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Queens Chronicle

Bridge still closed, unsafe for vehicles

Politicans look to DOT for answers about the 149th Street crossing

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 12:56 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

The bridge in Murray Hill located at 149th Street between Roosevelt and 41st avenues is still blocked off, and local politicans are still looking for answers.

In 2010 the bridge above the LIRR tracks closed for construction funded by taxpayers’ money. After delays, the bridge appeared to be finished in May 2012, but a city DOT inspection found cracks on the bridge making it unsafe to carry vehicles.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s DOT Commissioner, told Eyewitness News, “There were issues with the concrete and we’re not going to open a bridge until it’s safe.”

The road is now blocked off with large orange barriers. There are sensors on the road to monitor the cracks, but pedestrians are able to walk across the bridge on the sidewalk.

The barriers can cause unsafe traffic as the bridge acts as a dead end, forcing cars not familiar with the area to make sudden U-turns.

“I have visited the site many times. I feel for the merchants because it’s not fair,” state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said. “It’s just not fair how the city has ignored this area.”

Stavisky continued, “I represent the people who live on 149th Street and it’s really cruel. Many of them are immigrants, and I think the city is taking advantage of these merchants — the Murray Hill merchants.”

When the Queens Chronicle went to the site, a woman who works at the corner laundromat said she did not mind the situation on the bridge, adding that there is still plenty of parking space on the street.

However, Stavisky has received complaints from several merchants, explaining that their businesses are suffering.

Eyewitness News recently reported that a letter from the DOT to the bridge engineering firm Gandhi stated, “These cracks exist through the full depth of the bridge deck,” to which Gandhi replied that the cracks could “be sealed with an epoxy sealer” to make the bridge safe enough for vehicular traffic.

It was also reported that the city blamed the firm for “failure to design a bridge in compliance with the minimum load requirements,” leading to “significant structural defects.”

Gandhi replied that the city’s design used “one-third less steel than the conventional design” in order to save money, and so “the potential for the concrete bridge deck to crack is increased.”

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) sent a letter to Sadik-Khan regarding the bridge.

Avella wrote, “Gandhi states that the bridge was designed using the Isotropic or Empirical Method, which is a preferred bridge design method for the New York State Department of Transporation (NYSDOT),” explaining that this design “can potentially lead to developing longitudinal cracks on the bridge deck.”

The letter ended with questions for the commissioner, asking if the agency authorized Gandhi to utilize the isotropic method for designing the bridge and what the reasons for allowing the isotropic design method were.

A previous DOT letter to Gandhi stated that since the contractor did not address concerns about the cracks, Avella also asked if legal action had been taken.

In letters to Commissioner of the state Department of Transportation Joan McDonald and Commissioner of the U.S. Department of Transportation Ray LaHood, Avella asked what their preferred design methods were and what corrective measures could be taken.

Stavisky has also tried to contact the city about the future of the site. On Feb. 28 she filed a Freedom of Information request with the city’s DOT, asking for records pertaining to the construction of the bridge. Three weeks ago, she received a CD with approximately 500 documents totaling more than 5,000 pages.

“What I’m looking for is to see what steps are available — for the city to either have the contractor complete the work or for the city to recover the damages. I want to know whether legal action has commenced and what legal steps are being taken to open it to vehicular traffic,” Stavisky said.

She added, “The city really has to be more responsive. We’re going to give them specific questions and ask them to answer.”

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