Driving in on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially marked the opening of the new Kosciuszko Bridge on April 27.
New York City’s first new bridge in more than a half-century will open today on the Brooklyn/Queens border, as the completed first half of the Kosciuszko Bridge reconstruction project was unveiled in a ceremony.
“I drove up in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard,” Cuomo said. “It is the first time the car has been used in 30 years. I brought it to commemorate today and to bring the spirit of FDR to this bridge. FDR had a tremendous positive energy and FDR was all about what we can do. He never took no for an answer. He believed in New York, he believed in New Yorkers [and] he believed there was nothing New Yorkers couldn’t do.”
The new cable-stayed bridge was built adjacent to the rusting, 78-year-old traffic nightmare that carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) over the Newtown Creek between Maspeth and Greenpoint.
“The old bridge did its job well but it is structurally and operationally obsolete; it has been for a long time,” Cuomo said. “The delays have been legendary. The first time I heard my father use expletives was on this bridge.”
The structure, twin cable-stayed spans, is the first new bridge built in New York since the Verrazano-Narrow’s Bridge was completed in 1964. The Queens side of the bridge will hold five lanes of traffic while the Brooklyn span will hold four. The first phase that was officially opened today opens three lanes of traffic in both directions until the second phase is complete in 2020.
“We have the proud son of Queens in Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This is a governor that has never forgotten where he comes from in the city of New York. He’s invested in our airports, in our roads, in our future and today has taken one giant step towards making sure that the future generations, those that we will never meet have an infrastructure that they can count on in the city of New York.”
Consulate General of Poland in New York Maciej Golubiewski also attended the event to give a brief history of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the military engineer the bridge was named after in 1940.
“Kosciuszko was a prince of tolerance who stood up for the rights of European serfs and specifically African slaves for whose education he designated all of his fortune in his last will. His dear friend Thomas Jefferson, who we all know, called Kosciuszko ‘the purest son of liberty I have ever known.'”
The old bridge was supposed to accommodate about 10,000 drivers a day, according to Cuomo, but now, approximately 180,000 drivers use it. Once completely finished, the new iteration is supposed to reduce delays by 65 percent.
The new bridge will officially welcome drivers at 11:30 p.m. tonight and at 7 p.m. an LED light show will commemorate the opening.
The following changes will be implemented over the next four days:
Access to Exit 34 (Meeker/Morgan Avenues) on the westbound BQE will be severely limited during the period; drivers who need to exit there will be directed to use either Exit 35 (Long Island Expressway/Greenpoint Avenue) or Exit 32B (Metropolitan Avenue).
Moreover, drivers entering the westbound BQE from the Long Island Expressway and 43rd Street ramps in Maspeth will continue to cross the old Kosciuszko Bridge over the next four days and have access to Exit 34. After that period, they will be directed onto the new bridge.
Thereafter, the old steel truss Kosciuszko Bridge will be permanently closed, and crews will begin the process of taking the mighty structure down. Cuomo announced earlier this year that the approaches to the bridge would be imploded, but the steel span above the Newtown Creek will be taken apart piece by piece.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge is the first of twin cable-stayed spans across the creek. It will temporarily carry three lanes of BQE traffic in each direction over the next several years while the second new bridge is built in the footprint of the old span.