Problem Areas For Van Wyck-GCP Repair Noted
The scoping phase of rehabilitation and renovation efforts to the Van Wyck Expressway has been completed, William Nyman, project manager with Hardesty and Hanover engineering consultants, told the Queens borough board last Monday. Nyman explained that the scoping phase involved traffic data collection, inspection of the bridges and interim repairs to nine bridges on or over the Van Wyck Expressway and the Expressway’s Kew Gardens interchange. The preliminary design phase will be constructed during the remainder of this year and into 2004; final design will be completed between 2004 and 2006. Construction is estimated to begin in 2006 and last until some time in 2009. The project must be coordinated with the combining of Willow and Meadow Lakes in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the construction of the Jewel Avenue bridge as part of the proposed staging of the 2012 Olympic Games in New York City, the New York City Economic Development Corporation plans for the Borough Hall parking garage site and the city Department of Transportation safety study of Queens Boulevard. "We plan to minimize the impact of the construction so we don’t have ongoing construction during the Olympics," Nyman assured Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, who presided. "Work will be going on while school is in session, and school means pedestrians, so we plan to minimize that impact as well," he added.
All nine bridges will be examined for safety deficiencies. Connections between major highways, traffic patterns, pedestrian-bicycle access issues and construction impacts, Nyman said. He noted that community input has been valuable in determining problem locations in the study areas.
Seventeen problem areas are encompassed by the project. The first is the merge of the southbound Van Wyck Expressway and the Grand Central Parkway south of 82nd Avenue. The roadway, presently not long enough so that vehicles can merge safely into traffic, will be extended.
The exit from the northbound Van Wyck Expressway to the westbound Grand Central Parkway now necessitates cars crossing traffic to make a left side exit. The project will relocate the exit to the right side of the roadway and relocate the right side entrance to the southbound Van Wyck Expressway to the left side of the roadway. The westbound Grand Central Parkway will also be realigned to enable drivers to see longer distances by straightening out a curve.
The exit ramp from the southbound Van Wyck Expressway to Union Turnpike and Queens Boulevard has a short merge area and necessitates weaving into traffic. A sharp curve also makes merging hazardous. Pavement markings and signage will correct both problems.
The eastbound ramp from the Jackie Robinson Parkway to the westbound Grand Central Parkway forces drivers to reduce their traveling speed sharply. The solution to this problem has not as yet been determined. However, the merge from the Jackie Robinson Parkway to the westbound Grand central parkway west of the Van Wyck Expressway, which has been identified as requiring traffic to come to a full stop before merging on to the Grand Central Parkway, will be facilitated with the addition of an acceleration lane. Similar problems exist at the merge of the northbound Van Wyck Expressway with the westbound Grand Central Parkway which forces cars to come to a stop and has no lane allowing for drivers to accelerate and merge into traffic. This condition will be corrected and the subway bridge traversing the roadways will be rebuilt.
The merge of the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike and the eastbound ramp of the Grand Central Parkway to the westbound Jackie Robinson Parkway present three problem areas. The merges have short acceleration lanes, and the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike has a steep downgrade, which will be corrected by relocating and moving the ramp and closing the mainline right lane. That same approach has poor sign distance for drivers, which will be corrected by rebuilding the highway entrance ramp. The Grand Central Parkway eastbound ramp to the Jackie Robinson Parkway westbound also forces drivers to come to a full stop and traffic safety is precarious. Relocating the merge and the entrance ramp and closing the mainline right lane are seen as ways to correct the problem.
The combined Jackie Robinson Parkway-Union Turnpike eastbound approaching Queens Boulevard has a sharp curve, making sight distance poor. Improvements will be made to this section of the roadway. This same road westbound has two narrow lanes and no road shoulders in each direction. Improvements are also scheduled for this part of the road.
The point at which Union Turnpike and the service road merge holds three problem locations. A short acceleration lane, a short weave area and a dangerous merge condition at the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike are considered to be the major problems. To rectify them, an on-ramp will be relocated, the connection between Union Turnpike and the service road will be eliminated and a new one relocated and merging will be staggered.
The last problem area identified was the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck Expressway to Queens Boulevard. No connection to the southbound service road presently exists, so in the course of the renovations a new connection will be built.
"There was support of our plans for the problem locations," Nyman said. "We also talked about other community concerns, one of which was traffic impact during construction. No one wants to have lane closures during periods when traffic is going to back up. We’re looking at alternatives that are going to minimize the impact. There was also concern about the impact of noise during off-hours construction. One of the alternatives we’ve been considering is building new roadways next to the roads we’re remaking and shifting traffic onto the new construction. We’ve got to have enough room to do this kind of work."
Plans call for meeting frequently with the four community boards involved, Board 6, 8, 9 and 12. However, such meetings will not be regularly scheduled. "We don’t want to waste peoples’ time meeting regularly when there’s nothing to say," Nyman said. "We do want to let people know what we’re doing when we’re doing it." He identified Eric Foster, project manager for the New York State Department of Transportation, as the "point man," the person to contact with a problem or an emergency or with questions. All elected officials at all levels have been contacted about the project, it was added. As a safety measure, it was suggested that area residents take public transportation as much as possible while construction is going on.