When the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced plans to replace the 80-year old notorious bottleneck, numerous companies responded to a request for proposals.
“It was a best value selection,” said Tolun Tuglu, projective executive at Skanska, the Queens-based company that oversaw the design effort. “We were not the lowest price. However, we had the best value as far as our design and our proposal was concerned.”
NYSDOT selected Skanska in April 2014 to complete the first portion of the bridge, the five-lane Queens-bound section. Part of the contract included the design, such as the nearly 300-foot towers that are now staples of the Brooklyn-Queens skyline.
The Kosciuszko Bridge is a cable-stay bridge. Other examples of cable-stays include the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River and the Goethals Bridge in Staten Island.
Tuglu explained that the design was chosen because of its reliability.
“There are less moving components, and the connection of the bridge deck to the cables are more simple,” he said.
Additionally, cable-stay bridges can traverse longer spans than traditional suspension bridges.
One of the largest challenges of the project was demolishing the existing bridge while ensuring traffic could still flow between Queens and Brooklyn. This was accomplished by building the new bridge adjacent to the old one, diverting the traffic to the new bridge, then taking the other old one out of service.
By moving construction equipment and cantilevering off the edges of newly built sections of the bridge allowed Skanska to build a completely new bridge while not halting traffic or infringing on Newtown Creek.
“I think it was sort of neat how we used the bridge to help us build the rest of the bridge,” said Skanska communications manager Christopher Villari.
Once the Queens-bound portion was completed, demolition work began.
The main span of the original truss bridge was slowly lowered onto barges on the water, and a controlled explosion took care of the lanes leading to the old bridge in October 2017.
However, even though the former bridge is still serving a purpose. According to Villari, it was placed off the coast of Fire Island on Long Island to act as a substrate for artificial reefs.
The bridge was also completed four years ahead of schedule, something practically unheard of in the New York construction industry.
“We certainly beat our contract schedule,” said Tuglu.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge is the first major bridge to be constructed in the city since the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in 1964.
Aside from the new bridge, Skanska is responsible for other large-scale construction projects throughout Queens, including LaGuardia Airport and the NYC Ferry terminals.
“We’re enabling the future of transportation in the borough of Queens,” Villari said. “We’re just city builders, we want to build for the public.”