Moving in the fast lane!
A major phase of work to improve traffic flow from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to the eastbound Gowanus Expressway is on track to finish this month — more than 60 days ahead of schedule, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Construction crews are nearing completion of work to expand the Fort Hamilton Parkway exit ramp to two lanes and add a fourth eastbound lane from the Verrazzano to the Fort Hamilton Parkway exit, the MTA announced on Oct. 29. The project will also include the implementation of additional signage on the bridge, which boasts the country’s most expensive toll.
Agency officials say widening the roadway will reduce traffic-weaving, improve safety and eliminate a current bottleneck that results in traffic back-ups at a site local leaders say has long been a sore spot for drivers.
“The added lane will really help address back-ups,” Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann said, adding that the Fort Hamilton Parkway exit “really created some hazardous conditions for people — especially during peak hours in the morning.”
The improvements, she said, were born out of “countless meetings” with board leaders, agency heads and local elected officials like Councilman Justin Brannan, who told Brooklyn Paper that he got to work on widening the roadway shortly after being elected in 2017.
The traffic, Brannan said, would sometimes snake for over a mile to as far as Scarpaci Funeral Home on 86th Street and 14th Avenue.
“This was one of those things that always drove me bananas,” said Brannan. “I wondered why nobody had ever done something about it. People were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on 86th Street and 14th Avenue not realizing it was because of a bottleneck on the other side of Fort Hamilton Parkway.”
The MTA estimates that motorists will save a collective 1,000 hours daily — and more than 360,000 hours annually — on top of more than 1,500 tons of carbon emissions eliminated each year thanks to the project. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, an estimated 60,000 vehicles per day traveled eastbound from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to the Gowanus Expressway, according to the agency.
MTA’s Janno Lieber called the initiative an example of perseverance amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“This project is an example of how MTA Construction & Development is completing projects faster and cheaper than ever before, even amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lieber, the president of MTA Construction and Development. “But, to continue delivering projects like this — projects that save our customers time and help cut traffic and air pollution — we need Washington to step up and provide billions in emergency relief to offset the MTA’s pandemic-related financial crisis.”
This project in particular cost the agency $18 million, and the entire project is expected to be completed by next summer — well ahead of its expected December 2021 finish line. In a press release issued Thursday, the MTA credited both the city and state’s Departments of Transportation for partnering with them to expedite the process in a “cost-effective manner.”
“I am excited for drivers who travel on the Verrazzano for access to Brooklyn and Manhattan to experience these improvements that will save them time, and make their journeys safer,” said Daniel DeCrescenzo, president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “And I want to thank the city and state agencies who worked with the MTA to finish this part of the project ahead of schedule.”
Beckmann shared in DeCrescenzo’s excitement, hailing the construction crews for their rapid timeline.
“We are delighted that it’s not only complete but also that it’s complete ahead of schedule. I think it’s going to be a welcome addition once it’s fully open next week,” said Beckmann, adding that she and the board’s Transportation Committee look forward to assessing the new traffic pattern that will stem from the roadway’s redesign. “My hope is that it will really alleviate some of that backlog.”