By Madina Toure

The Third Avenue exit ramp of the Whitestone Expressway has officially reopened to all traffic in both directions, the MTA announced last week.

The ramp was closed to traffic in January 2013 as part of a $109 million MTA Bridges and Tunnels reconstruction of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge’s Queens approach and the renovation of the roadway superstructure.

The exit ramp is now open with only minor work left on the Queens approach, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“After a $500 million capital investment that has included replacement of the suspended span decks with a lighter, steel orthotropic deck, and the complete replacement of both the Queens and Bronx approach roadways, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge has undergone a significant modernization and will serve our customers for many decades to come,” said Joe Keane, vice president and chief engineer for MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

The exit ramp now has a new riding surface as well as new drainage, striping and lighting. Several safety modifications, including a new traffic safety crash cushion, mountable curbs and a new guide rail, have also been put ino place.

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels worked very closely with the local communities and various state and city agencies over the past several years to ensure that the many safety upgrades were included in this project and implemented,” said Christopher Saladino, the facility engineer for the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, along with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), announced that bollards, or short posts that pinpoint an area to guide traffic and protect vulnerable spots, would be installed.

Avella commended the reopening of the ramp.

“While it was closed, commuters suffered the burden that the construction brought to their neighborhoods and have waited for two years now for this work to come to an end,” Avella said.

Vallone expressed similar sentiments.

“I’m proud to have worked with the DOT in adding traffic-calming measures that directly address the surrounding neighbors’ safety concerns, and I look forward to continue working with them to determine if any additional safety measures are necessary,” he said.

Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Civic Taxpayers Association, said he hopes the reopening will relieve traffic at 20th Avenue, which many vehicles had to use while the exit ramp was closed.

But he said that residents will have to adjust to the reopening.

“It’s still going to take a while for the community itself to get used to the exit reopening,” Cody said.

Flexible delineators will be added to deter speeding as vehicles exit. The DOT plans to continue studying the area for additional safety measures, including enhanced signage, markings and other traffic-calming features.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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