Oct. 13, 2021 Staff Report
Governor Kathy Hochul announced a major milestone last week in the Kew Gardens Interchange Phase 4 project in Queens.
Construction has been completed on two newly reconfigured ramps that aim to enhance safety and reduce congestion along the heavily traveled commuter corridor used by hundreds of thousands of commuters each day to reach the John F. Kennedy International Airport and other destinations throughout New York City and Long Island.
The new ramps are expected to provide easier connections for motorists entering the westbound Grand Central Parkway from the westbound Union Turnpike, and for those heading from the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway at Exit 8W to the Grand Central Parkway.
The new ramps, which opened Friday night, are a major component of the State Department of Transportation’s ongoing $365 million Phase 4 project, which aims to reduce backups, lesson vehicle emissions and facilitate continued economic growth across the entire metropolitan region.
“We are committed to building back our infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and help our local communities flourish,” Hochul said in a statement. “These new ramps at the Kew Gardens Interchange will help alleviate congestion and make it easier for motorists to navigate this vital interchange, keeping goods and people on the move more safely.”
The new ramp leading from westbound Union Turnpike to westbound Grand Central Parkway eliminates the previous need for motorists to come to a complete stop before entering the parkway, allowing traffic to merge more efficiently and reducing congestion on both roadways.
The new ramp from eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway at Exit 8W to the westbound Grand Central Parkway was redesigned to reduce a significant curve that had previously existed on Exit 8W. The new ramp, which is carried on a new bridge structure, has standard lane and shoulder widths, which did not exist before.
The project also increased the merge length from the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway to westbound Grand Central Parkway – which allowed for the removal of a stop sign at the end of the ramp – and upgraded the drainage systems. These upgrades will enable motorists to more safely and efficiently merge at this location, officials say.
Additionally, work on the rehabilitated Jackie Robinson Parkway Exit 8E to the eastbound Grand Central Parkway has also been completed.
Completion of the ramps follows the opening earlier this year of a new eastbound Grand Central Parkway Exit 13W ramp to the westbound Jackie Robinson Parkway and the new southbound Van Wyck Expressway Exit 7 ramp, which were both included as part of Phase 4 of the Kew Gardens Interchange project.
Bridges completed as part of Phase 4 include the westbound Union Turnpike bridge over Grand Central Parkway, the westbound Grand Central Parkway bridge to westbound Union Turnpike/Queens Boulevard, and the eastbound Union Turnpike bridge over the Grand Central Parkway.
“The Kew Gardens Interchange project is one of the Department of Transportation’s top priorities and is a prime example of New York State’s commitment to making smart investments in our infrastructure that foster resiliency, improve quality of life and promote economic growth,” said New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez in a statement.
“These new ramps will improve traffic flow, enhance safety and reduce congestion at one of the busiest interchanges in New York City.”
The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike, serving over 200,000 vehicles daily.
The New York State Department of Transportation is making a number of operational improvements through four construction contracts at the interchange worth almost $700 million.
The four phases of the project are enhancing safety and improving traffic flow on Interstate 678 (Van Wyck Expressway), the Grand Central Parkway, and Jackie Robinson Parkway. Work on the first phase began in 2010 and the final phase is expected to conclude in 2022.
The completed Phase I project included widening a portion of the Van Wyck Expressway, and rehabilitating the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck to westbound Queens Boulevard, four bridges over the Van Wyck, the Van Wyck Bridge over Main Street and the Queens Boulevard Bridge over Main Street.
This project also included constructing auxiliary lanes on both the northbound and southbound Van Wyck between the Grand Central Parkway and Main Street and provided a dedicated exit lane southbound to Hillside Avenue.
The completed Phase II project constructed a new, wider northbound Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, which carries three travel lanes now that Phase III is completed. In addition, it replaced the one-lane entrance ramp connecting the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike with the northbound Van Wyck Expressway with a new two-lane ramp. A new deck was installed on the eastbound Union Turnpike bridge over the Grand Central Parkway connector ramps, and a new deck and steel girders were installed on the bridge where Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway merge.
The completed Phase III replaced the existing deteriorated two-lane Van Wyck Expressway southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a continuous three-lane viaduct, and constructed new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The three lanes from the Van Wyck Expressway also now merge with two lanes from the Grand Central Parkway over a longer distance.
Phase IV, which remains ongoing, is tying together the improvements already made during the first three phases of construction.
The project is installing five new bridges and replacing six existing bridges; widening travel lanes and shoulders; improving on and off ramps to enhance traffic flow; changing lane configurations for safer merging and exiting; improving sight distance; updating signage; and making lighting, drainage and landscaping improvements.