The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week awarded the contract to upgrade and modernize the Queens approach to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.
Tully Construction Co. of Flushing and EE Cruz of Manhattan were awarded the $109 million contract, which will widen lanes on the 1,010-foot approach, add a breakdown lane and relocate and refurbish a playground that now sits beneath the bridge in Francis Lewis Park.
Work will begin this fall, causing one lane to close for about a year. Movable barricades will allow for three lanes of traffic into the Bronx during the morning and three back into Queens for afternoon rush hours.
Joe Keane, the MTA’s bridge and tunnels chief engineer, said the 1939 bridge was not designed for modern traffic with its narrow lanes and lack of a breakdown lane.
“But this work, along with the Bronx approach project, will go a long way in transforming this 1930s era bridge into a modern, viable regional link for decades to come,” he said.
Reconstruction of the foundation along with seven new piers begins this fall and will take about a year with no traffic disruption expected. The 14th Avenue exit ramp will be widened and will get a deceleration lane and new curbing.
The MTA also has reached an agreement with the Parks Department and area residents to relocate the playground that currently sits beneath the roadway in Francis Lewis Park.
The current playground, which includes a jungle gym, a spray fountain, basketball and handball courts, will remain open until September. The new playground will be relocated near the existing bocce courts, and is scheduled to be open by spring 2012.
The new playground will have all new equipment including swings, a spray shower and age-appropriate sections for children 2 to 5 and 6 to 12.
Marilyn Bitterman, district manager for Community Board 7, said the panel’s major concern right now is the rerouting of trucks beginning in summer 2012, when the northbound 3rd Avenue exit ramp, the last exit before the toll, is shut down for approximately two years.
She said the MTA is scheduled to make a presentation to the board early next year.
“Our concern is the impact on local traffic,” Bitterman said. “Cars will find their own ways of getting home. We’ve asked for signs on the Grand Central and Cross Island parkways directing people to the 20th Avenue exit and a truck route.”
The park and the bridge approach sit on land that once belonged to the estate of Francis Lewis, a wealthy merchant and trader in Colonial America who later became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.