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Ramp repair ripped - Many see problems on 65th St.

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Members of Community Board 10 are not entirely satisfied with plans for repairing the Gowanus Expressway where it runs above 65th Street.

At the board’s October meeting, members complained that the efforts of the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) would not really address ongoing issues, particularly at Sixth Avenue, where traffic exiting the viaduct has been a perennial problem. The agency had appeared before members of the Traffic & Transportation Committee earlier in the month to update them on the plans for repairs.

As it stands now, the NYSDOT plans to “widen the exit ramp from the Gowanus Expressway viaduct and revise the traffic patterns at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 65th Street below,” Larry Stelter, a committee member, reported to the group gathered at the Knights of Columbus, 13th Avenue and 86th Street.

While, Stelter said, the agency had “at the request of CB 10… devised three variations of the ramp design,” they had chosen to go with a “two-lane ramp without realignment (of the roadways), yet with signal improvement.”

The other options – a “two-lane ramp with direct connection to 65th Street” and “a two-lane ramp narrowing to one lane at 65th Street” — had been dismissed by the agency, Stelter said, because they “would require major and expensive structural alteration to the expressway viaduct.” The agency had estimated $10 million in cost to redesign the ramp to lead directly onto 65th Street, Stelter said.

Greg Ahl, who recalled being involved years back in an accident at the intersection, insisted it was still extremely dangerous and needs to be changed, in large part because traffic tends to back up onto the main roadway.

“It’s been a problem in the afternoon and evening as long as I can remember,” Ahl stressed. “Back in 1971, I came around that curve and became the middle car in a 20-car pile-up.” Having traffic agents there doesn’t seem to help, he added. “There’s a severe danger up there,” Ahl contended.

“What they are going to give us is two ramps and a parking space, and basically the same left turn and right turn,” remarked Bob Cassara. “We will have traffic agents forever over there.

“They are spending half a billion dollars on emergency repairs for the Gowanus,” he went on. “We should be able to get a piece of this to have improvements and not let them off the hook.”

“Another thing they said is that this is supposed to last 15 to 20 years,” added Jean Ryan, “and it will be another generation’s problem.”

The project is anticipated to bring with it a loss of 20 parking spots on the service road at 65th Street, Stelter said; at the same time, 23 new parking spaces would be created on the main roadway, for a net gain of three spots.

Besides the work at Sixth Avenue, which is planned for 2012 through 2014, NYSDOT will also be replacing the viaduct deck that the Gowanus-Shore Parkway merge, beginning in spring, 2010, and lasting through 2014, Stelter said.

In addition, he told the group, “A new median structure for the bus/HOV lane will be constructed. The new structure will eliminate the weaving of the bus/HOV lane at the intersection, and will permit traffic on the bus/HOV lane to travel without interruption from the Verrazano Bridge to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.”

The work on the deck will cause local traffic to be rerouted at various times. Among these, for a period of between four and six months, beginning in 2010 and lasting into the following year, “No left turns will be permitted at Third Avenue and 60th Street,” Stelter said. “A detour will be established on Fourth Avenue.”

In addition, Stelter said that the entrance ramp at Third Avenue and 65th Street is planned for closure for a total of two months, in 2011. Both the X-27 andX-37 express buses will be detoured during that time. However, said Stelter, “The committee found the routings redundant and will add more buses to the narrow and already congested Bay Ridge Avenue. The committee firmly recommended the NYSDOT consult early on with the Transit Authority.”

All of the work is interim work being done to keep the Gowanus Expressway in usable shape till it is replace. That project is not expected to begin until perhaps 2022. It has not yet been decided whether the viaduct will be replaced in kind or with a tunnel.

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