QUEENS — Driving around Queens may now be a bit less frustrating, after a major phase of the lengthy Kew Gardens Interchange Project was completed six years after it started, officials said.
The state Department of Transportation just finalized the $159 million reconstruction of a large portion of the Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens and Briarwood, which seeks to reduce congestion and ease traffic flow in the area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
That phase of the Kew Gardens Interchange project included:
► reconstructing and widening the Van Wyck Expressway between 82nd and Hillside avenues;
► reconstructing the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck Expressway to westbound Queens Boulevard;
► constructing several bridges over the Van Wyck Expressway, including the Queens Boulevard Bridge over Main Street;
► building an extra lane on the Van Wyck Expressway between the Grand Central Parkway and Queens Boulevard;
► constructing a dedicated exit lane on the southbound Van Wyck Expressway to Hillside Avenue.
Residents will still, however, have to wait a bit longer for a new elevator at the Briarwood subway station, which was built as part of the project, as well as for three pedestrian plazas and landscaping along Queens Boulevard planned for the Kew Gardens and Briarwood area after it was overtaken by the construction project for many years.
State officials said earlier this year that the elevator would be completed by the end of December.
Tiffany Portzer, a spokeswoman for the state DOT, said the elevator is finished, but has to be approved by the MTA. "Should be a couple of more weeks and it will be open," she said Friday.
The plazas should also be completed shortly, although planters will remain empty until spring, she said.
Local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said the "improvement will eliminate one item from my constituents list of complaints for 2017."
"The Kew Gardens interchange has been a bottleneck and source of frustration for decades,” she added.
The phase was completed as part of the $400 million Kew Gardens Interchange transformation, which also included a separate $104 million project, completed earlier this year, replacing the northbound Van Wyck Expressway between Hoover and 72nd avenues.
The state is also planning to conduct another $130 million phase of the project which will involve replacing the Van Wyck’s two-lane southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a three-lane viaduct, among other improvements.