By Alex Robinson
A Murray Hill bridge, closed for years to be rebuilt only to be deemed unsafe and remain shuttered, will soon be reconstructed a second time, officials announced last week.
The city Department of Transportation said a new design for the 149th Street Bridge is in the final planning stages and the new design for the structure is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
DOT officials shared the project’s progress with state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) last week at a site visit.
“I want to thank [DOT] Commissioner [Dalila] Hall and her staff for visiting the 149th Street Bridge and making its successful completion a top priority,” Stavisky said. “The business owners and residents here have been kept in the dark about the status of the bridge for too long and I’m glad that this new administration understands the importance of transparency and communication. I am pleased that the rebuilding process is on schedule and look forward to celebrating the opening of this bridge at the end of next year.”
Once the plans for the bridge are finalized, DOT will start the procurement process to find a contractor to build the bridge. A DOT spokesman said construction is expected to start in 2015 once a contractor is selected.
The bridge, which connects Roosevelt and 41st avenues over Long Island Rail Road tracks, has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2010. The bridge’s original reconstruction was completed in May 2011, but it was never reopened as it was deemed unsafe because of cracks the city discovered.
The city is now suing the contractor it hired to design and build the bridge, Gandhi Engineering, for damages “as a result of breach of contract and professional malpractice,” according to court documents filed in state Supreme Court.
The city’s suit contended the firm failed to build a bridge “sufficient for its intended purpose of carrying vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
The bridge opened back up to pedestrians in summer 2012, but was still closed to vehicular traffic, much to the chagrin of adjacent business owners, who said they have suffered financially because of the construction.
A number of business owners in the adjacent area said the reconstruction cannot come soon enough, as they have lost up to 30 percent of their profits while the bridge has been closed.
“As a small business owner, I empathize with the local merchants and understand the frustrations that they have had to endure because of its closure,” Koo said. “Unfortunately, this bridge has to be rebuilt as public safety must be our top priority.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.