Representatives from the state Department of Transportation dropped by the meeting of the Briarwood Community Foundation last week to update more than 70 residents on the progress on the first phase of construction on the Kew Gardens Interchange.
Queens Boulevard goes through Briarwood about a mile due south of where the Van Wyck Expressway, Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson and Grand Central parkways converge in the tangle of bridges and ramps that make up the interchange.
The widening of the Van Wyck has caused disruptions where Queens Boulevard crosses the expressway and runs perpendicular to Main Street.
And despite some barricades, temporary lines and what some say is a lack of coordination among state and city agencies, residents appear to be weathering phase I quite nicely.
“With every major project you have to have some compromises,” said BCF association President Sy Schwartz.
William Nyman of the engineering firm Hardesty & Hanover spoke along with Craig Ruyle, who is supervising the project for the DOT, answering questions from residents about temporary signs and traffic safety, police presence and both new and temporary entrances to the pedestrian subway tunnel at the Briarwood-Van Wyck station.
While the tunnel is receiving a new slope to eliminate steps that now exist, the elevator being installed on the eastern side of Queens Boulevard near the library will go down only to the mezzanine level rather than the platform.
A handful of residents asked what good that would do a handicapped subway rider, though Nyman said access to the platform is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“Doesn’t the DOT talk to the MTA?” asked Beth Brooks. “It’s frustrating in that my tax money is being spent and it seems like there is no communication or coordination.
Other residents expressed confusion over a new subway entrance near Maple Grove Cemetery created for construction purposes that will remain, though it is on a seldom-used section of the street.
Nyman and Ruyle said the new entrance can be used to exit the system or for MTA, police and fire personnel to enter in the event of an emergency.
Schwartz said, however, that the state has been more than accommodating on several issues that the association has brought to its attention, such as the initial plan to block off merchants on one block south of Main Street.
“These men aren’t the enemy,” Schwartz said. “We told [the state] these businesses would be hurt, and they agreed to reopen the block for us.”
While some residents complained that a temporary crosswalk running from the west side of the boulevard to the corner with Main Street is far too long, Schwartz said that too was reopened by the DOT at the association’s request.
“When it was blocked off people were jaywalking from everywhere along the street,” he said. “It’s long, but we feel it’s safer having it more controlled with people crossing in one place.”
Phase I which runs up to Union Turnpike, is expected to be completed in 2013.
Phase 2-a, which will include widening the northbound Van Wyck and building a new ramp to those new lanes from the Jackie Robinson, will have bids opened on Feb. 23, 2012. Construction will last for 54 months.