City Island temporary bridge opening planned for December 18

This photo submitted to the Bronx Times shows where the temporary bridge separated in September.

The Department of Transportation will open the long awaited temporary bridge in the east Bronx after testing its resiliency.

The agency announced that its contractors would open a temporary bridge to City Island to vehicular traffic at 1 a.m. on Friday, December 18. The opening of the artery will allow for the removal and replacement of the existing City Island Bridge.

The opening of the bridge, which will become the island’s only link by road to Pelham Bay Park and the mainland, had been delayed because of a particularly harsh winter and a collapse of part of the structure in September.

DOT will use the weight of firetrucks to test the temporary bridge’s strength on Wednesday, December 16 before it is opened to traffic, said Barbara Dolensek, City Island Civic Association vice president.

“I think everyone is really concerned…because the trucks, especially 18-wheelers, are going to have trouble making the sharp turns (on to and off the temporary bridge),” said Dolensek shortly before bridge stress test.

Another community concern is access to Bridge Street for cars coming onto the island and looking to make a left turn just after crossing the bridge, she said.

The CICA was initially told by DOT that its contractors would make arrangement for cars to make left turns onto Bridge Street during construction, said Dolensek.

“They have changed their minds and they are going to make anyone who wants to go to the northeast part of the island go to Cross Street,” said Dolensek. “It is going to be a disaster for people living there and for (restaurant) customers, and it is going to back up traffic on City Island Avenue.”

Fire Department trucks from City Island’s Engine 70 and Ladder 53 approach one end of the temporary City Island Bridge iduring a resiliency test on Wednesday, December 16.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Burn Dolensek

John Doyle, CICA corresponding secretary, was cautiously optimistic and said that DOT was being transparent by not only conducting a public test of the temporary bridge before it opens but also alerting the community to the time it was happening.

The overall bridge replacement project has been somewhat inconvenient for City Islanders and Doyle is looking forward to the day when the new permanent bridge is complete.

“The quicker the bridge gets done the better off everyone would be,” he said, adding “The construction slows people down a little bit; whether its coming to and from their lunch break or commuting, they have to allow another five or ten minutes.”

Additional concerns, said Dolensek, was the narrower lanes on the temporary bridge when compared to the older City Island Bridge, and also that the CICA understands from DOT there is no contingency plan in case of another temporary bridge collapse once it is in use.

Councilman James Vacca said he is looking into the CICA’s concerns and that his staff is corresponding with DOT on the different aspects of the project.

A DOT spokeswoman said that the agency is reviewing its temporary traffic restrictions to ensure local businesses have the necessary access for operations during the next phase of the bridge replacement project.

“The agency anticipates the new replacement bridge to be in full service by the end of next year,” stated the spokeswoman.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Burn Dolensek

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