Feb. 4, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The city’s plan to convert a car lane into a pedestrian pathway on the Queensboro Bridge will be delayed until at least 2024, the DOT announced yesterday.
The DOT announced Thursday that it is about to start major repairs to the upper deck of the Queensboro Bridge that will take until December 2023 to complete — and that the work must be finished before a car lane can be repurposed into a lane dedicated for pedestrians.
The repairs will mean that pedestrians and cyclists will have to continue to share a narrow pathway on its northern outer roadway until at least 2024, which safety advocates say is dangerous.
The 2024 date is a departure from an earlier announcement when the DOT said it would convert a car lane on the southern outer roadway for pedestrians by the end of 2022. That plan, announced in April 2021, would also have seen the existing pathway on the northern outer roadway repurposed for bicycles only.
Council Members Julie Won and Julie Menin, who both represent neighborhoods on either side of the bridge, are urging the DOT to find ways to expedite the repairs to the upper deck which will make way for a separate pedestrian lane and dedicated bike path sooner. They said the bridge is an important artery in the city’s bike infrastructure.
“Creating safer pedestrian and bike access to the Queensboro Bridge is a top priority in District 26 and we have been excited about this project since its announcement last year,” Won said in a statement.
Won and Menin penned a joint letter to DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez Thursday outlining how the repairs—which will start later this month—will prolong the treacherous situation on the northern outer roadway where pedestrians and cyclists share the narrow strip along the bridge.
The lawmakers requested a meeting with the agency to come up with ways to expedite the timeline of the repair work. They also want to find solutions to minimize the disruption the work will have on all bridge users—while recognizing that the repair work needs to be done.
“This repair work is necessary for the bridge and its long-term health. However, this delayed and prolonged timeline presents grave concerns for our constituents,” the letter reads.
The repair work consists of replacing the bridge’s upper deck in order to extend its life span by up to 75 years, according to the DOT. The bridge opened in 1909 and is the busiest of the four DOT East River crossings with a daily traffic volume of around 170,000 vehicles.
The approaches to the upper deck of the bridge will be replaced along with deck joints and barriers on the upper roadway. Some of the other work being earmarked for completion includes installing new LED lights on the lower level, drainage improvements, structural steel repairs and painting.
The conversion of the vehicle lane and the repurposing of the pedestrian lane cannot commence while the bridge repair work is taking place since at least one vehicle lane on the upper deck will be closed at all times to store construction materials and equipment.
Additionally, the bridge will have two traffic lanes closed during off-peak periods.
The council members said that the sustained lane closures could create a problematic traffic situation causing arduous delays and spilling over to the local streets in both Manhattan and Queens. They are asking the DOT what its mitigation plans are while the repairs are being made and how the work can be expedited.
“Our constituencies are both concerned about the increased traffic congestion and the safety conditions for bikers and pedestrians during this construction timeline,” the letter reads. “We need a shorter timeline to better serve New Yorkers.”