Closed! Bklyn Bridge repairs cause fear and loathing in Heights

Closed! Bklyn Bridge repairs cause fear and loathing in Heights
The Brooklyn Paper / Sarah Portlock

The Brooklyn Bridge is getting the facelift — but Brooklyn Heights is getting the worry lines.

A mammoth renovation project that begins soon will close the Manhattan-bound lanes of the historic span at least 24 weekends and many weeknights, creating intense congestion as cars jam the Manhattan Bridge, the closest alternative.

“The traffic will increase tremendously,” predicted Capt. Vanessa Kight, an executive officer at the 84th Precinct.

It’ll all start in June, when the Department of Transportation begins a $500-million project that includes a new paint job, deck resurfacing, and rehabilitation and widening of the bridge’s ramps and approaches — a project that promises to reduce congestion (eventually) for the 100,000 drivers who cross the span every day.

But until then, drivers will be detoured to the already packed intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street to get to the Manhattan Bridge — which is expected to get 80 percent of the diverted vehicles.

The work is the first rehab for the bridge in two decades, sparked in part by a 2007 collapse of bridge in Minneapolis, where 13 people died. City officials have said that the bridge is structurally sound, but state inspectors rated components of the bridge as “poor” and in need of repair.

To start the project, agency contractors will blast away the existing coat of paint, swaddling the span with protective wrap to prevent the spread of lead particles. The potentially hazardous work will be heavily monitored by local, state and federal agencies.

After the paint is removed, a new coffee-colored coat will be slathered along the entire 126-year-old structure. The agency calls the paint “Queensborough tan,” an ironic moniker given the bridge was constructed a full 14 years before Queens officially became a borough.

The two-year paint job will be performed during the evenings and early mornings, when the bridge will be shuttered to Manhattan-bound traffic, forcing weary travelers to seek out alternative East River crossings — and flooding roads with additional traffic.

Traffic lanes will be closed on weeknights, beginning at 11 pm and ending at 6 am, and on Saturdays, from midnight to 7 am, and Sundays, from midnight to 9 am. During the day, expect single lane closures in each direction during off-peak hours. All six lanes will be open for rush hour.

During the four-year course of the overall project, the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge will be entirely off limits for up to 24 weekends.

The end result will be smoother travel along the span, with fully replaced approach roadways and the creation of two lanes of free-flowing traffic at the Cadman Plaza exit, and in Manhattan, two lanes created from the southbound FDR drive onto the bridge.

But tomorrow’s roadway pleasure could be today’s pain, residents said.

“Parking is already horrible,” said Heights dweller Kathlene Gates, who feared the area getting even more messy.

Green-friendly travelers have reason to rejoice at least: The aged span will not be closed to pedestrians or cyclists during the entirety of the project.

For an up to date schedule of closures e-mail [email protected] or call (347) 646-0876.

— with Tony Cella