Traffic approaching the Unionport Bridge isn’t likely to let up anytime soon as its reconstruction reaches a critical stage.
The project is now entering one of the more complicated phases of the bridge’s replacement, with temporary crossings over Westchester Creek just about completed, to allow for the new bridge installation to begin this fall.
Preliminary preparation work for the temporary structures is already underway.
The long anticipated work is roughly two years into its five-year plan according to the project’s recalculated timetable.
“The temporary bridge structures are currently being assembled and work is progressing,” said Alana Morales, NYC Department of Transportation spokeswoman. “We anticipate traffic to shift onto the temporary structures this fall, and will continue to coordinate with all of our state and local agency partners.”
Vehicular capacity on the temporary bridge structures will remain the same as the current bridge, she stated.
Nevertheless, traffic backups have remained heavy on the roads approaching the bridge despite the use of NYPD Traffic Agents at peak traffic periods.
Some cautioned that more painful travel for motorists is expected as the project continues.
“It is coming into shape (the Unionport Bridge),” said Matt Cruz, Community Board 10 district manager. “It is important for folks to be mindful that summer brings delays as more as people travel with their families. So I anticipate that traffic around the Unionport Bridge will worsen.”
That being said, Cruz added that traffic agents have been sent to the Unionport Bridge approaches and will continue to direct traffic throughout the remainder of the project.
“The traffic agents there are doing a wonderful job, so we thank the NYC (Department of Transportation), NYPD and all stakeholders for giving us the needed resources,” said Cruz.
The Unionport Bridge straddles CB 10 and CB 9.
CB 9’s district manager, William Rivera, said that the top complaints he is getting regarding the project are about traffic and the potholes on the bridge approaches.
Rivera said that with the temporary bridge structures about to be opened on either side of the existing bridge very soon, filling in potholes on the bridge isn’t the highest priority, and he added that the NYPD Traffic Agents, which weren’t originally at the bridge during rush hour, have been a big help.
Nevertheless, Rivera said that he and others take issue with the length of the construction plan, which was originally a four-year plan and is now five years.
“We understand that the bridge needs to be replaced and we want to deal with the traffic, but five years is hard for me to comprehend,” said Rivera, adding that while he isn’t an engineer, his research of large-scale projects seems to indicate it is taking a long time for this particular project.
“The Empire State Building was built in a year,” he said.
Bob Bieder, a Zerega activist, said that with the planned construction of a ‘last mile’ truck distribution facility adjacent to the bridge on Bruckner Boulevard, and the growth in population in the borough with its accompanying traffic, the reconstruction is necessary.
Nevertheless, Bieder said he has avoided the bridge because of the traffic backups, preferring to use the local detours.