BAY RIDGE — Bay Ridge is about to get a traffic detour on one of its busiest streets.
The reconstruction of the 79th Street overpass spanning the Gowanus Expressway will reach a crucial phase with the opening this week of a temporary bridge that will keep traffic flowing smoothly while the work is being done. Up to this point, only preliminary work has been done.
The New York State Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for the reconstruction project, has built a temporary overpass next to the existing bridge. The temporary bridge, which contains a roadway as well as a sidewalk for pedestrians, is expected to open on Tuesday, officials said.
Starting Sept. 10, traffic will be detoured off the overpass and onto the temporary bridge, which will be located just north of the overpass, officials said. State DOT has posted signs to direct motorists and pedestrians.
A portion of the Gowanus Expressway runs on Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge, splitting the avenue in half.
The temporary bridge is an important part of the bridge reconstruction project, according to DOT officials, who said the installation will speed up the reconstruction of the overpass. With the temporary bridge in place, work on the overpass can take place in one stage, allowing State DOT to avoid having to break the project up into different segments.
The reconstruction project is scheduled for completion in December, said State DOT spokesperson Glenn Blain. “The temporary bridge, which will allow two lanes of traffic to be maintained while work progresses, is expected to open to vehicular traffic on Sept. 10. The rehabilitated 79th Street Bridge is on schedule to open by the end of the year,” Blain told the Home Reporter in an email.
The reconstruction project falls under the jurisdiction of State DOT because the Gowanus Expressway is part of Interstate 278, an interstate roadway between New York and New Jersey.
The work will include a complete replacement of the bridge deck and repairs to the bridge’s steel substructure, as well as sidewalk improvements and the installation of new lampposts with energy-efficient LED lighting, officials said.
Community Board 10, which is monitoring the progress of the reconstruction, sent out a newsletter to local residents to alert them about the temporary bridge.
“Pedestrians should be aware that the crosswalks have changed,” Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told the Home Reporter.
The 79th Street Bridge serves as a main artery between Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, according to Beckmann, who said there are three schools located in the vicinity: P.S. 127, Saint Ephrem Catholic Academy and McKinley Intermediate School. Many students and parents walk on the bridge on their way to and from school, she said.
With the traffic detour about to start, Beckmann asked the NYPD to assign three additional school crossing guards to the area to help ensure safe passage for children. The NYPD immediately granted the request.
Beckmann, who called the temporary bridge “an engineering feat,” said that without it, the overpass reconstruction project would probably take more than 18 months to complete. “Now, the project will take only a couple of months,” she said.
The 79th Street Bridge reconstruction is part of a larger $78 million State DOT project to rehabilitate five bridges spanning Interstate 278. The 79th Street Bridge is the only Brooklyn overpass involved in the project. The other four bridges are located on Staten Island. Work on the Staten Island bridges began in September of 2018.
In an unrelated project, State DOT rebuilt the 86th Street Bridge over the Gowanus Expressway last year.
That job also involved some deft engineering on the part of State DOT that allowed the work to go faster, Beckmann said. “They used prefabricated slabs of cement,” she said.
“It’s interesting how both projects in our area involved interesting advances in engineering,” Beckmann added.