Road-raging pols have dropped the legislative pens, called in the lawyers, and now must wait, wait, and wait some more.
That’s was the news this Monday after Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) and Councilman James Oddo (R–Dyker Heights) filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to temporarily halt reconstruction work on the Verrazano Bridge.
Judge Phillip Minardo rejected the lawsuit, but directed both pols to return to court on Nov. 27 to see what steps the quasi-state agency will take to minimize congestion on both sides of the bridge.
The judge’s implication was clear: if the MTA doesn’t improve the congestion faced by commuters, the door is wide open to future legal action.
Fossella and Oddo took the rare step of seeking the temporary restraining order to prevent the MTA from beginning the next phase of the project, which they say has so far been a mismanaged nightmare, until they come up with a better way to move traffic.
Pols were in a rush, so to speak, because the Phase II, which will shift the reconstruction work from the right lane to the left, is set to begin — and once it does, it would be harder to halt.
The ruling didn’t succeed in halting the work, but it achieved a well-trafficked compromise, at least according to Fossella.
“The lawsuit succeeded in forcing the MTA to develop a series of initiatives today to improve the daily commute and reduce commute times,” said Fossella. “This is the first time that the MTA has come to the table with serious proposals to fix this problem.”
Fossella is referring to several concrete proposals the MTA must now come up with to minimize the impact of the project, which will be presented to his office on Monday.
The MTA also welcomed the judge’s ruling as an opportunity for more negotiations, but cautioned that scrapping the plans altogether, as Fossella has suggested, would only result in more delays, according to agency spokeswoman Joyce Mulvaney.
“We will continue to work with elected officials on ways to ease traffic,” said Mulvaney. “This is necessary work and our goal is to get the job done and get out of people’s lives, but re-designing the project at this point would only increase the risk that the work won’t end on time.”
The first phase of the 15-month $65-million project began in June, when one lane in each direction was closed for a lower-level rehab, a complete removal and reconstruction of the roadway, parapet wall and utilities, and rehabilitation of the steel beneath.
The construction has also spilled over into the streets of Bay Ridge, where on many weekdays rush hour traffic has gridlocked parts of 86th Street to a grinding halt from cars bottlenecking at the bridge entrance.
“The bridge is a nightmare,” said commuter Mark Lillmars. “Ferry service is beginning to sound better and better every day.”