By Bill Parry
They call it the K-Bridge and the state Department of Transportation says it is a project that will transform the Queens skyline with a sleek modern structure across Newtown Creek.
The DOT held a community meeting in Sunnyside July 16 to discuss details of the $550 million first phase of the project that will replace the 75-year-old Kosciuszko Bridge that carries the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Project Manager Robert Adams began the presentation discussing the current bridge’s state of disrepair and its design flaws, which cause constant traffic delays that add to neighborhood congestion.
“The bridge handles 160,000 vehicles a day,” Adams said. “The bridge is safe and the department is committed to safety on the bridge until the K-Bridge is completed.”
The new bridge will improve traffic safety, reduce congestion and improve travel speeds by including wider lanes and extra lanes in both directions. It will have a reduced road incline, which will make it easier for trucks to maintain consistent speeds on the bridge.
The current state of the bridge can cause traffic tie-ups in both boroughs.
“A minor accident on the Kosciuszko Bridge can shortly slow traffic down on the Robert F. Kennedy and the Williamsburg bridges and ripple eastwards up the Long Island Expressway all within minutes,” Adams said.
The K-Bridge will be a cable-stayed design, the first of its type in New York City. Other features will include a new bikeway and walkway that will offer spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline as well as new parks and greenspaces, increased access to the Newtown Creek waterfront and streetscape enhancements, such as decorative lighting, tree plantings and new sidewalks.
The first phase of the project will construct a Queens-bound span that will handle traffic in both directions. The old bridge will be disassembled and floated away on barges on Newtown Creek. The second phase will be the construction of a Brooklyn-bound span. The entire project is expected to be completed in early 2018.
Adams also announced a program that sets aside $70 million to ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses are part of the process.
“We’ll have a community outreach event for local businesses right here at Sunnyside Community Services on Aug. 13,” he said. “That will be a way for companies to introduce themselves to our contracting team.”
The DOT also announced that a full-time community liaison was hired by the project. Christine Holawacz will have office space in Brooklyn and Queens for the duration of the project, and she is no stranger to area residents, having served as chairwoman of the Newtown Creek Alliance.
“Christine is very talented in community relations and has a construction engineering background,” Don McCallian said.
He is president of the United Forties civic association and is one of four Queens-side residents who sit on a watchdog group called the Stakeholders Advisory Committee.
“I’m very comfortable with the project because the bridge is falling apart and the new bridge is modern and built to last for a hundred years,” McCallian said. “I just wish the Queens-side parks and greenspaces were part of the first phase because they always run out of money at the end.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.