By Madina Toure
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will reopen the Whitestone Expressway’s 3rd Avenue exit ramp in May.
The exit has been closed since Jan. 7, 2013 to accommodate work crews aspart of a $109 million MTA Bridges and Tunnels project to bring the Whitestone Bridge up to current standards by widening lanes and safety shoulders for the first time.
“The 3rd Avenue exit is expected to reopen before the end of May, but completion of the remaining work, which includes removing a median barrier, some drainage work, striping and repaving, is very dependent on good weather,” Judie Glave, an MTA spokeswoman, said in an email.
The 42-month-long project, was awarded to contractors E.E. Crutz, of Manhattan, and Tully Construction, of Flushing, in 2011, Glave said.
The work was nearly identical to the project on the Bronx end of the bridge, which was completed by 2012.
The project consisted of reconstructing the bridge’s support foundations and seven new double-arch concrete piers built to support the roadway’s wider, 12-foot lanes and new safety shoulders and the repaving of the 14th Avenue exit ramp.
The project also includes a lane-by-lane demolition of the existing 1,010 feet of the Queens approach roadway and the rehabilitation of the roadway superstructure.
To reconstruct the approach roadway, one lane was closed 24/7 but a movable barrier allowed for three lanes of traffic to be maintained into the Bronx during the morning and three lanes into Queens in the evening.
The roadway reconstruction work was done by mid-December and all six lanes — three in each direction — are open to traffic.
And under an agreement with the city Department of Parks and Recreation, Bridges and Tunnels removed the old playground under the bridge and built a new playground in Francis Lewis Park. The old basketball courts will also be redone.
CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty previously said the closing of the exit would pose an inconvenience but that it needed to be done.
Alfredo Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association, had previously called for 4th and 5th avenues to be made one-way from 147th Street to the Whitestone Expressway service road and was against the reopening of 3rd Avenue, but his plan did not receive much support in the neighborhood.
Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, said the closure created traffic havoc in Whitestone, Beechhurst and College Point.
He acknowledged that the severe winter delayed the reopening of the exit, and that it will reduce traffic problems.
“It’ll alleviate a lot of the traffic concerns that have plagued the community since they started constructing the bridge,” Cody said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour