Water Main Project Will Bring Five Years of Lane Closures

By Mathew Katz on November 9, 2011 10:36pm 

West 48th Street will soon be torn up as part of a five-year water main project.
West 48th Street will soon be torn up as part of a five-year water main project.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

HELL'S KITCHEN — A plan to connect the city's water system to a massive new water tunnel will mean more than five years of construction, lane closures and other headaches for Hell's Kitchen residents and motorists.

Starting next year, crews for the project — which is being led by they city's Department of Design and Construction — will begin to tear up streets and lay down new pipe, along with new concrete road when the upgrades are done.

According to the DDC, constuction will be done in phases, but overall the work will affect West 51st Street between Broadway and Ninth Avenue, West 48th Street between Broadway and 10th Avenue, West 49th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues and Ninth Avenue between West 51st and 48th streets.

The new main would connect the existing water grid to the city's massive new water tunnel, which will eventually carry water from upstate New York. The Third Water Tunnel is designed to be an alternative to two existing tunnels that are crumbling and are badly in need of inspection.

The DDC has a rough idea of what order each phase will start in, but could not give exact dates as to when streets would close or re-open. It has committed to keeping at least three lanes of traffic open on each avenue where work is being done.

The project may also stop some residents from getting deliveries and business from accessing their loading docks. Garbage collection will also be affected.

While the DDC pledged to not start any noisy construction before 8 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends, some residents are concerned about the possibility of their streets being reduced to a single lane for months, if not longer.

Certain bus stops on the M11, M20, M50, AND M104 lines in the neighborhood could be moved.

"If it's really going to take five-and-a-half years, we want information," said Elke Fears, president of the West 47th and 48th Street Block Association, which met with the project stakeholders earlier this week. "We're trying to pin them down on actually how long will a particular street be closed."

"Basically, it's going to be really, really ridiculous," said Sean Walcott, 29, who lives on West 48th Street. "I know they've got to do this, but it's going to be bad for people who live around here."

According to Community Board 4 Chair Corey Johnson, the board is working to keep residents informed throughout the expansive project, and will hold a public meeting with the various government agencies behind it in January. At that time, they'll request a permanent liaison to work with them throughout the project.

For some, that isn't quite enough.

"I mean, it's going to be a major inconvenience and I'm not tied to this neighborhood," Walcott said. "So why not [leave]? I was hoping to move to Brooklyn anyway."

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