A state Department of Transportation official last week indicated that the Kew Gardens Interchange project is on track to be completed by 2015, with 14 percent of the massive reconstruction and renovation plan already done.
The complex web of thoroughfares includes the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, Jackie Robinson Parkway, Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike. Approximately 500,000 vehicles use the interchange each day.
Phil Trapani, a project supervisor, told members of the Briarwood Civic Association at their monthly meeting that the agency is in the second stage of Contract I, finishing up work on the Hoover Avenue Bridge and 82nd Avenue pedestrian span, both of which straddle the Van Wyck Expressway near the Queens Criminal Court Building. The 82nd Avenue Bridge improvements will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“In a nutshell, we’re replacing four bridges and rehabbing two more,” Trapani said of the $148 million contract.
Entrances to the Briarwood-Van Wyck subway station will also be reconstructed, with the stop gaining a long-awaited elevator expected to begin servicing commuters in late 2012. Another improvement in the offing is the addition of a lane to the Van Wyck in both directions.
But the project, which began in earnest last summer, has not arrived without expected headaches. Queens Boulevard near Main Street has been reduced to two lanes in either direction, down from three, with all traffic shifted to the southbound side.
“It will be four years until Queens Boulevard is back to normal,” Trapani asserted.
“It has brought with it a number of problems and discomfort to say the least, and it will be with us for a long time,” BCA President Sy Schwartz said.
Trapani noted that “We have taken actions to correct some of the issues that have been brought up,” including installing variable message signs to notify motorists that pedestrians are crossing in the area, opening certain work areas so merchants can still conduct business during the project and adding more signs to direct pedestrians to use crosswalks.
Still, several residents raised concerns which Trapani jotted down and promised to address, either through the DOT or by contacting the appropriate city or state agency. These issues included getting more traffic cops in the area, filling potholes created by construction and addressing a need for more lighting at Main Street and Queens Boulevard.