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Reopening of Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008 (supposedly for two years), nudged from April 2012 to "summer 2012"; will it go longer?

It was inevitable, wasn't it? We knew that the Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008, had to reopen before the Atlantic Yards arena reopens.

And now that "substantial completion" of the arena is August 12, 2012, so too has the city Department of Transportation nudged back the reopening of the bridge from the most recent deadline, April 2012, to "summer 2012."

That's not the first revision of the plan, not by a long shot.

And I'd say there's a good chance that the bridge reopening could be nudged further back to "fall 2012," if the arena opens in the fall.

Closure for four-and-a-half years?

All this means that bridge would be closed for at least four-and-a-half years, more than twice as long as originally promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review, approved in 2006.

Above right, the previous estimation from DOT.

Original plans

The bridge, which connects Pacific Street to Atlantic Avenue and thus Prospect Heights to Fort Greene, closed in 1/23/08. In January 2009, the DOT said the work "is scheduled for completion January 2010."

By August 2009, DOT had quietly advanced the official opening date (above left) to January 2011--three years after closure. I wrote at the time that there was ample reason to believe that the reopening would be delayed even more.

Most recent estimates

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), accompanying the 2009 Modified General Project Plan:
Under the revised schedule, completion of the arena construction would occur in the first quarter of 2012, and the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge would be completed in time for the opening of the arena and would be compatible with LIRR rail yard operations and the new permanent yard, which is expected to be completed in 2013.
Note that "completion of the arena construction" is not necessarily the same thing as "the opening of the arena."

In a December 2010 Response to the Remand Order of Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, hearing an ongoing case regarding whether the ESDC should have studied the impacts of a 25-year (rather than ten-year) buildout, the ESDC stated:
Also, a delay in the construction of the Project would not affect the duration of the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, because the 2009 MGPP requires the Carlton Avenue Bridge to be re-built and operational by the Arena opening condition.
That's not precisely true, given the nudge back.

In the December 2010 Technical Analysis, the ESDC stated:
As detailed in Table 5 below, the 2009 Technical Memorandum found that the duration of construction of most Project elements, would not change as a result of their modified start date within the overall construction schedule. Rather, with the exception of Project elements whose construction had already commenced, the schedule’s overall timeline reflected a shift by approximately three years from what was presented in the FEIS. Under the schedule presented in the FEIS, in the fourth quarter of 2009 the construction of the arena would be completed and by the fourth quarter of 2010 the remaining arena block buildings—Buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4—would be completed. Under the revised schedule, completion of the arena construction would occur in the first quarter of 2012, and the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge would be completed in time for the opening of the arena and would be compatible with LIRR rail yard operations and the new permanent yard, which was expected to be completed in 2013.

... Reopening of Carlton Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue would take place with the opening of the arena.
Longer sequence than promised

Why is it all taking so long? Partly because Forest City Ratner is proceeding in three stages, a far slower sequence than that disclosed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

As I wrote, Chapter 17, Construction Impacts, of the FEIS prepared by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), made no reference to such phasing. Rather, the bridge was presumed to be fully demolished and reconstructed within two years, during the construction of the temporary yard.

Also, the contract terms were more generous than predicted in the FEIS. While Forest City Ratner had three years to complete the job without penalty, a clause in the contract, signed 12/17/07, provides up to five years to complete the work in case of Unavoidable Delay.

One definition of Unavoidable Delay is a delay in "completing the Master Closing," which includes the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain and the closing of a purchase and sale agreement with the MTA/LIRR for the Vanderbilt Yard.

As I wrote 3/1/10, the bridge was originally supposed to reopen by the time a temporary railyard was completed--and the latter had been accomplished.

A key factor in the delay was likely Forest City Ratner's effort in 2009--well after the demolition process had begun--to renegotiate plans for a smaller and less costly permanent railyard.

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