Last week, the DOT intermittently closed off a portion of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists.
According to a construction bulletin, shared just one day prior to the bikeway closure, the department identified that the bikeway would need to be closed off on Thursday and Friday, in 15-minute intervals, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in order for construction workers to lift heavy steel over the pathway connecting Long Island City and Manhattan.
New York City Councilwomen Julie Won and Julie Menin said that this unplanned level of obstruction was not discussed as a potential option during their discussions with DOT regarding the upper deck replacement and is indicative of a lack of concern for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who use the bridge.
In response to the last-minute announcement, both Won and Menin issued a statement calling
on the department to allow the south outer roadway to be used for uninterrupted pedestrian and bike access for the duration of the anticipated closure since the car-bearing roadway will be unaffected.
While the upper deck replacement project is expected to extend into late 2023, Won said that the possibility of future unplanned closures is an unacceptable cost of the project.
“Closing off the bridge to everyone who is not in a car for any period of time is completely unacceptable and is the inevitable result of delaying the pedestrianization of the South Outer Roadway for an extra two years,” Won said in a statement. “If the possibility of further closures exists, DOT must open the south outer roadway now to ensure free and unobstructed passage for pedestrians and people on bikes at all times.”
Prior to the announcement, both Won and Menin sent a letter to the DOT on Feb. 3 in regards to the delay of the conversion of the South Outer Roadway into a pedestrian path.
“For the health and safety of our city’s residents and environment, it is vital that we make it easier, not harder, for cyclists and pedestrians to get around our streets and bridges,” Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán said in a statement. “I am proud to join my colleagues in opposing this closure and calling on DOT to open up the south outer roadway immediately.”
DOT officials, however, say that the department has been actively engaged with both Won and Menin in regard to the project since they sent their letter in February and that despite the inconvenience caused by the closures, they cannot attempt to lift the steel over live traffic.
“These brief, 15-minute closures are needed to facilitate the bridge’s upper deck replacement,” a DOT spokesman replied. “We are carefully considering the needs of cyclists and pedestrians during our work and have limited the house of these closures to ensure the path remains safe and accessible during rush hours.”
FSSA dance instructor Olivier Heuts says he has walked across the bridge pathway every single day on his way to work for the past 21 years and has yet to encounter any delays or closures.
“It has never been closed ever,” Heuts said. “I’ve never had that problem.”
Heuts said his commute was unaffected by the intermittent closures as he typically crosses the bridge during its peak hours — leaving around 7 a.m. each morning.
He also said that the ongoing construction of the bridge’s upper deck and the increased flow of scooters and mopeds along the bikeway has made his commute increasingly hazardous and far less pleasant over the years.
“To tell you the truth it has become a big headache in the morning,” Heuts said. “For the first few years, it was very quiet in the morning, but it has been exacerbated by all these construction crews working.”