2000-12-23 / Front Page

What A Mess! Bridge Closure Causes Traffic Jam

What A Mess!
Bridge Closure Causes Traffic Jam

Monday morning’s closing of the Marine Parkway bridge resulted in traffic jams throughout Rockaway and Broad Channel.

By John C. McLoughlin

Unbearable traffic conditions resulting from the closure of the Marine Parkway - Gil Hodges Memorial bridge made Monday morning ever so more dreaded for hundreds of commuters traveling out of and into Rockaway.

High wind conditions late Sunday, December 17 into the afternoon hours of Monday, December 18 forced MTA Bridges and Tunnels to close the bridge connecting Rockaway to Brooklyn from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., 4:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 11:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. This is the second time in the last two weeks that MTA officials closed the bridge to traffic.

The Marine Parkway bridge is a year and a half into a three-year massive renovation project. With construction equipment in various areas of the bridge, high winds can lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

Frank Pascual, spokesperson for MTA Bridges and Tunnels, informed The Wave that winds were clocked on the Brooklyn side of the bridge at 75mph. This resulted in a cable snapping and part of the scaffolding collapsing onto the roadway.

"It’s unfortunate that we had to close the bridge twice within seven or eight days," Pascual said. "We can’t allow our customers to take the risk [of crossing the bridge] under these circumstances."

While safety was the priority of MTA officials, commuters and local residents were quite upset with the traffic jam as a result of the closure.

Beach Channel drive, Newport avenue and Rockaway Beach boulevard were congested with traffic early Monday morning as residents used the Cross Bay bridge as their only means of getting off the peninsula.

"It was horrendous," said Joanne Greenberg, a board member of the Rockaway Park Association. "It took me about 45 minutes to get from my home to Howard Beach."

Kevin Buckley of the Breezy Point Cooperative said, "The biggest problem is there’s no system that alerts people." Buckley, who commutes to Rockaway daily, said that many residents of Breezy Point and Roxbury first went to the Marine Parkway bridge and then had to turn around when they realized the bridge was closed.

This was also true for Green Bus Lines. One Q35 from Brooklyn, filled with passenger, came upon the bridge Monday morning only to find it closed. The driver turned the bus around and traveled the streets into Queens, adding almost an hour more onto the trip.

A spokesperson for Green Bus said the company does have "a contingency plan", including offering shuttle bus service between Roxbury and Beach 116 street with a connection to the Q35 to Brooklyn via the Cross Bay bridge. Green Bus is presently seeking the New York City Department of Transportation to approve a plan for buses to use the Belt parkway when the Marine Parkway bridge is closed.

According to Pascual, the MTA does notify Green Bus, the media and "all emergency services." As for electronic signs notifying drivers of a bridge closure, Pascual found they were "not that effective" because people usually are not looking for them.

There presently is an electronic sign about a mile from the bridge on Flatbush avenue, but the Rockaway side remains without such a device.

Although traffic was the number one complaint of the day, many residents feared what Rockaway would be like if a disaster hit.

Pascual told The Wave that emergency vehicles are permitted over the bridge even when it’s closed, but many residents couldn’t help but think what would happen in Rockaway if there were an evacuation ordered.

If Monday’s situation was any hint of what an evacuation would be like, Kevin Buckley hit the nail on the head when he said, "It would be a hell of a mess."

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