Today’s news:

Verrazano lower level reopens

All of the westbound lanes of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge are now open to traffic, approximately two weeks ahead of schedule, after a community-wrenching project that had kept them closed for approximately a year.

During that time, traffic backups on the bridge and in Bay Ridge were not only common, but frequently excruciating – not only for motorists stuck in the middle but also for area residents who complained of the incessant honking of horns and, often, of difficulty backing out of driveways in the vicinity of the bridge entrances.

It got so bad, at one point, that residents reported that pizza places declined to make deliveries to the areas closest to the bridge. One of the biggest problems during the months of lane closure was path-finding by people so frustrated with the traffic on the highways leading to the bridge, that they took to the local streets.

So, the reopening of the lanes was applauded by Ridgites and their representatives.

“It’s great,” remarked Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10, whose 86th Street office overlooks the Gowanus. “We have noticed a difference already. There’s not so much traffic, and we definitely see and hear it. We used to listen to horns honking, blazing horns.”

“This early termination of the work was proposed to us some time ago and I’m pleased that the MTA made it a reality,” noted City Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “Work on the Verrazano Bridge has been so onerous for people trying to get into State Island that the backup in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, has been a nightmare.”

“We appreciate the patience of our customers and the community during this critical construction,” remarked David Moretti, acting president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, with distinct understatement. “Our first priority is always safety, and lane closures and shifts in traffic patterns were necessary.”

The agency announced the reopening of all lower level westbound lanes on June 18th. They had been scheduled to reopen on July 3rd. “Any further westbound lane closures will be temporary and during off-peak hours,” the agency explained in its announcement.

The Brooklyn-bound lanes, the closure of which has had less of an impact on Brooklyn residents, will reopen by Labor Day, according to MTA.

The $64.7 million project now nearing its end involved the replacement of the deck on the lower level approaches, which had been in place since the bridge’s opening in 1964. A total of $6.6 million in incentives, put together after community complaints about the fallout from the lane closures, shortened the construction period by approximately six months.

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