2004-06-23 / Features

BQE Renovations

Near Completion
By Thomas Cogan
BQE Renovations Near Completion

www.dot.state.ny.us BQE between 31st Ave. and 49th St. Photo taken April 17,2004www.dot.state.ny.us BQE between 31st Ave. and 49th St. Photo taken April 17,2004

By Thomas Cogan

Diaa Shubba, one of the principal engineers on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway repair project, running from Broadway to 25th Avenue in Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, declared at the most recent report to the public that he hopes to be close to the end of work in about three months’ time. Speaking for the absent Craig Ruyle of the New York State Department of Transportation, who is chief engineer of the project, Shubba said that his company, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) would be fulfilling their mandate to have everything done by then, thus bringing to an end a period remarkable for both disruption and achievement that has lasted more than three years.

The PowerPoint slide show revealed many indications that the project is in its final stages, after an extension that took it several months beyond its original ending date in the spring of this year. The grading and paving of 69th Avenue on the northbound side of the expressway has been completed to the point where the street is fully reopened to traffic. The junction of 69th Street and 35th Avenue is not at the moment completed but is notably advanced, given the fact that the 35th Avenue roadway has been built as a trench of considerable depth under the concrete bridge of the expressway.

A pumping station has been built on the spot to drain off the water that will inevitably collect on the roadway. The concrete deck over Northern Boulevard has been placed and the bridge should soon follow it to completion. The eastbound bridge over 32nd Avenue is in the last stage of construction. Between Northern Boulevard and 32nd Avenue, curtain walls were constructed and the space between the expressway and adjacent residences was widened. On Boody Street, the noise barriers have at last been installed. They run from 30th Avenue to the end of the project at 25th Avenue. The road running to and from the Triborough Bridge is probably at the most advanced state of construction of any part of the project.

"When are you getting out of my backyard?" asked a woman residing in one of the houses along the expressway between Northern Boulevard and 32nd Avenue. Shubba told her the project would probably keep DOT working until fall, to which she replied, "So my summer is shot!" Since 2001, Shubba and other engineers associated with the project have heard a plethora of complaints and denunciations, but by now there seems to be a relieved feeling that everything will be over before, say, Thanksgiving. Such a realization tends to lower the level of indignation, and the woman’s complaint seemed more weary than bitter. A Leveritch Street resident had a more direct complaint when he observed that the 35th Avenue route under the expressway, which was built only with great difficulty, would not provide sufficient clearance for many large trucks. They would consequently be driven up Leveritch Street, which is certainly no truck route. Shubba could not allay the resident’s anxiety.

Asked about landscaping, Shubba said that $5.7 million has been allotted for it. Landscaping will be launched when the building project is completed. Asked about graffiti, he said that many removals had been made. Also, there was talk of new surface coverings that resist spray paint. All very well, but at the moment the battle between perpetrators and removers is lopsidedly in favor of the former, who can spray on fresh tags by night, sometimes despite notices declaring that a target area is under video surveillance. (Oddly, the tablet-like noise baffles along Boody Street were untouched as of the middle of last week.) Pigeons are even more daunting. Some in the audience complained that birds evicted from overpasses and other resorts wind up taking to and befouling the roofs of nearby houses. Shubba said that many of them have even adjusted to perching on the sharp spikes that were installed to keep them off the overpasses.

The next, and probably the final, report to the public is likely to be presented in October.

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