Federal, state, and city officials have worked hard to secure more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money, and more than $35 million has been secured for the rehabilitation of Queens Plaza, north and south. An additional $6 million has been secured to rehabilitate the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.
The funding, which was announced in front of the Greenpoint Bridge by a smattering of elected officials on Monday, is a portion of the $261 million in federal transportation funding received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funding will go directly to six transportation projects across the five boroughs, and the funding that has already been secured for those six projects will be spread around to 25 other city transportation projects. The funding is expected to create or preserve 32,000 jobs and construction on many of the projects will begin as early as this spring.
"The DOT is ready to implement these critical projects, which will ensure the future economic development and growth of the city," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "The city prospers when its infrastructure is maintained and expanded. We are investing not only in industries right now through job creation, but in the roads, bridges and transportation that will keep them thriving."
A large majority of the funding for Queens was utilized to make improvements on Western Queens roadways, specifically Queens Plaza and the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.
Long-planned improvements to the business district of Queens Plaza and the areas directly surrounding it have stalled in the last several years. The plans, which would have cleaned up the decaying road and bridge infrastructures, simplified complicated walkways and reconstructed degraded sidewalks throughout Long Island City, were finally set to begin, although over the course of several phases and many years.
The new funding that has come through as a result of the federal stimulus package, which amounts to $37 million, will close the funding gap for the two phases of reconstruction, which are estimated to cost $135 million.
The project will include the creation of new open space at Queens Plaza, which will be supported by improvements to pedestrian crossing and access to the site. The pedestrian improvements will require a substantial revision to the Plaza itself, specifically to the complex network of roadways that connect the transit hub and the Queensboro Bridge. The pedestrian and motorist access improvements are hoped to stimulate the economy in business districts in and around the area as well.
The project will also include new sidewalks, bike lanes street trees and lighting between Jackson Avenue, Northern Boulevard and Vernon Boulevard, and new streetscaping between 21st Street and the waterfront. The Queens Plaza project is expected to go to bid in the summer, and completion is scheduled for 2011.
According to the mayor's office, such a large portion of the displaced federal funding was spent on improving the area surrounding Queens Plaza in the hopes that it would result in a thriving business district that would improve the economy of not only the neighborhood, but the entire city.
"We completed a careful analysis of potential projects in order to maximize job creation, so the projects we chose fit into our overall job creation strategy," said Bloomberg. "The improvements we're making will stimulate greater economic opportunity and create more jobs once they're completed."
An additional $6 million in direct federal funding has been earmarked for the rehabilitation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, which allows cars to cross between Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek. The upgrades to the bridge, which is 32 years old, include replacing the concrete bridge deck on the movable span of the bridge, sealing roadway joints, replacing damaged steel deck supports, and milling, resurfacing and waterproofing the roadway.
The rehabilitation will create a smoother and safer trip for drivers and pedestrians, reduce future maintenance costs, and extend the bridge's life for another ten years. The project is expected to be completed by 2011.