From closed off lanes, gridlocked roadways, menacing construction crews and bumpy roads—for local motorists—there seems to be no escaping the clamor of road construction everywhere, especially on the peninsula’s east-west main thoroughfares, Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Blvd. Just ask Belle Harbor resident, Dr. Peter Galvin, and the chorus of locals bemoaning the rampant traffic and hazardous road conditions. Well, The Rockaway Times got on the beat and reached out to the various agencies involved and Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office to see what could be done to ease congestion.
According to Dr. Galvin, driving from Beach 122nd to Beach 117th Street in what usually would have been a quick five-minute drive, recently took him more than 20 minutes. “There was road construction on Beach Channel Drive (BCD) and Beach 118th Street, plus on Rockaway Beach Boulevard (RBB) at Beach 114th Street. These are Rockaway’s main east-west bound roads. Why is construction happening on both at the same time, where whole lanes are blocked? This is not just about traffic, but safety. What if there was an emergency?” Galvin exclaimed.
Another Belle Harbor resident expressed similar sentiments. “I have to pick up my grandchildren from school on Beach 135th Street. Do I take RBB and get stuck on Beach 114th Street or do I take BCD and get stuck between Beach 116th to 117th Streets? You never know how long you'll be stuck or how much time you will need.”
Also, for residents, traffic is not the only issue, but the hazardous conditions of the roads.
“Commuters trying to dodge traffic coming past Beach 79th and 80th Streets, rolling past stop signs as though there is no sign there at all, caused me to run over a cone from a hole that has been in the road for weeks from the machinery that is riding up and down that stretch of road for months! These are unacceptable hazardous conditions from construction companies that should be held accountable. You would not believe the debris of pebbles and stones in the road!” stated one angry resident.
Another resident said after driving westbound from Beach 116th Street heading to KeyFood on Beach 87th Street, she found a nail in her tire. “The road conditions on the Boulevard are horrible. Who do I blame for the nail in my tire? Of course, I had to pay the bill to replace it, not the city, but me,” she said.
Galvin joked that with the rocky ride on the streets, chiropractors are the ones who will be benefitting. “People’s backs are getting out of whack driving along the bumpy roads. It’s really ridiculous,” he said.
The Rockaway Times initially reached out to the Department of Transportation (DOT), but was told that these are projects happening under the Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) umbrella.
There are currently two main DDC projects happening in Rockaway, both designed to install sewers and repair infrastructure that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. SANDHW11 is the project happening on BCD between Beach 115th and Beach 124th Streets, that will extend to Beach 145th Street. On RBB, the construction work is from Beach 116th to Beach 114th Street. (See map). SANDHW13, currently happening from Beach 73rd to Beach 88th Streets on RBB, is to improve approximately one mile of streets and sidewalk to current DOT standards, install a new drainage collection system, and upgrade and replace existing sanitary sewers and water mains.
When asked why the SANDHW11 was happening simultaneously on BCD and the Boulevard during the day, especially in the hectic summer season, DDC’s spokesperson stated, “DDC’s contractor is now working on BCD. PSE&G had been doing separate work on RBB. That’s why both streets were affected at the same time. We understand that the PSE&G work is now completed, so traffic should improve. Going forward, we will instruct the DDC contractor to be sure not to obstruct both Beach Channel Drive and RBB at the same time.
Those were the only answers The RT received from DDC, but Councilman Ulrich’s Communications Director Natalia Kozikowska, was able to furnish more information.
Regarding SANDW13, Kozikowska stated, “Temporary, two- to three-month projects can be scheduled to avoid the summer, but not projects this large. Additionally, construction projects often take advantage of the nicer weather and extended daylight hours available in the summer. The construction does not take place on weekends or major holidays when beach traffic is at a peak.”
When asked why the construction can't happen at night, as opposed to during the day, when traffic is at its peak, she responded, “Some of the construction is occurring at night, to avoid shutting off water services to businesses and medical offices during the day. But if the entire project was done at night, residents along BCD would be subjected to constant banging, truck traffic, and would never be able to sleep. Generally, highway construction is done at night, but not on local roadways in residential areas for this reason.”
As for the hazardous conditions of the road, Kozikowska stated, “We meet and communicate regularly with the project’s Community Construction Liaison Anthony Toussaint. He has been able to get the contractor to re-patch areas that were deemed unsafe. Residents can contact him directly with their concerns.”
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