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RFK construction to last more than decade

The Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, better known by its former name the Triborough Bridge, is undergoing a long-term makeover for its 75th anniversary that will last well into its 90th birthday.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels announced last week $1 billion in capital improvements that will replace surface and asphalt, reconstruct ramps and fix toll plazas on the bridge, which turns 75 July 11.

“Motorists will see work going on at the RFK Bridge well into the next decade,” Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara said in a statement. “Each project is vitally important to ensure that the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge continues to be a vibrant link in the region’s transportation network.”

The bridge, accessible in Queens via Hoyt Avenue in Astoria, connects the borough to Randall’s Island and then onto Manhattan at East 125th Street or the FDR Drive and to the Bronx at the Major Deegan and Bruckner expressways. Groundbreaking for the bridge began on Oct. 29. 1929, the day of the stockmarket crash which started the Great Depression, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it remains its oldest bridge and the first in the city designed for cars.

The first batch of work will be made up of about 10 projects costing as small as $900,000 to as large as $700 million that will take place from this year until 2016, which will result in temporary lane and ramp closures.

“Each project is designed to minimize customer impact by working off-peak when possible and safely maintaining as many lanes of traffic as we can,” MTA Bridges and Tunnels Chief Engineer Joe Keane said in a statement.

Some major projects that will affect Queens this year is a $13 million replacement of the wearing surface of all parts of the bridge, a $5 million plan to replace 40,000 square feet of surface on the Queens-to-Manhattan ramp and a $900,000 plan to replace 39,000 square feet of asphalt on the Randall’s Island ramps going from Randall’s Island to Queens and Queens to the Bronx.

In 2012-14, a $52 million project will also reconstruct the 80,000-square-foot Manhattan-to-Queens ramp. Additional projects are planned for Manhattan.

“While customers will see a lot of activity at the RFK Bridge for many years, in the end our goal is to keep the bridge part of the New York City landscape for many decades to come,” RFK Facility Engineer Rocco D’Angelo said in a statement. “We appreciate our customers’ patience while these improvements are underway.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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