Pulaski Bridge Bike Path Now Scheduled to Open by End of 2015

This time next year, cyclists and pedestrians will no longer share the same cramped path on the Pulaski Bridge. Image: DOT [PDF]
This time next year, cyclists and pedestrians will no longer share the same cramped path on the Pulaski Bridge. Last year, DOT said the project would be done by now. Image: DOT [PDF]
About a year behind schedule, a major project to improve walking and biking between Queens and Brooklyn is set to move forward in 2015.

The project, originally scheduled to be complete this year, will convert one southbound car lane on the Pulaski Bridge into a protected bike lane, giving more breathing room to pedestrians on what is now a shared-use path and calming traffic headed toward deadly McGuinness Boulevard in Brooklyn. Now that a construction contract has been signed and a design is in place [PDF], DOT told an audience in Long Island City last night that the new pathway will open in 2015, but maybe not until the end of the year.

In attendance was Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who urged DOT in late 2012 to study a protected bike lane on the Pulaski. “I’m here because I want to see this project through to its conclusion just like you do,” he told the audience. “I’m very excited seeing this started. We’d hoped that it would’ve been completed by now.”

When the project was first announced at the end of 2013, DOT staff said construction would take a few months and it would open by late 2014. And last month, Deputy Commissioner for Bridges Bob Collyer told the City Council that he anticipated the project would be complete in the spring. But now, with final approvals in hand, the latest word from DOT is that the contractor will start the job in April and wrap later in the year, no sooner than October. The contractor is required to finish work by the end of 2015.

The project’s cost has also increased. DOT’s cost estimate last year was $3.46 million. Most of the tab is covered by a $2.5 million federal Transportation Enhancements grant awarded by the state. When the grant was announced in January, Lentol said the city would pick up the remaining $625,000, for a total project cost of $3.125 million. Last night, DOT said the cost is now $4.2 million.

DOT says there are two major reasons for the Pulaski delays. First, the project is linked to other bridge work. The city bundled 11 bridge projects totaling $15.6 million, including the $4.2 million Pulaski project, into a single contract. While the bike path is first in line among those projects for implementation, the contract couldn’t get approval without the other projects also being ready to go.

Second, DOT says the Pulaski Bridge itself complicates things. Opened in 1954 and rebuilt in 1994, the crossing is a drawbridge that opens about 400 times a year, mostly during low tides between October and April for barges delivering heating oil to a facility on Newtown Creek. The opened drawbridge cannot support the weight of an additional concrete barrier, so in the middle of the bridge, the project calls for eliminating the barrier that separates the current biking and walking path from traffic. On this stretch, pedestrians and cyclists will have physical separation from traffic, but not between each other, though unlike the current path there will be sufficient space for everyone. (Along other sections of the bridge, there will be two concrete barriers, separating the bikeway from both car traffic and pedestrians.)

Drawbridge activity, which is most intense during the winter months, actually works to the advantage of the construction timeline, which is scheduled mainly for the warmer months, DOT staff said. The project will involve nighttime and midday car lane closures, but bicycle and pedestrian access to the bridge will be maintained at all times during construction.

While pedestrian and motor vehicle patterns should remain the same on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, changes are in store for cyclists. Image: DOT [PDF]
While pedestrian and motor vehicle patterns will remain the same on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, small changes are in store for cyclists. Image: DOT [PDF]
The project also entails some changes to the approaches to the bridge at both the Queens and Brooklyn landings. As cyclists descend both sides of the bridge, they will ride over textured paint “rumble strips,” like those installed on Prospect Park West, to remind them to slow down.

On the Queens side, DOT says it is still designing additional markings and signage for cyclists near the bike path entrance at Jackson Avenue. The plan shaves a sliver off a planted traffic island to make room for the bike path in the existing slip lane to the bridge. Currently, drivers getting on the bridge from the intersection of Jackson and 49th Avenues zip directly onto the bridge’s third southbound lane. Under the new configuration, they will have to merge into what is now the middle car lane across the bridge.

“We performed a traffic analysis to see what kind of impact it would be, and it doesn’t really have any impact,” DOT project manager Nick Carey said last night of the new merge.

In Brooklyn, there will be adjustments to the bike approach, but no changes to driving or walking patterns. Cyclists coming to the bikeway from Eagle Street will have to yield before crossing the path of cyclists coming off the bridge. Bike riders coming off the bridge will continue straight to sharrows in the McGuinness Boulevard service lane, passing a bus stop before turning right onto the Freeman Street bike lane.

