By Daniel Bush
Brooklyn’s dilapidated Belt Parkway bridges are on the road to recovery.
The Department of Transportation completed the first phase of a $365-million project to replace the aging Paerdegat Basin and Rockaway Parkway bridges — on schedule and without going over budget — paving the way for the reconstruction of four other spans along the thoroughfare, officials said.
One of two new gangplanks over Paerdegat Basin opened to Brooklyn-bound traffic on Christmas week, and the existing Paerdegat Basin Bridge will be demolished once the second bridge for Queens-bound drivers is completed next year. The new Rockaway Parkway Bridge opened to Brooklyn-bound traffic before the holidays, although Queens-bound drivers continue to use the existing span.
City transportation officials hailed the work, which also includes repairs to the Fresh Creek Bridge.
“These Belt Parkway bridges will continue to serve the needs of New Yorkers for years to come,” said Transportation Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan. “We need to make sure our streets, highways and bridges keep the city moving.”
The construction work is part of a larger, half-billion-dollar project to replace seven out-dated borough bridges by 2017 that transport more than 150,000 cars a day through Brooklyn and Queens. Other bridges still needing repair go over the Gerritsen Inlet, Mill Basin, Bay Ridge Avenue and Nostrand Avenue. The city will start work on the Gerritsen Inlet Bridge in 2012, and the Mill Basin Bridge in 2013, with the rest to follow.
The Mill Basin Bridge — which rises 35 feet over the water, and is the only moveable bridge along the parkway — will be replaced by a fixed overpass with a 60-foot clearance over the water to accommodate tall ships.
The bridge openings come three weeks after the city reopened the Guider Avenue Bridge last month, giving drivers headed Downtown access to the Belt Parkway at the Manhattan-bound entrance at Coney Island Avenue.
According to the Department of Transportation, the overpasses were built beginning in 1939, and have all “outlived their useful lives and must be replaced.”
In the past 60 years, the opening of John F. Kennedy International Airport, the rise of suburbs on Long Island and the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge have also contributed to a sharp increase in traffic along the Belt Parkway, officials say.