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Delays on $11.9 Million FDR Bridge Leave Chunk of Waterfront Closed

By Amy Zimmer | July 29, 2011 6:42am | Updated on July 29, 2011 8:31am

MANHATTAN —A chunk of the East River waterfront will remain shut to runners, walkers and cyclists after delays to an $11.9 million bridge project.

The Department of Transportation closed off the East River esplanade, from East 76th to 79th streets, in October as  work began to replace a pedestrian bridge spanning the FDR at East 78th Street.

DOT officials had originally expected that  replacing the decrepit walkway — rated among the three worst city bridge — would be completed by August.

Now, DOT officials said the waterfront detours would remain in place until the fall, though they did not provide a specific re-opening date. 

The existing pedestrian bridge will be removed by crane this weekend, DOT officials said, forcing an overnight closure of the FDR Drive in both directions on Sunday, July 31, from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m

The northbound lanes will be closed to traffic from East 61st to 96th streets and the southbound drive will be closed from East 116th to 74th streets.

DOT community liaison Deborah Howes had told DNAinfo that it was a "challenging" site.

"The contractor has been working well within constraints," she said. "Work has to be done at night. We don't want to close the FDR Drive during the day. It's a very busy highway."

For the last several months, people trying to access the waterfront have been redirected to entrances at East 71st or 81st streets.

The East 78th Street bridge needed an overhaul because of its poor condition and because it was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, it was not wide enough for bikes and walkers to use side-by-side, and it didn't provide sufficient clearance for all emergency vehicles on the FDR Drive.

Several residents had wondered about the pace of construction, saying they didn't see too much work going on.

Rather than reconstruct the bridge on site, work to build the replacement bridge was done in Camden, N.J.

Joyce Matz, who lives nearby, said the bridge closure has been difficult for her elderly neighbors, or "partially handicapped" people like herself who can't walk to the other walkways. She told DNAinfo in April that she thought the construction seemed slow-going.

"I'll make a bet," she said then.

"I don't think it will be done by August. Not August this year."