By Joe Anuta
A yearlong lane closure began last weekend on the Whitestone Bridge as crews moved on to the next stage of the $109 million renovation project.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Bridges and Tunnels is currently widening and rebuilding six lanes of approach roadway to the bridge as well as installing a shoulder on the span itself while constructing improvements to the 14th Avenue exit.
The work will require crews to close and work on one lane at a time, separating it from the other five with a moveable barrier. According to the MTA, the setup will allow traffic and work to proceed simultaneously.
“Using the movable barrier, we will be able to maintain current roadway capacity during peak driving times to keep traffic flowing,” said Whitestone Bridge Facility Engineer Christopher Saladino. “The movable barrier was successfully used during a similar project to reconstruct and widen the Bronx approach to the bridge.”
Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, urged any motorists who have problems with the bridge to call the board’s office.
“We know this is an inconvenience, but it has to be done,” he said, adding that the MTA has been very receptive to the board’s concerns regarding the project.
During the morning rush hour from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., MTA will open three lanes northbound to the Bronx and two southbound into Queens. In the evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., they will set up the opposite configuration, with the majority of lanes heading back into the borough.
Drivers hoping to enter Malba Gardens and Whitestone have already faced altered traffic patterns.
In January, the MTA closed the 3rd Avenue exit to accommodate work crews and put up signs directing commuters on detours.
The bridge construction began in 2011 and has already reached several significant milestones, according to the MTA.
For example, contractors E.E. Cruz, of Manhattan, and Tully Construction Co., of Queens, reconstructed the bridge’s support foundations to accommodate for the widened roadway on the Queens side.
A four-year rehab project on the Bronx side was completed by different contractors in late 2012 — two months ahead of schedule.
Last year, the MTA moved Francis Lewis Playground out from the footprint of the new bridge and rebuilt it.
The authority expects the project to be complete in early 2015.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.