Today’s news:

Belt Pkwy Redux

Reconstruction of Brooklyn’s Belt Parkway bridges is expected to begin soon, commencing a massive, half−billion−dollar project to replace the aged spans.

In September, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin the first phase of the project, the reconstruction of the Rockaway Parkway, Fresh Creek and Paerdegat Basin bridges.

In the future, commuters may think they are seeing double when they gaze at the Paerdegat Basin Bridge. The existing 13−span bridge will be demolished and replaced by two new bridges and new approach roadways on split alignments, agency plans reveal. The southern structure will carry eastbound traffic while the northern structure will carry westbound traffic.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost $330 million, David Dunn, the director of roadway bridges for the DOT, told the Community Board 18. The federal funds for Phase 1 are administered by the state, and are already in place.

At the board’s June 17 meeting, District Manager Dorothy Turano noted that the DOT recently announced the opening of a field office at 4105 Avenue V — a sign that work is expected to start soon.

Remaining bridges expected to be overhauled are the Bay Ridge Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, Gerritsen Inlet, and Mill Basin.

According to the agency, the bridges were built beginning in 1939, and have all “outlived their useful lives and must be replaced.”

During the past 60 years, the opening of New York International Airport (today John F. Kennedy International Airport), the rise of Long Island’s suburbs post−World War II, and the opening of the Verrazano−Narrows Bridge in 1964 increased demand along the parkway.

The Fresh Creek, Gerritsen Inlet, Rockaway Parkway, Nostrand Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue bridges will be rebuilt “on−line,” according to the DOT, meaning they will be reconstructed piece by piece, with lane closures to accommodate construction activity. Three lanes will be maintained in each direction during peak hours, the agency has stated. But lane closures can be expected during non−rush hours or on nights or weekends.

The new Mill Basin and Paerdegat Basin bridges will be constructed off−line, alongside the extant structures. Traffic will flow on the existing bridges until the new structures are completed.

Work on the Mill Basin and Gerritsen Inlet bridges will start in late 2010, and the Bay Ridge Avenue and Nostrand Avenue work will begin in 2012, according to the DOT.

“We’re in for a long haul,” Turano said.

The Mill Basin Bridge will go from being a drawbridge — the only movable bridge along the Belt Parkway — to a fixed span.

It will also be taller, with clearance over the water going from 35 feet to 60 feet — eliminating the need for opening and closing the structure to accommodate tall ships. The new design of the bridge will also see lane width increased to 12 feet, and the inclusion of safety shoulders in both directions, according to the DOT.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2015, according to the DOT, with the landscaping complete by 2016.

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