East River bridges brace for spruce-ups

The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

Facelift for Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge won’t celebrate its 125th birthday until late May, but the city is already working to ensure that the borough’s most-famous landmark will stand for another century and a quarter.

The Department of Transportation is proposing a $200- to $300-million, five-year reworking of the bridge that calls for repairing railings, repainting, repaving roadways, revamping on-ramps, rehabilitating deteriorating archways, and even earthquake-proofing the fabled 6,016-foot span.

The far-reaching project could begin as early as next year.

The plans include widening the narrow exit ramp that leads to Cadman Plaza West and the construction of extra lanes on bridge exit ramps off the FDR Drive in Manhattan — long the scourge of Brooklyn-bound drivers.

And there will be new steel girders where the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway passes beneath the bridge, increasing the amount of vertical clearance on the highway to prevent damage and traffic delays, said Transportation spokesman Craig Chin.

Drivers might also appreciate new guardrails that would protect commuters and preserve the ornate granite balustrades that have stood since 1883.

And on top of everything, the whole bridge would get its first fresh coat of paint since 1991 — “Medium Brown” 20227 for the bridge, and “Light Buff” 22563 for the cables.

They’re mending the Manhattan

The city has plans to renovate the Manhattan Bridge, but lane closures might turn the project into a real piece of work.

The Department of Transportation’s proposed renovations, which would begin next year, include replacing the 98-year-old bridge’s 640 suspender ropes and installing new decorative lighting, agency spokesman Craig Chin said.

The plans also call for coating the bridge’s four main cables in zinc to prevent corrosion — a process that could take six months for each 3,224-foot long cable.

Repairs will keep the bridge’s cables from wearing thin — but the same can’t be said for the patience of the 78,000 drivers, cyclists and walkers who depend on the bridge for their daily commutes.

To make space for the multiple construction crews that will work on the bridge, the city plans to close certain lanes to traffic, Chin said.

On the lower roadway, the city will close the outermost lane throughout the three-year project, while maintaining traffic on the other two lanes. On the upper roadway, the city might close an inner lane on weekends or between 10 am and 3 pm, and 9 pm and 5 am, on weekdays.

The city also plans to temporarily close a walkway on the southern side of the bridge, rerouting pedestrians onto the northern side.

The city hopes to begin the three-year repair project in September 2009, but the work on the bridge won’t come to an end until 2014, after the 6,855-foot structure is retrofitted to survive an earthquake.

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