Kosciuszko Bridge (New York City)
The bridge as seen from the upstream Queens side
|Carries||I-278 (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway)|
|Locale||Brooklyn and Queens, New York City|
|Maintained by||New York State Department of Transportation|
|Preceded by||Greenpoint Avenue Bridge|
|Followed by||Grand Street Bridge|
|Total length||6,021 feet (1,835 m)|
|Longest span||300 feet (91 m)|
|Clearance below||125 feet (38 m)|
|Daily traffic||181,783 (2008)|
The Kosciuszko Bridge /, / is a truss bridge that spans Newtown Creek between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, connecting Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Maspeth, Queens. It is a part of Interstate 278, which is also locally known as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or BQE. The bridge opened in 1939, replacing the Penny Bridge from Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn to Review Avenue and Laurel Hill Boulevard, and is the only bridge over Newtown Creek that is not a drawbridge. It was named in honor of Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish volunteer who was a General in the American Revolutionary War. Two of the bridge towers are surmounted with eagles, one with the Polish eagle and the other the American eagle.
In 2014, a contract was awarded and work begun to build a replacement bridge with more capacity.
The Kosciuszko Bridge was originally referred to as the new Meeker Avenue Bridge and was opened in August 1939. the new structure of this bridge replaced the old Meeker Avenue Bridge (originally called the "Penny Bridge"), which had been in use since 1894. The history of the old bridge dates back to 1803 and was built through an Act of Legislature, authorizing the "building of a Toll Bridge over Newtown Creek: this bridge charged one cent per foot passenger, which was the reason the bridge was called the "Penny Bridge." Until 1888, the bridge was operated by private companies and then after became the property of the people In 1896, the bridge became the property of the city of Brooklyn and in 1898, upon consolidation, it was taken over by the Department of Bridges of the Greater City of New York.
The original Meeker Avenue Bridge had been replaced several times. The Kosciuszko Bridge's 1939 design and form was vastly different than the first Meeker Avenue Bridge. The latter was a swing drawbridge and carried a two-lane roadway 20-ft wide and two sidewalks. The new bridge carried two three-lane concrete roadways each 32-ft wide and separated by a 4-foot center mall. Additionally, this new bridge structure contains 16,315 tons of steel, along 88,120 cubic yards of concrete masonry.
One of the builders of the Kosciuszko Bridge was a man named John Kelly, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, who was a former Navy deep sea diver who became famous for helping to work on the Kosciuszko Bridge. In 1938, he completed his task of building a cofferdam, a box-like structure made of 250 steel sheets. This enabled workmen to operate and build an underwater pier in dry surroundings on the Greenpoint side of the new $1,500,000 Meeker Avenue Bridge; after that, Kelly began cutting away cofferdam bracings on the Queens side, at Laurel Hill Boulevard and Review Avenue. One of the tools he worked with was an underwater-operated cutting torch, which burned oxygen, hydrogen, and compressed air.
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, on Monday September 22, 1940, formally named the new Meeker bridge over Newtown Creek after Tadeusz Kościuszko in the presence of 15,000 people, mainly Polish residents and city and state government representatives, some stating that the spirit of Polish liberty would never die. In making an ovation, the mayor described President Franklin D. Roosevelt, like Kościuszko, as a "champion of liberty during a difficult period", referring to World War II in which Poland was occupied by Germany; he also stated "I am confident that Poland will live again. Any land that breeds such lovers of freedom can never be kept enslaved. The Polish people may be captive, but the flaming spirit of Polish liberty will never be destroyed."
After an 18-month study in the 1990s, State Transportation Department officials concluded that in order to relieve congestion on the busy span, a new $100 million bridge, which included an additional three lanes, should be built next to the Kosciuszko Bridge. This new bridge would be part of a renovation project planned for the existing six-lane bridge along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. DOT Supervisor Peter King stated that this new bridge may be required to avoid severe traffic backups on neighborhood streets surrounding the bridge during renovation of the Kosciuszko. King felt that in order to resolve the increasing number of severely congested streets and intersections, "a second parallel span" may be the answer.
Plans are underway to replace the current structure with a new nine-lane bridge, which will consist of two eastbound spans, one westbound span, a bike path, and a walkway. Four designs were considered for the new structure: a cable-stayed bridge, a through arch bridge, a box girder bridge, and a deck arch bridge. The cable-stayed bridge design selected after a public review process will make the replacement bridge the first of its type in New York City since the Brooklyn Bridge (which has a hybrid suspension/cable-stayed design). Construction was originally expected to begin in 2013 but was then delayed to winter 2014. About 140 trees were removed on both sides of the bridge in April 2014 in preparation for the rebuilding, though officials say twice the number of trees will be replanted once the bridge's reconstruction is complete.
On May 23, 2014, a $554,770,000 design-build contract was awarded to a team consisting of Skanska, which will be managing partner, Ecco III of Yonkers; Kiewit Corporation of Nebraska; and HNTB of Kansas as the lead design firm. It is the largest single contract ever awarded by the New York State Department of Transportation. The work will involve building a new eastbound viaduct to be completed in 2016; the existing eastbound structure will then be demolished. The westbound viaduct will be replaced in a future project. The extra lanes are being built since the Kosciuszko Bridge is known as a notorious traffic bottleneck; according to The New York Times, it is "perhaps the city’s most notorious [bridge], hated and feared by drivers and synonymous in traffic reports with bottlenecks, stop-and-go and general delay."
On December 4, work began on the bridge, which entailed temporarily narrowing the Meeker Avenue entrance on the Brooklyn side on the bridge in order to widen it in the long run. Work will take place in the daytime, temporarily causing more traffic congestion.
The project is not without controversy, however. In 2008, it was discovered that two Native American tribes indigenous to Queens, the Matinecocks and the Canarsies, were not informed of the bridge replacement project under federal law, which infuriated them. The Delaware Nation, in Oklahoma, and the Stockbridge-Munsee, in Wisconsin, both originally native to New York City, were given a month to comment on the bridge project, in addition to the Matinecocks and the Canarsies.
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- Kosciuszko Bridge Project Open House, Introduction on YouTube
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- New York State Department of Transportation Kosciuszko Bridge Project
- NYCRoads.com Brooklyn-Queens Expressway