VZ bridge ‘fix’ on its way

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Exasperated Verrazano-Narrows Bridge commuters may soon get some relief from prolonged delays thanks to a deal between local lawmakers and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to implement traffic-relief measures on the under-repair span.

The agreement, which calls for a new high occupancy lane on the Gowanus Expressway during the evening rush hour, came on the same day that lawyers were scheduled to appear in State Supreme Court for yet another hearing on a lawsuit demanding greater traffic mitigation efforts from the state transportation agency.

Thanks to the agreement, the lawyer for the group of local lawmakers that filed the suit earlier this year asked for the case to be adjourned until the relief measures are implemented and the results can be studied.

This week, the lawmakers were claiming victory.

“We first sat down to negotiate [with the MTA] in June because we knew the traffic backups from the project was a problem,” said Councilman Jimmy Oddo, (R–Dyker Heights).

“The lawsuit is the biggest reason we are here to announce [the traffic relief measures] today. Make no mistake, the MTA acted because the specter of its employees testifying under oath … was highly unappealing.”

Naturally, the MTA disagreed.

“We still believe the lawsuit is without merit,” said Hillary Ring, the MTA’s director of government affairs, who added that the traffic-relief measures would be put in place because they “made sense” for the city and the MTA.

“We do want to reduce commute times during the ongoing constructi­on,” he said.

The MTA claims that the new HOV lane on the Gowanus Expressway between 65th and 92nd streets could slash commute times by 15–30 minutes. The agency also believes the extra lane will cut down on traffic backups through Bay Ridge, with more drivers staying on the highway instead of approaching the bridge from streets.

But the lane won’t be available until April, 2008.

Traffic during the ongoing reconstruction of the bridge has been a problem on both sides of the fabled span for nearly seven months.

Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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