2009-07-22 / Features

Throgs Neck Bridge Opens By Aug. 10

BY LINDA J. WILSON

Photo Jim Henderson Photo Jim Henderson A fire at a construction site beneath the roadway of the Throgs Neck Bridge on July 10 shut down the bridge until 6:20 p.m., when two Queens-bound lanes on the bridge were reopened to cars only, and caused a number of traffic impacts northbound, including a ban on trucks on the bridge, removal of one lane and closure of the Cross Island Parkway on-ramp, as well as shifts to both the Bronx-Whitestone and the RFK Bridges. MTA Bridges and Tunnels Engineers, Operations personnel and Health and Safety inspectors worked throughout the day to get the bridge back in operation for the 112,000 motorists who use the 48-year-old bridge daily.

MTA officials on July 21 announced a series of repairs, which involve reinforcement and replacement of steel that will return the Throgs Neck Bridge to near normal operation by August 10. By Saturday, July 25, initial repairs will be completed and the ban for most trucks, including state divisible load permitted trucks that weigh up to 105,000 pounds, will be lifted. On August 10, the Cross Island Parkway ramp and a third lane on the bridge will reopen, returning the bridge to its usual three lanes northbound. Lanes will be narrowed to allow work to continue. Further repair and reconstruction work, including a portion of a planned deck replacement, will continue into the fall. The three lanes will be maintained for traffic throughout the project. One of three northbound bridge lanes and the Cross Island Parkway on-ramp have been closed and Bronx-bound trucks have been banned since the fire. As a result, northbound trucks and other traffic have shifted to the Bronx-Whitestone and the RFK (Triborough) Bridges, and other feeder roads have been impacted as well.

"We are making progress on all three of our goals related to the Throgs Neck: mitigating traffic, identifying repair plans and fully investigating the cause of the accident," MTA Interim Executive Director Helena E. Williams said. "We regret the continued inconvenience to our customers but we are pleased that we can return to near normal operations soon."

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridge & Tunnel (B&T) engineers and health and safety staff, along with outside experts on infrastructure fire and steel structures, found significant damage in the fire area. Shortly after the fire, the MTA Bridge and Tunnel Authority said that in order to ease traffic flow and add capacity where possible, all planned construction on the Bronx-Whitestone and RFK Bridges had been temporarily suspended. In addition, potholes were being filled at night to the extent possible. Extra tow trucks were assigned to key locations at all three bridges in order to remove disabled vehicles and additional Bridge and Tunnel officers were assigned to process toll traffic. Toll collection sites had been reversed where possible to add capacity where needed for toll processing.

"Safety is our highest priority, which guides our plans to restore this critical regional link to normal operation," MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Susan Kupferman said. "Our goal is to make these necessary structural repairs as quickly as possible while minimizing the impact to customers. We will continue to communicate information and conditions via signs, MTA e-mail alerts and, of course, through the media."

MTA Bridges and Tunnels and FDNY have ongoing investigations into the cause of the fire, which began shortly after 5 a.m. on July 10 in scaffolding under the northbound side of the bridge where an ongoing deck replacement project is scheduled for completion in 2011. Both agencies believe the fire was caused by a spark from a contractor's torch being used to cut steel on the roadway that ignited construction material on scaffolding below the bridge. Bridges and Tunnels is holding the contractor responsible for all repairs and costs incurred. It is also requiring an independent safety monitor, paid for by the contractor and reporting to Bridges and Tunnels, to monitor all work. Contractor employees who were directly involved in the incident have been removed from the project.

Astride the meeting place of the East River and Long Island Sound, the bridge serves as a vital link in the city's interstate highway system. On the Bronx side it feeds into the Cross Bronx and Bruckner Expressways, the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway, providing access to New Jersey, upstate New York, Westchester County and New England. On the Queens side, it feeds the Cross Island Parkway, the Clearview and Long Island Expressways and the Grand Central Parkway, which lead, respectively, to Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and points west.

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