2005-07-15 / Columnists

Early Summer Rush On Rockaway Bridges

Cross Bay Bridge Maintainer Frank Anthony waters the flowers at the Cross Bay Bridge toll plaza as part of the bridge’s beautification program.Cross Bay Bridge Maintainer Frank Anthony waters the flowers at the Cross Bay Bridge toll plaza as part of the bridge’s beautification program. Following another brutal winter and a soggy spring, summer activity has taken off at the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Rockaway crossings as daily traffic in the steamy month of June through the first week of July has averaged more than 23,000 a day on the Cross Bay and 25,000 a day on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, up from the off peak season average of 19,000 vehicles a day at these facilities.

“The hot weather during the weekends in June created an early summer season at both of the Rockaways’ Bridges,” said General Manager John Ryder. The summer surge usually begins in July when school is out. But this year’s daily near-90 degree temperatures caused more people to seek relief at the beaches.”

Maintainer Pete Reneo power washes the Promenade on the Rockaway side of the Cross Bay Bridge.Maintainer Pete Reneo power washes the Promenade on the Rockaway side of the Cross Bay Bridge. Getting an early start on pre-season maintenance activities prepared both bridges in time for the early summer surge in traffic. The maintenance crews of the Cross Bay and Marine Parkway Bridges had already completed nearly all of their tasks in preparing for the summer season.

All potholes and broken signs were repaired. Electronic variable message signs were cleaned and serviced. And, the 28 tollbooths at the Cross Bay and Marine Parkway Bridges were upgraded with new equipment, interior painting, new doors and windows, electrical system improvements. Customers on the Rockaway side of the Marine Parkway Bridge will also have a smoother ride this year as roadway paving was completed on the approach.

Among the more frequent activities are sweeping and degreasing of the toll lanes at both facilities. The maintenance effort extends to keeping a clean and cheerful appearance. Maintenance crewmembers regularly steam clean the new Promenade on the Rockaway side of the Cross Bay Bridge and also water the newly planted flowers at the tollbooths of both facilities.

To assist with the annual 40% increase in summer traffic, MTA Bridges and Tunnels hires temporary toll collectors, students 18 years or older, from Memorial Day to Labor Day to help with the summer surge in traffic.

“The summer program helps us handle the increase in customers during the beach season and they get the opportunity to learn about our operations and customer service,” said Ryder. “We work closely with each of them on a one-on-one basis to train them in safety procedures to ensure they know how to handle the job and themselves in a hazardous environment.”

Brian Barnwell of Massapequa, a sophomore, majoring in political science at Arizona State University, is one of the seasonal toll collectors assigned to the Marine Parkway Bridge. Prior to joining MTA B&T, Barnwell worked in a fast food restaurant and a grocery store.

“The job is very interesting to me. I get to meet and talk to the different people who operate the bridge,” said Barnwell. “I also get to know our customers because I see them every day. And, we also learn how to keep the customers moving while keeping the money straight, without making a mistake. “

Even though summer has just begun, the staff of the Rockaway’s bridges is already starting to turn their thoughts to the inevitable return of winter. Summer is the time to begin the work of annual inspections on the facilities’ vehicles. The trucks that are usually used for snow removal are repainted and serviced during the summer. This includes servicing their electrical and mechanical systems. In addition, pipes and plumbing to the facility’s service buildings and trailers are checked to make sure heat tracers to pipes are working to prevent freezing.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels is currently planning a $40 million upgrade of the nearly 35-year old Cross Bay Bridge that is scheduled to begin late next year. The main features of the overhaul are the replacement of the entire six lane roadway deck above the navigation channel in the middle of the bridge, the rehabilitation of the rest of the roadway deck and the replacement of the bridge’s drainage system while the bridge continues to serve more than 18,000 daily vehicles.

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