According to SDOT deputy chief engineer Harold Fink, the 60-year-old Van Wyck Expressway is routinely dogged by long travel times and its usage keeps growing.
“Studies indicate that right now there’s 59 million passengers that use it each year.” he said. “Studies project that could go over 75 million a year by 2030.”
During peak periods, northbound travel time is approximately 25 minutes and southbound travel time is 17 minutes. Under free flow conditions, it takes about five minutes to travel the entire stretch from JFK Airport to the Whitestone Bridge,
With the renovation of the airport, Fink said fixing the roadway became an absolute necessity.
“It seems essential to have a unified approach,” he said. “We don’t want to tie up the whole area.”
Mike Duvalle, vice president of South Ozone Park Civic Association West, believes SDOT should build a new roadway on top of the existing one.
“Duplicate the Van Wyck, it wouldn’t be too hard,” he said. “They built an overpass for the train.”
Duvalle also thinks adding Airtrain stops at Linden and Rockaway boulevards would reduce the number of cars on the road.
“Then you’re going to have people drive to the location and take the train to the airport,” he said.
His biggest fear, however, is that the Liberty Avenue exit will be removed, something he said has been considered in the past.
“That’s going to kill businesses,” he said. “Atlantic Avenue and 101st Avenue have fewer businesses than Liberty Avenue. Liberty Avenue is a lifeline for that area.”
According to Fink, removing the Liberty Avenue exit is not currently part of the plans. He noted that the exits and entrances being too close together do pose a challenge, but the study will identify possible solutions.
“Certainly, we would not look to hurt any businesses,” he said. “If we move ramps, obviously we have to take into account they have to serve the community. Whatever we do, we’ll certainly engage the community in that process.”
DOT is also trying to mitigate noise from the roadway. They plan on identifying sensitive noise areas around schools and hospitals and collecting noise measurements, then holding a public meeting to allow impacted property owners to discuss recommendations.
Work should begin in 2019.
At the same time the state is looking to re-configure the Van Wyck Expressway, it is moving forward on the third phase of reconstructing the Kew Gardens Interchange, connecting the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway and Jackie Robinson Parkway.
The third phase will replace the existing two-lane Van Wyck Expressway southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a continuous three-lane viaduct, as well as construct new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and Jackie Robinson Parkway.
It will also lengthen the distance of the merge from the Van Wyck Expressway to the Grand Central Parkway.
The two-and-half-year project comes on the heels of the completion of the first two phases, which included a new northbound viaduct.