Doing the Cross Island crawl

Fire damage on the Throgs Neck Bridge has been repaired, but the traffic delays continue on the Cross Island Parkway approach – and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) may decide to keep it that way.

The July 10 fire caused an emergency closure of the ramp ahead of a planned shut-down for construction, part of a $96.7 million project on the Queens approach to the bridge that is scheduled to go on for the next two years.

When the ramp was reopened a month later, many passenger car commuters abandoned the Clearview Expressway approach, with its heavy truck traffic, for the parkway.

They got a surprise on the morning of Tuesday, December 1 when the Cross Island ramp to the bridge – which had been a two-lane approach since it opened to motorists on January 11, 1961 – was reduced to a single lane.

The effect on local rush hour traffic was devastating. “This is ridiculous,” sputtered one frustrated driver who was exiting at Bell Boulevard. “The traffic was backed up to Little Neck Parkway on the Long Island Expressway!” That’s a distance of five miles to the bridge.

Joyce Mulvaney, spokesperson for the MTA Bridges division explained the decision. “During the construction period we experienced a dramatic decline in accidents while operating this ramp as a dedicated single lane.” Their study showed that “This safety improvement occurred because cars from the Cross Island Parkway ramp no longer had to merge with trucks from the Clearview Expressway in a shared lane on the bridge.”

Feeling that traffic safety was more important – and that every accident at the old merge led to a traffic horror-show – the MTA decided to keep the ramp as one lane, according to Mulvaney, who said that the agency has been working with both the state and city Departments of Transportation to improve traffic flow.

“During construction the lane was narrow, so we widened it to 12 feet. We’ve been working with the other agencies to straighten out the transition from the parkway to the ramp, and on improving the signage.”

Many drivers have expressed frustration at the quality of advice given by the highway sign that suggests the “best route to the Bronx,” and the placement of an advisory to use an alternate route – placed well beyond the jammed ramp.

“Those advisory signs have had trouble in the past,” Mulvaney admitted, saying “There are teams of people working” on various aspects of improving traffic flow.

She pointed out that “When the work is complete the new steel-reinforced concrete roadway deck will furnish customers with an improved riding surface, with a useful life of more than 50 years.” Further, “it will result in the elimination of all lead paint on [the bridge’s] steel structures in Queens.”


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