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MTA Contractor Sign Flub Fueled Verrazano HOV Chaos Commute, Drivers Say

By Nicholas Rizzi | June 23, 2017 4:55pm | Updated on June 25, 2017 4:16pm
 Despite the MTA blaming the traffic on an accident, drivers blamed poor signage on bridge delays.
Despite the MTA blaming the traffic on an accident, drivers blamed poor signage on bridge delays.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

STATEN ISLAND — Maybe the accident wasn't such a big part of the HOV lane issue after all?

Andrew Cuomo's new HOV/bus lane on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge — which was intended to be a key part of the governor's plan to ease commutes ahead of planned maintenance work on Amtrak lines but which turned into a traffic "disaster" on the day of rollout — was partially complicated by a contractor screwup on signs, the MTA admitted.

The MTA blamed the nightmarish traffic conditions on a 5 a.m. Thursday car accident that happened on the Staten Island Express from the Clove Road exit to the entrance of the bridge. They said the 15 minute delayed opening of the new lane had no effect on traffic.

However, after frustrated commuters took to Oddo's Facebook page to rail against delays that lasted long after the accident and outdated signage that mistakenly sent drivers looking for the Belt Parkway into the HOV lane, the MTA acknowledged that their contractor screwed up.

"Due to an oversight by the contractor, two signs did not get changed in time for the opening of the HOV lane. MTA Bridges and Tunnels noticed this oversight right after HOV lanes opened but couldn’t access the sign during rush hour to fix it because of the crush of traffic created by the car accident on the SIE. Correct signage is now in place clearly depicting the HOV lane and directions to the Belt Parkway and traffic flow this morning was good," MTA spokesman Christopher McKniff wrote in an email. 

The MTA admission supports the account of drivers who said their experience in traffic had no apparent connection to the accident.

"I did not see any accident in sight on the [Staten Island Expressway] during my 5 mph stroll in bumper to bumper traffic," wrote Frank Esposito. "So an accident that took 20 minutes to clear causes traffic for 5 hours?"

Drivers who traverse the bridge placed the blame squarely on confusing signage installed by the MTA.

Paul Rini, 54, a retired firefighter who lives in Dongan Hills, said that it took him more than three hours to get from his home to Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights Thursday — a day after the HOV lane was installed. Rini said he didn't see any crash when he started driving and didn't buy the MTA's blaming the traffic on it.

"It wasn't only due the accident," said Rini. "It wasn't ready to be open."

He said new signs directed people who needed to exit onto the Belt Parkway to the new carpool lane on the left, leading to gridlock as many cars suddenly realized they needed to merge into the right lane after the bridge.

"It was bumper to bumper trying to get across the HOV lane," said Rini. "It was crazy. It usually takes me like five or 10 minutes, it took me over an hour to get to the bridge yesterday morning," he added.

Despite the botched rollout, there were no reports of delays on the bridge on Friday and one driver even took to Twitter to thank the governor for the HOV lane.