided not to approve the project's final designs. But the agency abandoned its attempt to preserve the bridge after the DOT proved that there were safety concerns with the structure.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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