The billion-dollar bridge!

Meet the new Kosc — different from the old Kosc
New York State Department of Transportation

The pricetag for a long-awaited — and long-needed — state plan to replace the crumbling Kosciuszko Bridge by 2017 has ballooned to more than $1 billion, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

The new bridge was slated to cost $700 million as recently as last spring. The higher cost is due to a longer build-out time, state officials said.

The good news is that for such a high price, we might actually get something truly stunning — a concrete cable-stayed span straight out of a science fiction movie (or the downtowns of many other cities). In layman’s terms, the futuristic bridge resembles two space-turkey wishbones standing upright with diagonal connection cables.

Last month, the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Council — a Department of Transportation-appointed panel of local activists — chose three final designs for the new 1.1-mile span.

In addition to the front-runner (pictured) were a simple box girder design and a crescent arch similar to the Bayonne Bridge.

They would all cost a lot, but Adam Levine, spokesman of the state Department of Transportation, said the cost was expected.

“For a bridge that is a mile long in New York City, $1 billion is the going rate,” he said.

Whatever design is chosen, the new bridge will have nine lanes, up from the current six; have a less-steep incline now that there’s no longer a need to accommodate large boat traffic on the Newtown Creek; a bike and pedestrian lane; and a boat launch.

The federal government will pay for 80 percent of the replacement project, leaving $200 million to be picked up by the state. The four-year construction will begin in 2013.

It’s not a moment too soon. The span is perpetually gridlocked — a result of antiquated design and nonexistent shoulders. In addition, the support beams and roadways are deteriorating. Two weeks ago, the bridge was partially closed due to joint failure.

Even worse, the bridge, which carries 160,000 vehicles every day between Greenpoint and Queens, has an accident rate that is six times the statewide average.

“It has issues that need to be repaired right away,” said Levine.

In fact, it’s the worst bridge in the five boroughs, according to the General Contractors Association, an agency that assesses city construction projects.

“We know the state is facing a fiscal crisis, but this is going to cost more in the long run if we wait to repair the infrastructure,” said Felice Farber, a representative of the General Contractors Association. “It’s not about traffic, but rather our economy. Trucks deliver goods, services, and supplies to our stores every day. If this infrastructure fails, our economy fails, too.”

So the New Kosciuszko is on the fast track, right?

Um, not so fast. Last month, Gov. Paterson said that his own Transportation Department’s five-year, $25.8-billion capital package plan is too pricey. He did not mention the Kosciuszko Bridge specifically, but said the agency would face massive budget cuts.

“This plan … [is] simply unaffordable given New York’s current fiscal condition,” Paterson said in October. “If the Legislature does not work with me to address the budget deficit, it will become increasingly difficult to enact a necessary and affordable road and bridge plan for New York.”

State transportation officials insist that they are forging ahead to replace the 60-year-old span, named for Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish general in the American Revolutionary War and a distant relative of this reporter. Though it is not in danger of imminent collapse, state workers are constantly replacing bits and pieces so that the bridge remains open.

As such, Levine said that it was such a high priority that the bridge project would likely avoid Paterson’s budget ax.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) hopes Levine is right.

“It’s one of the most important projects in the city. It hurts quality of life and it actually costs lives,” said Lentol’s spokeswoman Amy Cleary. “I don’t want to imagine what will happen if we don’t listen to the experts.”

A final design will be chosen by January.