  • J

    I should start by saying that this is an awesome project, and I’m very excited to see it completed.

    However, it’s telling of the current DOT perspective that bikes coming off a downhill are reminded to slow down so they don’t get run over and killed by cars and trucks, but the drivers of those cars and trucks coming down the same inclines at far greater speeds and with far greater potential to kill or injure get no warning at all, even though they have repeatedly killed people in this very location. Seems that DOT still doesn’t quite understand that cars are the “bull in the china shop”.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/01/07/steve-levin-mcguinness-boulevard-nicole-detweiler-speed-cameras-traffic-fatality-calming/

  • Jeff

    I wish there was a good connection from, say, Green St to the bridge path for cyclists approaching from the East. My current options are to either tread very carefully salmoning through the awkward merges of the McGuinness Service Rd or go ridiculously far out of the way to go under the bridge and back around.

    I mean, they could build out a solution quite easily by doing a two-way protected path along the East curb from Eagle St to Green St (or better yet all the way to Huron St so I don’t have to ride on McGuinness for that one block), but, you know, Parking.

  • BBnet3000

    There’s no way they could stripe this NOW with paint and plastic delineators? Or on the first warm day? (lets ignore the past year of warm days)

    Are there any plans to improve the bike network on the Queens end? If the LIC waterfront was the only destination in Northern Queens the 7 train wouldn’t exist.

  • This is a great project, yes, but it needs to be a bigger priority. We give plenty of bonus $$$ for contractors to finish all sorts of road projects early. Why can’t we speed this up?

    What this means is ANOTHER summer of congestion for bikes and peds. It just gets tighter and more cramped each year. More people are moving to both sides of the bridge. MORE towers are going up in LIC. MORE people and families are visiting Western Queens since there are so many cool things to do. AND Citibike is coming….

    This has got to be one of the top bike projects in the city right now that will make lives better for pedestrians, cyclists, and those in wheelchairs. Just move this up!!!

  • BBnet3000

    The Brooklyn end has an extremely restrictive approach that assumes everybody takes the Kent Ave Greenway and the Franklin Ave sharrows. The strategy here seems to be “we’ve provided *a route* between this origin and this destination”.

    Never mind other origins or destinations or the complication of constantly having to be on the lookout for wayfinding to follow the complicated etch-a-sketch route layout.

  • ahwr

    So when do we get this on the northern most manhattan bound lane of the brooklyn bridge?

    I’d suggest using the park row north exit on the manhattan side but nypd is probably too afraid of bike bombs for that.

  • millerstephen

    @BBnet3000:disqus Questions about adding more bike network connections to the Queens side came up last night. Queens CB 2 has been pretty active with DOT bike planning in recent years: http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/07/09/new-bike-routes-on-tap-for-long-island-city-and-sunnyside/ DOT Queens Commissioner Dalila Hall also mentioned that bike lane recommendations will feature in its ongoing Hunters Point area transportation study.

  • BBnet3000

    The Brooklyn Bridge is too important to funnel the private cars of the wealthy and politically connected into lower Manhattan for free to pollute the air, park illegally and run over Chinese people. /s

  • Yes. The Queens T.A. Committee & Council member JVB have been very good about pushing for more bike lanes and routes to and from the bridge.

  • ralph

    I’m just glad they’re doing it at all. Thank you, DOT. Badly needed.

  • Brian Wood

    Great to see this kind of non-motorized infrastructure, but why do they need massive concrete barriers to separate cyclists and pedestrians? Seems like overkill. Some low curbing or a string of bollards might have been just as effective, less costly and maybe would have even gained another few inches of either walk or bike space. Just curious if anyone knows the reason. Thanks.

  • ahwr

    That barrier is already there. Cheaper to just leave it in place? They’re getting rid of part of it on the drawbridge where they don’t want the extra weight.

  • Jeff

    According to DOT, the the cabling and other equipment for the lights is integrated into this barrier. So removing it would indeed be a bit more effort than it’s worth.

  • Brian Wood

    Thanks. Makes sense then.

  • N_Gorski

    This is part of the problem with DOT’s 50/5 target (bike lanes / protected lanes), which is leading to stuff like two-phased rollouts in Ridgewood and Bushwick. 50 miles of bike lanes was pretty good when efforts were focused on Manhattan, but the target should really increase now–something like a 50/5 target per borough is really what we should pressure DOT to hit.

  • NYFM

    I’m sure there are plenty of wealthy walkway users who would love to get the bikes off of it and down onto the roadway. I know I would. It’s dangerous now.

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