Overpass construction in Pelham Bay highlights ongoing traffic concerns

Overpass construction in Pelham Bay highlights ongoing traffic concerns
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Nighttime and weekend construction on an overpass that transverses the Hutchinson River Parkway in Pelham Bay is generating traffic snarls.

The bridge, which crosses over the parkway at Westchester Avenue, just west of Middletown Road gets backed up when weekend reconstruction forces the closure of one to two southbound lanes on the parkway and cars exit to avoid the highway, sources said.

The highway traffic that mixes with local traffic on the weekends, delaying the cars coming from Waters Place going towards Pelham Bay, Westchester Square or Throggs Neck, has worsened, said Councilman James Vacca, who has proposed a solution to the dilemma.

“I will say the traffic back ups have been tremendous, coming towards Westchester Avenue from Waters Place,” said Vacca due to the construction, adding that traffic jams at this location are commonplace even when there is no construction activity going on.

With traffic already backed up at that location, Vacca said he approached NYC Department of Transportation with the idea of making Little League Place, a nearby street, either one way going towards East Tremont Avenue or running it in both directions, to divert some vehicles looking to access a thoroughfare other than Westchester Avenue, away from the bridge.

“Then you would have another way to access Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay,” said Vacca. “It would be another way to move traffic along.”

Vacca explained that currently traffic coming from Waters Place makes a left over the bridge, and then a right at the Hutchinson River Parkway service road, to access East Tremont Avenue.

If there was another way to to access East Tremont Avenue, Vacca speculates that more cars would make a right, away from the Hutchinson Parkway overpass.

The construction on the overpass was initially expected to continue until at least Tuesday, April 26, but may run a bit longer.

Trucks that ignore the overpass’ height limitations often strike the bridge, and these occurrences have necessitated the repairs, according to NYC Department of Transportation.

The bridge has become so weakened by these frequent impacts that a large steel support beam was placed to augment the stability of the bridge.

The DOT presented Community Board 10 with a plan to elevate the grade of the bridge roughly two or more feet so that it would meet federal standards and there would be fewer collisions with trucks, said Andrew Chirico, CB 10 member, however the plan seems to be in the preliminary phases.

“That location seems to get hit by trucks more often then any other bridge on the parkway,” said Chirico.

One possible solution, said Chirico, would be to place a ‘sacrificial bar’ a distance before the overpass that would be set at the same height as the overpass.

If the bar is hit, the trucker would know of the impending danger. That would provide the driver ample time to exit at Waters Place, thereby averting a bridge collision, he said.

To the best of his knowledge, such solutions have been used elsewhere in the city with good results, said Chirico, citing an example he learned about on the East River Drive near Gracie Mansion.

Vacca said he was aware of plans to raise the grade and rebuild the bridge, but would like to see specifics from DOT as to when and how this could happen.

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