A new bridge in New York opens Thursday.
On time. And on budget.
Usually, there’s plenty to complain about when it comes to New York’s transportation infrastructure, from train tracks and tunnels in disrepair to potholes on the roads. And, too often, construction on something new, or a repair of something old, seems like it’ll never end. That’s the unfortunate norm.
Not so with the new Kosciuszko Bridge. The first span of the two-bridge crossing, which connects Brooklyn and Queens across the Newtown Creek, opens Thursday, a little more than two years after construction began.
That’s an impressive infrastructure win by any measure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo shepherded the $555 million project using design-build, a strategy that allows government to connect the design and construction phases of a project. That can save time and money, and create accountability, because a single company or partnership wins the contract and manages the entire effort.
In this case, it worked well. The old Kosciuszko, which opened in 1939, is a decrepit, too-steep contraption of cracking asphalt and rusting beams, way past its prime and perpetually congested. Officials and drivers have long worried about its safety and durability. Time was of the essence, and Cuomo delivered.
There’s more to do, of course. The old Kosciuszko will be demolished in July, and it’ll be another three years before the second bridge is completed. Until then, even a new bridge won’t prevent traffic. But ultimately, there’ll be four Brooklyn-bound lanes and five Queens-bound lanes, plus a biking and walking section. That should help.
The new Kosciuszko should be a model for the state and the city on how to get things done. But for now, it can’t be, because NYC doesn’t have the ability to use design-build for its own projects.
If state officials really want to make design-build the model for how to build here, they have to extend its use to NYC. Perhaps then, the Kosciuszko’s on-time, on-budget success story won’t be quite so rare.