Later start for 878 work

Nassau Expressway project expected to begin this month

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo was somewhat premature in his May 29 announcement that the $130 million state Route 878 project was under way.

It appears that the work, on what is also known as the Nassau Expressway, will now begin closer to the end of summer, according to state officials.

“In May, Governor Cuomo announced an accelerated project to revamp the northern portion of Route 878/Nassau Expressway — six years ahead of schedule — under a design-build contract,” said Stephen Canzoneri, the state Department of Transportation’s Long Island regional spokesman. “The design-build team recently submitted preliminary implementation plans, which are a requirement of the contract. We are currently reviewing these plans.”

A design-build team is a single crew of contractors that designs and constructs an entire project, to ensure seamless coordination and completion in the smallest possible time frame. A field office has been set up in Inwood, Canzoneri said, and work is expected to begin later this month.

Cuomo heralded the project in a February 2017 visit to the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence. The DOT had it on its list for 2025, but several local elected officials campaigned to have the work done much earlier.

The project encompasses a .57-mile section of Route 878, which connects Atlantic Beach, on the west end of the Long Beach barrier island, with greater Long Island. The plan is to improve traffic flow and flood mitigation on the expressway between Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue, and at its intersections with Bay and Peninsula boulevards.

The state road is an emergency evacuation route for more than 40,000 people. Built in 1973, the section that will be rebuilt is considered a vital connector for more than 56,000 vehicles that travel daily on the 10-mile-long roadway.

“With hurricane season bearing down on us, ensuring one of the South Shore’s vital evacuation routes is overhauled takes on greater significance,” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, who has been a vocal advocate of the roadwork. “I’m excited for this project to begin, and the first phases of construction should begin in the next few weeks.”

DOT officials said that AECOM, the Los Angeles-based engineering firm that is one of the subcontractors, submitted plans to the department late last month. Tully Construction, headquartered in Flushing, is the general contractor.

Raising the roadway three to four feet above the flood plain to increase resiliency is among the seven improvements that are planned. They include rebuilding the expressway to combat ongoing aging and stress through the use of roughly 4,5000 timber pilings dug down to a depth of 55 feet. Turning and auxiliary lanes and traffic signals will be added to enhance safety and relieve congestion. Long Island officials have mounted a separate campaign to have the traffic signals along Rockaway Turnpike, in Nassau County, which runs perpendicular to Route 878, and Rockaway Boulevard, at the Queens border, synchronized, also for better traffic flow.

A new storm-water drainage system will be installed. Shared-use paths and sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists are planned as well, along with enhanced landscaping to improve the roadway’s appearance and to mitigate the impact of its heavy use on surrounding wetlands.

The infamous “Inwood mound” — a nearly 250,000-square-foot, 30-foot-high heap of construction debris along the expressway, near its intersection with Bay Boulevard — will be removed. Describing the mound, which is made up of concrete, brick, asphalt, rock and soil, as “extremely dangerous,” State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller, a Republican from Atlantic Beach, said she was disappointed that the project was getting under way later than originally scheduled. “It is crucial we have our roadways fixed as soon as possible to bring relief to those who use them on a daily basis,” Miller said. “It is unacceptable for this project to be so behind when, originally, we were told it was way ahead of schedule.”

According to the DOT, those with questions, comments or concerns about the work can call (516) 881-7947.

Have an opinion about the Nassau Expressway project? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.