Pulaski Bridge Bike Path Delayed Again, Now Scheduled for April 2016

Wait til next year, again: The Pulaski Bridge bike path has been delayed until April 2015. Rendering: DOT
Wait til next year, again: The Pulaski Bridge bike path has been delayed until April 2016. Rendering: DOT

Construction delays will push completion of the Pulaski Bridge protected bike lane to 2016, says DOT, the second setback for the project. Until the dedicated bikeway is built, the bridge’s narrow walking and biking path will only get more cramped as Citi Bike debuts in the neighborhoods on both sides of the bridge.

The bike path would calm traffic and relieve an uncomfortable bottleneck for people biking and walking between Greenpoint and Long Island City. The project was initially set to wrap up in 2014, then red tape delayed it until the end of this year. Citing issues with drainage design, DOT now says it is scheduled to be complete next April.

The Pulaski is a drawbridge, making the addition of physical barriers a greater engineering challenge. The drawbridge section will receive steel rail barriers, while barriers on the approach spans will be concrete. The concrete barriers are currently being fabricated off-site, DOT said.

DOT had begun initial work on the project this spring and planned on installing the barriers this year, but the agency is holding off to ensure its design will properly drain the bridge deck during rainfall.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol has been pushing DOT for the Pulaski bikeway since 2012. At yesterday’s Citi Bike ribbon-cutting in Long Island City, Lentol needled Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg about the bridge, a vital link within Citi Bike’s expansion zone.

“What better way is there than to travel over a new dedicated bike lane that we’re getting soon — aren’t we, Polly? — on the Pulaski Bridge,” he said. “Right?”

“Yes, yes,” Trottenberg replied. “Springtime.”

The long wait for the Pulaski project points to the importance of DOT’s “operational” safety projects, which employ low-cost materials and skirt the city’s construction bureaucracy.

The Pulaski bikeway is a complex engineering feat that makes sense as a capital project, but not all street safety projects have to be cast in concrete. When street redesigns begin as capital projects, with no interim phase made out of temporary materials, years tend to pass before the public sees any payoff. Construction of the Sands Street bike path didn’t start until three years after it was supposed to. Similar delays plagued the build-out of concrete curb extensions for the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project.

DOT has had great success circumventing the morass of capital construction by implementing safety projects with paint, planters, and some well-placed concrete islands. This type of rapid implementation is the key to quickly reducing traffic injuries and deaths citywide, as called for in the city’s Vision Zero goals. But when advocates called on the de Blasio administration to increase its commitment to these projects in the last round of budget negotiations, City Hall didn’t budge.

Additional reporting by Ben Fried

  • roguebagel

    How can DOT be so bad at project management that they delay relatively small improvements for years over completely foreseeable engineering challenges? What was it, someone raised the question of rainfall in a recent meeting? Did it just start raining in NY? Did they just realize the bridge is a drawbridge? I mean what changed to make them suddenly realize there’s this whole year-long process they forgot to account for?

  • ganghiscon

    The Pulaski Bridge bike path — the Brooklyn Dodgers of bicycle infrastructure.

  • Jeff

    This really is the perfect storm. It’s the perfect use-case for bikeshare: People are already walking a somewhat impractical distance from northern Greenpoint to Long Island City to reach mass transit (hence all of the pedestrian traffic during the morning rush). Many of those people would love to switch to bikeshare once it becomes available. Which, if they do, could make an already bad situation that much worse.

  • J

    Wow, Upper West Side and Long Island CIty both asked for bike infrastructure to be installed BEFORE Citibike went in. Long Island City’s critical piece will be 8 months late. How late will the UWS infrastructure be (if DOT is even moving on it)?

  • Ghost of JSK

    Trottenberg is a disaster. There’s some decent high-profile stuff happening (Queens Blvd!) but otherwise its wide parking lanes and institutional incompetence.

  • De Blasio is a fucking disaster. Is there any constituent group he hasn’t dicked over?

  • BBnet3000

    How about an alternative in temporary materials on the east side of the bridge, which can become northbound when they.build out the southbound path on the west side?

  • chris

    How can the design move forward without a drainage plan? This smells like BS. Do they or do they not have it designed?

  • c2check

    Maybe they have to do more complex work to get new drains in? (e.g. cut through deck to install pipes?)
    Drainage does cause a lot of issues (although they should have had that down!)

  • Ian Dutton

    I wanna give an extra shout-out to Assemblymember Lentol. He had Commish Trottenberg in the crosshairs yesterday and was rightfully adamant that she commit to getting this project done. Good for him for sinking his teeth in – his tenacity certainly has kept this from sliding into obscurity.

  • D’BlahZero

    Streetsie worthy.

  • D’BlahZero

    DOT is the Bad News Bears of city Departments. This is a ‘two outfielders running into each other going after the same ball resulting in an in-the-park home run’ level of amateurish incompetence.

    I’m must going to go ride my bike over a bunch of potholes in bike lanes that don’t exist.

  • As a junior bridge engineer, I know determining the drainage and setting the deck elevations should be the first step, because it dictates everything else. Even the most sophisticated and highly paid consulting engineering corporations forget the basics from time to time. Also design changes beyond the control of the engineer often arise. Ultimately it comes down to the commitment of DOT senior officials to make projects happen.

  • Reminds me of the proposed ramp on the Camden side of the Ben Franklin Bridge. DRPA indicated construction would begin last year…

  • com63

    It just seems like his administration is overwhelmed and can’t handle the complexity of running such a large city with so many moving parts. I think he means well, he just doesn’t have the right staff to actually get things done and on time. People never gave Bloomberg enough credit for getting so many of his initiatives done.

  • kevd

    The west side path is going to be both north and south bound. And since it will be a full car lane wide. I actually don’t think more is needed (for now, anyway)

  • BBnet3000

    Yes I know but I’m still dreaming of a design that’s wide enough to pass comfortably and that connects to a comprehensible bike network rather than just the sharrows on Franklin Street.

  • kevd

    Ah!
    I think I’ll be pretty comfortable passing on that. At least until bike traffic goes WAY up.
    At which point we get lane lane #2.

  • BBnet3000

    We’re already at the awkward point on the East River bridges, and I don’t expect the Pulaski to be far behind. I see close passes daily and try not to get overeager so as to make a mistake myself.

    Even the NACTO standards say that paths should be wider on hills (like the bridges) than on flat ground.

  • Shemp

    The other even-more-perenially delayed project you want is the 2-way bikeway planned for West Street

  • Daphna

    The bike lane could be marked with thermoplast and flexible bollards in the meantime. It could be put in with these materials immediately; then the barriers could be installed at some future date when the DOT finally feels they have the engineering correct.

  • Marcus

    One small correction, in engineering terms, the span wouldn’t be referred to as a drawbridge. It can be referred to as a moveable bridge, or more acurately, bascule span.

    I would imagine the delays are related to the addition of barriers on the bascule spans, as the additional weight and surface area (for wind loads) may cause some issues with balance whilst the spans are opening and closing.

  • felix

    Does anyone know who the actual contractors are doing the work?

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