MTA averts Bridgeageddon/Benedetto, Gjonaj force corrective action

(l-r) Al Carena, Spencer Estate Civic Association president; Richard Rosario, Throggs Neck Merchants Association vice president; Thomas Messina representing Congressman Joseph Crowley with assembly members Michael Benedetto and Mark Gjonaj held a rally at the Lawton Avenue overpass last Thursday.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

The three-week traffic nightmare on the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges appears to have subsided just in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to local leaders.

Traffic on the two bridges seemed to be flowing at normal levels during the three-day holiday, just 24 hours after local leaders demanded action from the MTA.

Before the meeting, traffic snarls on the two Bronx bridges to Queens left motorists stuck in hours-long traffic jams as the work to install cashless tolling proceeded.

Assembymen Michael Benedetto and Mark Gjonaj joined community leaders on the Pennyfield Avenue overpass just above I-295 on Thursday, May 25 to demand that the MTA take immediate action to alleviate the massive bridge traffic backups.

The elected officials fired off a letter to the MTA calling on the state-run agency that oversees bridges and tunnels to take immediate action to alleviate the problems that also impacted the Bruckner Expressway and I-295, as well as the Hutchinson River Parkway and roads in Queens leading to the bridges.

The letter was also signed by Senator Jeff Klein and Queens electeds Assemblymen Edward Braunstein, Michael Simanowitz and Michael DenDeckker and Senator Tony Avella.

On Wednesday, May 31 Benedetto said the MTA had implemented several changes at the toll plazas that appeared to be working.

The MTA reopened toll lanes, and eliminated the hard left turn just after the tollbooths that was causing congestion on the Throgs Neck Bridge.

The MTA also spaced out the lane changes wider to further eliminate bottlenecks, he said.

“Those changes were all that was needed,” he said.

Benedetto said that while he was happy the complaints were resolved, he was frustrated that the MTA waited weeks to correct the situation.

Benedetto also said that he and the other electeds warned that if traffic congestion surges again, the MTA would have to stagger the work on the bridges instead of doing them all at once.

The MTA could also halt toll collection altogether on the bridge, he said, but that was unlikely due to the revenue loss, they said.

Gjonaj said during the Thursday event that even though his district does not include the bridges, his district had been being impacted by the MTA project.

Pelham Parkway and the Hutchinson River Parkway were being affected by the bridge backups, he said.

Gjonaj also complained that excessive ticketing by dozens of state troopers has exacerbated the problem.

“Instead of being out there helping to move the traffic, they are contributing to the traffic and creating this hostile travelling environment,” the assemblyman said.

The MTA insists the work, when done, will move traffic over the bridges much quicker.

The Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges, as well as the RFK Bridge are all being prepared for cashless tolling, which allows vehicles without an E-Z Pass to cross the bridge without stopping to pay a toll.

Drivers without the E-Z Pass receive a bill in the mail at a later date from the MTA using information provided by the car’s license plate.

Throggs Neck Homeowner’s Association President Lynn Gerbino said that recent problems with bridge traffic clogging local streets has abated, but said the community would be keeping an eye on the MTA until the project is completed.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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