Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kosciuszko Bridge Environmental Impact

A while back my wife heard that a bridge between Queens and Brooklyn was being redesigned without bike or pedestrian access. Harrumph! She did what any concerned citizen would do: she wrote an angry email. She told them!

Then, a few minutes later, she realized she was thinking about the Pulaski Bridge (on McGuinness Blvd) when in fact the bridge that they where talking about was the Kosciuszko (the BQE). Oops. Sorry, she wrote. Never mind. Wrong bridge.

Then, a few days ago, delivered by Fed Ex ground, comes a box filled with a very heavy and very thick "Final Design Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Section 4(f) Evaluation" from the New York State Department of Transportation.
Almost 10 pounds of environmental impact! Oh, the irony is rich.

We have no idea why this was sent to us. God knows how much for printing and putting together. Plus $6 for shipping. Couldn't they have given the money to the subway instead? Was somebody so happy that anybody cared at all that they put us on their government mailing list?

Was it to punish my wife, the email writer, for being uppity? Now we have to figure out what the hell to do with the damn thing.

It's filled with color pull out charts, and, well, statements of environmental impact. For instance: "Existing vegetation could be disturbed by construction activities within the footprint of the alternatives and at any staging areas. However, the species present are those adapted to urban environments and human disturbance, and those species are likely to recolonize areas after construction." Phew.

The good news is that all but one of the new proposals do have a bike and pedestrian path included. The bad news is that one doesn't.

So the options, and I didn't even know I cared, include:

1) do nothing (no bike path);

2) keep the existing bridge and add another on the west side (this is the bad one without a bike/pedestrian path!);

3) keep the existing bridge and add another bridge on the east side;

4) build two new bridges, one on each side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, build two new bridges in the footprint of the existing one, then tear down one of the first two that was built;

5) build two new bridges, one on each side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, and build one new bridges in the footprint of the existing one;

6) build two new bridges, both on the east side of the existing bridge, tear down the existing one, and build one new bridge in the footprint of the existing one.

Yes, most of those above options end up with more than one bridge. That is the plan. You still with me?

And here's a bit of trivia. I didn't learn this from this mass of printed material, but rather the excellent Newtown Creek Cruise sponsored by the worthyNewtown Creek Alliance. Why is the Kosciuszko Bridge over Newtown Creek (and also the F train over Gowanus) so damn high?

To let tall ships pass under, of course. Yes, tall ships. Like the kind with big masts and many sails. Pirate ships! Let's discover America ships!

Well it turns out that even in the 1950s, when they built this bridge, there were still a few tall ships out there. And bridges had to be built to keep waterways navigational. Boy, was that money not spent wisely. I wonder if a tall ship ever went up this creek after they built the Kosciuszko Bridge.

Anyway, anything new they build will have clearance of 88.5 feet instead of the current 124.5 feet.


Anonymous said...

I thought the MTA was broke!? Or is this somehow the NY state DOT?

As far as the ship comments, I am a Merchant Mariner, and today's ships are at least as tall as the sailing ships used to be. While it's true that not much cargo traffic passes through the east river, some does, but even so, the air draft (height above waterline) of many modern NY harbor/coastwise tugboats is around 125 ft. Many tugboats traversing the east river can only do so at low tide because of this, but generally the Brooklyn bridge is the limiting factor, not the Triboro, kosciuszko, etc.

You learn something new everyday...

Thanks for your blog!

PCM said...

This is NY State DOT. I guess they're *not* broke.

Fascinating info on tugboats and New York waterways. Thank you!

According to some yacht website, the Brooklyn Bridge also has an air draft of 125 feet. So that's obviously why the Kosciuszko was built that high.

Anyway, I guess the glory days of Newtown Creek as a major maritime player, if there was any doubt, will officially and permanently be done.

John said...

Holy cow! That's over 4 pounds of toilet paper!