2006-02-22 / Front Page

Overpass Demolition Underway

BY LINDA J. WILSON

After years of delays and setbacks, repairs to the crumbling Steinway Street Bridge over the Grand Central Parkway began, starting with demolition this past weekend. Demolition of the bridge, which is more than 70 years old, is expected to take two weeks to complete. The bridge itself is expected to be partially open by October 2006 and completed some time in 2007.

As reported in the Gazette of Feb. 15, 2006, the demolition was to result in closed traffic lanes and parking restrictions on the Grand Central Parkway, Astoria Boulevard and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Demolition of the southern and northern portions of the bridge is scheduled to be competed after the weekend of February 25 to 27. The two northbound traffic lanes on the temporary Steinway Street Bridge will remain during demolition. Parking restrictions will be in effect from noon Friday through 5 a.m. Monday and road closures will begin at 12:01 Saturday through 5 a.m. Monday.

One eastbound lane on the Grand Central Parkway will be closed between 31st Street and 49th Street. There will be two available eastbound travel lanes. Two westbound lanes on the Grand Central Parkway will be closed between 49th Street and the Triborough Bridge approach. There will be one available westbound travel lane. The eastbound entrance ramp to the Grand Central Parkway at Astoria Boulevard South at 33rd Street will be closed.

No stopping will be allowed along Astoria Boulevard, North or South between 31st and 49th Streets starting at noon Friday through 5 a.m. Monday.

The Grand Central Parkway entrance ramp from the northbound/ westbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will be closed. Northbound BQE motorists will be detoured onto Astoria Boulevard North for access to the Triborough Bridge and local streets. The Grand Central Parkway westbound entrance ramp at 74th Street will be closed and traffic will continue on Astoria Boulevard North to the Triborough Bridge and local streets.

The bridge no longer conforms to weight standards for a span that carries the amount of traffic that uses it every day. Various plans for repair and/or replacement have been proposed, but most have been dismissed as impractical or too expensive. Plans for replacing or rehabilitating the bridge have been at least five years in the making, but got underway only in 2004. At that time, during demolition operations, a large slab of the bridge fell onto the Grand Central Parkway, seriously injuring a motorist who could not avoid colliding with it, and construction stopped and the bridge was closed.

“Closing the bridge has had a devastating impact on the local economy—it split the community in half,” Tony Barsamian, chairman emeritus of the Steinway Street Business Improvement District (BID), declared. “Merchants on Steinway Street, in particular, have lost access to a large part of their customer base, residents north of the Grand Central Parkway cannot cross as easily as they once did, and people just aren’t shopping, in order to avoid the hassle of driving often as much as a mile out of their way. It took less time to build the Triborough Bridge from scratch as it’s taking to rebuild the Steinway Street Bridge.”

Similar sentiments were aired in November 2004 at a meeting of local business people, elected officials and representatives of the city Department of Transportation. At that time, the blow to the neighborhood’s economic well-being was outlined by several business owners. Particularly distressing was the prospective loss of business during the holiday shopping season. Several business proprietors described in detail how severely their establishments had already been affected by the bridge closing and said that plans which had then been proposed to reopen the bridge at least partially in January 2005 were of no use to the beleaguered merchants.

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