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Cuomo unveils new Kosciuszko Bridge, announces new park beneath massive structure

2019-08-27

Gov. Cuomo visits a lot that'll be turned into a park beneath the Brooklyn side of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. Also inspecting the space are NYSDOT Chief Engineer Wahid Albert (left) and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (right). (Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)

The new Kosciuszko Bridge is ready to roll.

The structure, which fully opens to traffic Thursday, has nine lanes for motor vehicles, a path for bicyclists and pedestrians, and is equipped with a system of colorful lights that make it glow at night. Within a year, a new park will be installed beneath the bridge’s Brooklyn side.

The cable-stayed bridge appears to have everything the public could want out of a crossing — except a dedicated lane for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles that could help reduce congestion on a stretch of road that’s been the worst bottleneck on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for decades.

At a news conference Tuesday unveiling the new bridge, Gov. Cuomo said there are no plans to add such a lane, but asserted that replacing the old six-lane span with nine car lanes will help reduce traffic congestion by up to 65%.

“I spent about a year of my life on this bridge in traffic," Cuomo said of the old crossing. “This was a legendary bottleneck. I thought the name of the bridge was the ‘darn Kosciuszko Bridge’ my entire life.”

A lot will be turned into a park beneath the Brooklyn side of the new Kosciuszko Bridge.
A lot will be turned into a park beneath the Brooklyn side of the new Kosciuszko Bridge. (Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)

Transportation analyst Charles Komanoff agreed adding more lanes could help reduce congestion, though findings from other cities that show widening highways actually increases traffic.

Komanoff instead was disappointed the bridge didn’t come with equipment to toll cars, something he expects will be commonplace across the five boroughs in the coming decades.

“It’s a 21st century structure and design,” Komanoff said of the bridge. “But it’s really kind of stuck with a 20th century travel or transportation conception.”

Komanoff said charging cars to drive on bridges like the Kosciuszko would “incentivize a moderation in the volume of traffic.”

A new 20-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path on the Brooklyn-bound side of the bridge is also expected to help curb the number of cars using the span.

A new bike and pedestrian path are part of the new Koskiuszko Bridge.
A new bike and pedestrian path are part of the new Koskiuszko Bridge. (Clayton Guse/New York Daily News)

Calming noisy traffic on the bridge would certainly benefit anyone who spends time at a new park the state plans to build beneath the Brooklyn side of the giant structure.

Dubbed “Under the K,” the seven-acre, mostly concrete space will be “workable" and "usable” by next summer, according to Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever.

“It’s not going to be just a bridge anymore, it’s going to be more than that,” declared Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Brooklyn). “Folks can come all over the world and see this beautiful park under the bridge.”

Cars will have access to all nine lanes of the bridge first thing Thursday morning. From noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday, the public will be able to walk or bike across the road on the new span.

Those who want to preview the space Wednesday afternoon can access it via Laurel Hill Blvd. and 54th Road on the Queens side, and from Meeker Ave. and Van Dam St. on the Brooklyn end.

An artist's rendering of how a lot beneath the bridge will look as a new park under the Kosciuszko Bridge.
An artist's rendering of how a lot beneath the bridge will look as a new park under the Kosciuszko Bridge. (Office of the Governor)

Cuomo said the bridge’s opening is a testament to New York state’s engineering prowess.

The first contract to build the new structure was issued in May 2014 — and some experts said the project wouldn’t be finished until 2023.

Work at the site of the new Kosciuszko Bridge in New York, which fully opens to traffic on Thursday.
Work at the site of the new Kosciuszko Bridge in New York, which fully opens to traffic on Thursday. (Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)

He attributed the speedy completion to a process called “design-build," which he said is somewhat controversial.

“Design-build says government is not going to design,” said Cuomo. “We give outlines of what we want, and transfer the design and construction to the private contractor.”

The governor’s office will celebrate the bridge’s completion with a colorful light show at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. The bridge’s cables and towers will be illuminated with LED bulbs that have been installed across the structure.

“This bridge is, to me, a real enhancement of the Brooklyn skyline,” said Cuomo. “If you’re in this community, if you’re in Manhattan looking at Brooklyn, this is going to be a magnificent addition.”