A year and a half after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to renovate a section of State Route 878 measuring less than a mile, the state Department of Transportation has begun restriping the roadway, also known as the Nassau Expressway, and Rockaway Turnpike in preparation for detouring traffic around the upcoming $130 million construction project.
According to state officials, 40,000 vehicles per day use Route 878, which stretches from Ozone Park, Queens, to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, in Lawrence. The goal of the project is to alleviate heavy traffic through the area, and the improvements will include elevating the road and building a state-of-the-art drainage system to reduce flooding, the construction of a multi-use pedestrian path, the installation of synchronized traffic signals and improved turning lanes.
DOT officials said they plan to keep two lanes of traffic moving in each direction on the roadway, and three lanes in each direction on Rockaway Turnpike, though occasional nighttime lane closures will be needed. To do this, they ex-plained, travel lanes will be shifted onto the state highway’s right-of-way, which includes a portion of the parking lot of Five Towns Mini Golf and Batting Range, at 570 Rockaway Turnpike. As a result, one lane of the turnpike will be rerouted through the lot.
The business’s owner, Marty Rosen, said the state planned to move 25 of his parking spaces to an adjacent vacant lot, but he still has concerns about his customers having to navigate the detoured lane. “I don’t know of anyone who would be overjoyed,” Rosen said. “If there’s anyone who would be happy about having a lane of traffic from Rockaway Turnpike in their parking lot, I’d like to meet them.” The number of parking spaces was confirmed by DOT.
Rosen added that the work outlined in the plans he received from the DOT would obstruct one of his two entrances, and he believed it would entail removing his sign as well as a few utility poles. “Until it’s done, it’s hard to say how bad it will be,” Rosen said. “It’ll be bad, but how bad I don’t know.”
The DOT held two meetings at its Long Island regional office in Hauppauge on Aug. 29. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, County Legislator Howard Kopel and Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman attended, as did representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, State Sen. John Flanagan, Assemblywoman Melissa Miller and County Legislator Carrié Solages.
Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the officials and representatives met with the project’s contractor, who answered their questions.
“The project is proceeding as planned, with full completion expected in December 2019,” Canzoneri said. “The project is progressing with environmental preparations, soil borings and other preparations for major construction work. The design phase . . . is about halfway complete. The first phase of major construction is expected to begin in early fall.”
Kaminsky, who played a primary role in moving the project up seven years from its original starting date of 2025, said he believed the project would be worth the wait, and the disruption it causes in the meantime. “It’s a major project,” he said. “I think it will be inconvenient for a year or so, but it’s a game-changing project.”
Kopel, a Republican from Lawrence who has advocated building a Nassau Expressway overpass over Rockaway Turnpike, called the project “a misconceived waste of money.” He said he believed it wouldn’t do enough to alleviate traffic or local flooding problems. Over four years ago, Kopel was part of a campaign that pressed state officials to overhaul Route 878.
DOT officials disagree. “The reconstruction and elevation of this critical section of the Nassau Expressway will help mitigate flooding, improve drainage and enhance the safety and reliability of a busy highway that serves as an emergency storm evacuation route for more than 400,000 people,” spokeswoman Jennifer Post said.
Have an opinion on the Nassau Expressway project? Send your letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.