Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of the new northbound Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, the elevated highway structure that crosses over the Grand Central Parkway and Union Turnpike in Queens. This viaduct, valued at $35 million, is complete 18 months ahead of schedule. The new viaduct is part of New York State’s $265 million investment in operational improvements at the Kew Gardens Interchange.
“Completion of this viaduct is a large step toward improving traffic flow for commerce, commuters and JFK Airport users along a very congested interchange in Queens,” said Governor Cuomo. “Getting it done a year and a half early is proof positive that our commitment to working harder and smarter to improve our State’s infrastructure is paying off for New Yorkers.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “This project will enhance safety, improve traffic mobility and reduce travel times for the entire Van Wyck corridor and for traffic heading to and from the JFK Airport. We are especially pleased that this portion of the project has been completed 18 months ahead of schedule.”
The Kew Gardens Interchange is the intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike, and has long been a source of congestion for those traveling through central Queens.
The new 800-feet long viaduct was built beside the existing viaduct in order to maintain traffic during construction. Wider shoulders were built to provide a break-down lane for motorists in order to increase safety.
Congresswoman Grace Meng said, “The completion of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct – a year and a half ahead of schedule – is great news for Queens. Completion of the project will go a long way towards improving safety, and enhancing traffic flow in the borough. Traffic congestion is something everybody wants to reduce. Less congestion improves commerce, economic growth and quality of life. It is critical that we continue to invest in our borough’s infrastructure, and I thank the governor for doing so with this critical initiative.”
Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz said, “The opening of the viaduct 18 months ahead of schedule is a great accomplishment for the State and a significant step forward for Queens commuters. New York State is making a much needed and welcome investment in our infrastructure, which when complete will make traffic flow along this major artery quicker and more efficient. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and New York State DOT for making this a priority."
City Council Member Rory Lancman said, "The Kew Gardens Interchange project is important for the safety and efficient transit of hundreds of thousands of drivers and Briarwood residents, and Governor Cuomo's success in completing this important phase of the project earlier than planned is deeply appreciated by the Briarwood community."
City Council Member Karen Koslowitz said, “Kew Gardens and Forest Hills residents are one step closer to a faster more seamless commute with the early opening of this project. The Kew Gardens interchange is a vital artery in our community and we appreciate all the work that has been done to improve it.”
Designed to last for 75 years, the new structure was constructed with state-of-the art materials, including stainless steel rebar and high performance concrete. New LED lighting and a new drainage system, with a rain garden that filters runoff through the soil before returning it to Willow Lake, were also added.
The contractor, DeFoe Corporation of Mt. Vernon, New York, will begin to remove the former northbound viaduct this winter. Removal will be completed in the spring of 2015.
The viaduct replacement is part of two separate projects underway to improve traffic flow and lessen congestion at the Kew Gardens Interchange. The first project, estimated to cost $152 million, is scheduled to be completed in 2016. It includes:
- Reconstructing a half mile section of the Van Wyck Expressway just south of the Interchange.
- Reconstructing 6 bridges over the Van Wyck Expressway.
- Constructing auxiliary (extra) lanes on the Van Wyck Expressway in each direction to and from the airport.
- Providing a dedicated exit lane southbound to Hillside Avenue.
- Constructing green spaces along Queens Boulevard on NYSDOT bridges.
- Reconstructing the eastbound Queens Blvd exit ramp.
- Adding an elevator, improving handicap access and constructing two new entrances at the Briarwood Station of the E and F MTA subway lines.
- Providing aesthetic finishes on retaining walls, and installing ornamental fencing.
- Landscaping to restore and enhance the project area.
The second project, estimated to cost $113 million, is scheduled to be completed in early 2017. This contract included replacement of the northbound Van Wyck Expressway viaduct in addition to:
- Continuing the reconstruction of the Van Wyck Expressway north to 72nd Avenue.
- Replacing the ramp connecting the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike with the northbound Van Wyck, widening it from one lane to two lanes.
- Improving the drainage system, including the installation of settlement chambers and a bio-swale (natural retention) to reduce contamination from runoff to nearby Willow Lake.
DeFoe Corporation of Mt. Vernon, New York is the contractor for this work.