A project to renovate a .57-mile stretch of the Nassau Expressway, also known as state Route 878 is on track to be completed by next December, said New York State Department of Transportation spokesman Stephen Canzoneri.
“Widening of the southbound side has been underway since October as workers clear brush and remove the existing pavement,” he said. “ Coordination with PSEG Long Island continues as dozens of utility poles are relocated to make way for the wider highway.”
The project is expected to cost $130 million. AECOM, the Los Angeles-based engineering firm — one of the subcontractors — submitted plans to the department in July, and Tully Construction, headquartered in Flushing, is the general contractor.
The project began in October and construction has shut down a portion of the highway. There are at least two lanes of traffic flowing in each direction. A small section of Rockaway Turnpike is also being adjusted to handle traffic turning onto 878 from Queens.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans in February of 2017; to renovate the roadway to alleviate both the heavy daily traffic volume and the flooding that occurs along the highway nearly every time it rains.
According to state officials, 56,000 vehicles per day use the expressway, which stretches from Ozone Park, Queens, to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, in Lawrence. The improvements include elevating the road and building a state-of-the-art drainage system, the construction of a multi-use pedestrian path, the installation of synchronized traffic signals and improved turning lanes.
Caught directly in the middle of the renovations is the Garden Gallery, a garden center located at 10 Bay Blvd. in Inwood, which had its entrance located right along the southbound section of 878, but moved because of the construction.
Kenneth Graham, who owns the center with his brother Keith, said that it hasn’t been easy dealing with the effect of the roadwork. “We’re on our own little island totally surrounded by construction,” he said. “We’ve had customers say they can’t find us in all of this and it’s tough unless you really look.”
Graham said that they had applied for some money to help offset their losses, but were denied. “Customer traffic is way down this season,” he said. “Loss of traffic is a loss of revenue … the fall and the winter are slower seasons, but our plan is just to hang in there until it’s complete. It’s pretty much about survival.”
Work was originally scheduled to begin in 2025, but several local officials lobbied to get the project started earlier. The state road is an emergency evacuation route for more than 40,000 Five Towns and Rockaway residents.
Earlier this year State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a vocal advocate of the project highlighted the importance of getting the renovations done quickly, “Ensuring one of the South Shore’s vital evacuation routes is overhauled takes on greater significance [with the looming threat of hurricanes and flooding,]” he said.
Ensuring that the Nassau Expressway could be used in case of a major evacuation has been a major focus of the project. “Raising, strengthening, and leveling the new southbound road is also proceeding with initial installation of timber piles to support the newly constructed roadway,” Canzoneri said. “The new roadway, when completed, will sit above the 100-year floodplain and will include an upgraded drainage system for a more resilient coastal evacuation route.”
The infamous “Inwood mound” –– a nearly 250,000-square-foot, 30-foot-high heap of construction debris along the expressway — is being removed. Canzoneri said roughly half the mound has been eradicated as of press time.