Saturday, December 06, 2008

With railyard work halted, no answers about the timetable to rebuild the Carlton Avenue bridge (and why is FCR in charge?)

It's possible that the indefinite suspension of work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard and the intersecting and partly-demolished Carlton Avenue bridge will not extend the closure of the bridge beyond the already announced two years.

But I can't say for sure, and the government agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards project--the agency that issued the closure announcement in January--can't say either, leaving a private company in charge of informing the public.

After all, if litigation--developer Forest City Ratner's not-so-credible excuse for suspension of work--could have indefinitely delayed bridge reconstruction, shouldn't that have been disclosed during the environmental review?

(DDDB points out that public subsidy for a project on public land with stated public benefits should generate accountability.)

(I took the first and fourth photos yesterday, looking east from Pacific Street, and the third photo, looking west from Pacific Street. Tracy Collins took the second photo from above, before the demolition began.)

Two years closed, seven months to rebuild

After all, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) said in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS; Construction Impacts, p. 17-23) that "dismantling and replacement would take about seven months."

At the same time, work on the bridge is apparently somewhat dependent on work in the railyard below. On p. 17-1, the ESDC stated, "The Carlton Avenue Bridge effort, which was scheduled to be completed within the first 12 months of construction in the DEIS, would likely take two years to facilitate LIRR Vanderbilt Yard reconstruction."

(The closure was originally supposed to take nine months.)

Trying to get answers

I sent several questions to ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston, who responded yesterday, "The responsibility for work to construct a new Carlton Avenue Bridge is Forest City Ratner's. No work is being done on the bridge now. Beyond that, I will have to refer you to FCRC on all of your other questions."

Sweet.

Forest City Ratner doesn't answer my questions (though it does respond to some other reporters and does issue press releases).

I also sent a query in the mid-afternoon to the city Department of Transportation, but haven't heard back yet.

Since when did we leave an unaccountable private company in charge of the timetable for the reconstruction of a public thoroughfare?

The closure announcement

The ESDC's closure announcement:
The one-way bridge is being closed to accommodate upgrading the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yard under the bridge, and also to construct a new bridge as part of the Atlantic Yards project. For the duration of this work, northbound traffic will be rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which will become two-way to accommodate this detour, or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

It's not clear from the announcement or the FEIS whether work could be done to construct a new bridge even if work has stopped at the railyard.

And, while it seems that a seven-month timetable to rebuild the bridge could be met even if delays continue at the railyard, it's not clear whether and how delays push back that timetable.

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