New bridge is coming — brace for disruption
Plans for the Grand Street Bridge Project are underway.
For years, members of the community have been anticipating a change to the narrow 120-year-old bridge that runs over Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens. Now, thanks to the leadership of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), the beginning stages of planning are finally in progress.
In the most recent Brooklyn Community Board 1 (CB1) meeting, Bill Nyman from engineering firm and prime consultant of the project Hardesty & Hanover, stated that their goal is to replace the bridge. In its current state, it has vulnerability to storm surge hazards, inadequate bike and pedestrian facilities, and a deteriorated structure that their goal is to replace. H&H provided engineering services for both phases of replacing the Kosciuszko Bridge.
The new, fully federally funded Grand Street Bridge aims to be wide enough for two trucks to pass at the same time. It will involve some roadways to be replaced as part of the project, but is not a full street reconstruction and there won’t be any extra lanes added.
“A lot of the traffic concerns are caused by the fact that the bridge is so narrow,” Nyman said. “Once it has standard lane widths, it’s going to be a lot better for traffic.”
Agreeing about its narrowness issue, local resident Paul Kelterborn said, “I very rarely use the Grand Street Bridge but when I do, it’s nerve-wracking. Last week I rode my bike to Home Depot and because the bridge is so narrow, and the surface so rough, I had to ride on the sidewalk on my way there. On my return trip, I also rode on the sidewalk but it becomes stairs, so I had to maneuver onto the street which was hard to do because I was hauling some unwieldy cargo I had picked up at Home Depot. All in all, it was kind of harrowing! I like the bridge because it’s so charming, but I can fully appreciate how obsolete it is for the current day.”
In addition to improving traffic flow, other design considerations of the Grand Street Bridge project include protecting it from storms and flood waters and giving it a minimum of a 75-year service life. The cross section is planned to have dedicated six ft. bike lanes and a seven to eight ft. separated sidewalk.
“Overall, the community is very glad to see a long overdue upgrade to the Grand Street Bridge,” said CB1 Transportation Committee chair, Eric Bruzaitis. “The CB1 Transportation Committee will work with DOT and community stakeholders to mitigate the inevitable traffic issues that will arise during the reconstruction project. There are some proposed re-routing options that will not work, but with the long timeline, I believe we can find an acceptable solution to minimize disruption.”
The development is only in its initial stages, but some efforts to date are: traffic and navigation data collection, surveys for bridge inspection and hazardous materials, and reports analyzing construction period traffic.
Several ways of combatting traffic while the project is under construction are being considered, but they have yet to be screened.
The process of environmental considerations, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is currently moving forward. In this process, aspects such as land use, air quality, construction effects, environmental justice, and effects on local businesses will all be considered.
The final design phase is expected to be entered in August 2023 and the anticipated construction is estimated for 2023–2029.
“Depending on what DOT decides on how they replace the bridge, the construction may temporarily impact traffic,” said Karen Nieves, Business Expansion & Retention Manager of Evergreen: Your North Brooklyn Business Exchange. “However, it truly is a vital truck and transit route between Queens and Brooklyn. In its current state, it is really unsafe for people to cross so having a wider bridge will benefit the community as a whole.”