The billion-dollar bridge!

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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.

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

al pankin from downtown says:
a billion dollars is not what it used to be...maybe if the city/state cut out the phony give away programs (empty acess-a-ride vans running around) we'd be able to afford some real benefical projects for the citizens who actually pay the taxes....
Nov. 5, 2009, 4:31 pm
Pete from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Looks like the Zakim Bridge in Massachusetts. Just saying!!!
Nov. 5, 2009, 5:28 pm
Steve from Brooklyn says:
It will probably be done before the Park Slope public library reopens.
Nov. 5, 2009, 7:38 pm
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
Every time I drive on the BQE, I secretly wish some part of it fails, like that garbage truck incident on the West Side Highway in the 70's- even if it takes me down with it. I sincerely don't understand why millions of people have to suffer from an interstate highway running through their city. Almost every interstate outside of New York City has some form of toll, with more on the way (Virginia's new governor has grand plans for I-95 and I-81). Why should New Yorkers continue to suffer from the millions of drivers a year who drive through the city and contribute not a penny to the road's upkeep?

Gas taxes (from those few who pay them in New York and not New Jersey or Connecticut) don't even begin to cover the outright destruction and carnage that the highway causes; and forget about the extra billions spent on healthcare and insurance. When are we finally going to see tolls on the BQE?

Furthermore, those complaining about truck traffic forget that a freight train tunnel under the Narrows, on the drawing board for years and cheaper than the total cost of the BQE's upkeep would remove the vast majority of tractor-trailers moving between NJ and Long Island. It would be so beneficial people can't even imagine it, and so they go with billion-dollar boondoggles like this new bridge instead.
Nov. 6, 2009, 11:07 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
I meant to say almost every interstate in the area has tolls, especially the congested north-south corridor of I-95/I-87 which passes through New York. Of course not all interstates are tolled. Tolling everywhere around except at the congested intersection of all these highways is a sick absurdity.
Nov. 6, 2009, 11:12 am
Bayof from Biscay says:
Dare we hope for a grand span? Or will dull utility assault Brooklyn once again?
Nov. 6, 2009, 1:36 pm
mike from GP says:
Right on Boris!
Nov. 8, 2009, 6:37 pm
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:

I agree with you about trains, but tolls, no way, no how. They will hurt the residents of Brooklyn and Queens more than the truckers. We already have the state wanting us to fork over $25 for new license plates, and $20 more if you want the same number again (this is not vanity plates, these are regular plates, they will change your number with the new plate) now you are proposing tolls? The trucking companies will pass on the savings in higher costs for the consumer, so we get nickle and dimed everywhere. Tolls are not the answer. But I do think trains need to make a come back.
Nov. 11, 2009, 7:20 pm
A O from BKLYN says:
They need to take another look at Conrail- it only runs once a night from bklyn to queens and back. It has so much room for improvement, I say use it or lose it! Too many properties and streets have been cut up for such a useless train track. If Conrail get re-evaluated it might be the answer we are all looking for right under our noses!
Nov. 12, 2009, 3 pm
A O from BKLYN says:
they need to take another look at Conrail- it only runs once a night from bklyn to queens. That has so much room for improvement, I say use it or lose it! Too many properties and streets have been cut up for such a useless train track. if Conrail get re-evaluated it might be the answer we are all looking for right under our noses!
Nov. 12, 2009, 3 pm
mike from GP says:
Fourth Estate,

Do trains magically run themselves for free? Everything has a cost, and drivers are costing all of us enormously. It's only fair that they help pay for better public transit. Trucking companies are already paying in lost time. Tolls will make their trips faster, saving them (and us) money.
Nov. 14, 2009, 5:11 pm

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