Officials at Community Board 7 are elated that their message to the MTA has been heeded and motorists now have a second lane leading from the westbound Cross Island Parkway to the Throgs Neck Bridge ramp.
The MTA announced the second lane’s reopening last week after a 20-month closure. “We have been asking for this because it is a big benefit to the people of Whitestone, Beechhurst and especially Bay Terrace,” said CB 7’s Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian. “With only one lane, traffic got backed up or went on local streets.”
He noted that after a construction fire on the bridge in July 2009, the MTA eliminated one of the lanes. Further improvement work on the Throgs Neck kept it closed until last week.
The fire was started by a worker’s blow torch and took hours to get under control. The contractor, E.E. Cruz of Holmdale, NJ was held responsible and paid for damages.
The $100 million project to replace the Bronx-bound side’s roadway decking on the bridge is nearly finished, according to MTA spokeswoman Judie Glave. Work began in 2008 and included changing out more than 140,000 square feet of decking near the Queens end of the bridge. It is several months ahead of schedule.
Under a trial traffic pattern, the ramp has been restored to two lanes and the merger point has been moved several hundred feet closer to the bridge. Glave noted that the earlier configuration often resulted in cars on the ramp failing to merge safely, resulting in more accidents.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara praised the redesign and said if the new pattern is successful, it will be made permanent. “Customer safety is our first and foremost concern, as always,” Ferrara said, “but we are also willing whenever we can to make improvements that will keep traffic moving.”
Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, applauded the move, saying it will help clear neighborhood streets and keep traffic moving on the parkway.
“At times, the Cross Island was almost shut down with tremendous traffic,” Schreiber said. “It was creating a big problem for us. The MTA did the right thing.”