Drivers and commuters beware — the first phase of a major construction project on North Avenue is about to get underway. Beginning February 23, you should expect detours in the area of Burling Lane, Garden Street, and Station Plaza North. Then, in mid-April, alternating lane closures on North Avenue itself will affect traffic even more. Drivers should expect delays and choose alternate routes whenever possible, and commuters should keep in mind the western entrance/exit to the Transit Center on Memorial Highway.

Why is this happening?

The North Avenue bridge than spans I-95 has reached the end of its useful life, and because of safety considerations, it must be replaced. This project is being directed and undertaken by the New York State Thruway Authority, not the City, and our local influence over the Thruway Authority’s actions is very limited.

While the City will advocate strongly for minimum disruption and speedy completion, I don’t want to kid you: this is going to be a major inconvenience … and it will last a long time. The first phase alone, which entails utility relocation, is expected to take about 18 months. Although at least one lane of traffic in both directions will be open for most of that period, there is no doubt that bottlenecks and delays will be frequent.

The second construction phase promises even more disruptions, as the entire bridge is slated to be demolished and replaced. But that won’t start until 2015, and we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it. (Yes, that was a very bad joke.)

The City’s team will be working hard to provide timely information, so that all of us can plan around this project and reduce the impact on our daily schedules. As construction proceeds, there will be updated signage, bulletins on the web, and automated phone messages as warranted. Make sure to sign up for alerts or visit for details about the project.

There is one piece of good news: when the project is finally finished, the new bridge will be more efficient, safe, and attractive. But we’ll have to put up with a lot of headaches between now and then.

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