MASPETH — Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled the first section of the new Kosciuszko Bridge Thursday afternoon, moving drivers one step closer to clearing one of the biggest traffic choke points on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
The first of two spans opens to traffic on Thursday at 11:30 p.m. and marks the halfway point of a $825 million capital project that's scheduled for completion in 2020.
The first bridge will carry east and west bound traffic until contractors blow up the old bridge and cart it away, then begin to build the second span in its place.
Dancers at festivities of opening of Kosciusko bridge #. pic.twitter.com/cT6qrv0151— Gwynne Hogan (@gwynnefitz) April 27, 2017
Cuomo joined local elected officials and community leaders at a festive ribbon cutting atop the fresh tarmac, featuring a drum line, dancers, and a choir.
The governor rolled up to the ceremony in Franklin D. Roosevelt's antique 1932 Packard, in an effort to conjure the spirit of the deceased president remembered for his prolific public works projects.
"For too long we have relied on the legacy of our grandparents," he said. "If you want to continue to lead then you have to continue to build."
Queens-born Cuomo recalled riding over the Kosciuszko Bridge as a child as a constant source of frustration for his family.
"The first time I hear my father use expletives was on this bridge," said Cuomo. "Literally any time of the day the traffic would back up. It was really a bottleneck for the whole city."
The old rusted out 77-year-old bridge, was designed to hold 10,000 cars a day, though currently 180,000 pass over it, he said.
The original bridge will be cut up into three segments this summer. The central part which spans the Newtown Creek will be lowered onto barges below, while the two segments over land on the Queens and Brooklyn sides will be rigged with dynamite, blown up and then chopped up and carted off once they hit the ground.
Later this year the state will select a contractor to build the second stretch of bridge projected to cost $270 million and will include a 20-foot bike and pedestrian walkway.