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Gowanus Expressway: History of a highway

The Brooklyn Paper

The Gowanus Expressway runs 6.1-miles from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, linking Brooklyn to Staten Island. Dreamed up by master builder Robert Moses in the late 1930s, the highway has proved controversial since it opened to drivers 70 years ago. Now, the state is half-way through an 11-year “interim” repair of the notoriously congested road. Here’s a breakdown of the expressway’s history, and statistics on the current repair project:

1939: Construction starts.

1941: Four-lane expressway opens.

1961: Expressway widened to six lanes.

1996: Public demands a tunnel option when state announces it plans to replace the decrepit highway.

2005: State begins the on-going $680-million repair project, which involves:

• 164 million pounds of concrete to replace the highway’s aging deck.

• 20,000 feet of resurfaced concrete.

• 4,600 feet of resurfaced asphalt.

• 400 new light poles.

2011: Federal government cans plans to replace the highway, promising it won’t collapse.

— Daniel Bush

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at

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tony giordano from sunset park says:
In 1989 I was floating a plan to put retail stores under a four block section of the Gowanus. I felt it would bring people back to the area Iprovide a route of access to the waterfront) and end the illegal dumping, prostitution and drug use going on there at the time. A NYC DOT rep let it slip that the Gowanus was going to be replaced by the feds with a half billion dollar 10 year reconstruction. The feds & state said no environmental impact statement was needed since it was a replacement project. I argued my case to the Council on Environmental Quality - a fed agency in the White House and they issued a decision that the project did require an EIS. Since then the feds lied & cheated every step of the way as they did the replacement anyway - just a piece at a time (and they added additions & changes to the roadway - that should have required EIS review - all under the blind eye of UPROSE - the group that took the lead in watching the feds). So they don't need to do the reconstruction - they already spend 3/4's of a billion and took 21 they beat us because we were not united and vigilant. I feel like a fool - instead of a half billion in 10 years, we paid 3/4's of a billion in 21 years.
Dec. 2, 2011, 6:21 am

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