New Harlem River Drive Ramp To RFK Bridge Opens Ahead Of Schedule

It's smooth sailing on the brand new $9 million Harlem River Drive southbound ramp to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge which reopened to traffic December 19th ahead of schedule.

The opening is ahead of schedule thanks to a fast track contract delivery method used for the first time by Bridges and Tunnels on a major infrastructure project.

The entire project took just eight months and it was executed with minimal impact to motorists. A temporary ramp was constructed and opened in September before the nearly 50-year-old ramp was demolished and a new ramp built.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara said the accelerated design/build contract was so successful that it will be used in future Capital Budget projects, including a $60 million project to be awarded in the spring to replace the RFK Bridge's Manhattan to Queens ramp.

"We are pleased to announce the opening of this brand new ramp in time for the busy holiday season traffic," said Bridges and Tunnels Chief Engineer Joe Keane. The work, which was expected to be finished by the end of December, isĀ  part of the nearly $1 billion in capital improvements planned over the next 15 years for the RFK Bridge, which connects Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens and carries an average 170,000 vehicles daily.

In addition to the Harlem River Drive ramp, several longer term lane closures at the Manhattan toll plaza and other RFK ramps that resulted in needed improvements to roadway conditions and other structural elements have been lifted until work begins again in the spring.

Keane praised Mount Vernon contractor Defoe and the entire MTA B&T project team for completing this project, which was complicated by the NYC DOT project at the Willis Avenue Bridge and required careful coordination with New York City Transit whose busy 126th Street Bus Depot is adjacent to the ramp.

The southbound ramp was scheduled to be rebuilt at the end of the current Capital Budget but the plan was expedited after recent inspections determined there was severe deterioration due to the bridge's age and several years of back-to-back harsh winters.

Motorists will continue to notice construction activity at the bridge for years to come. In 2012, work will include additional milling and paving work at the Manhattan toll plaza, paving on the Manhattan to Randall's Island ramp, and the start of design and initial construction work to replace and upgrade the Manhattan-to-Queens ramp.

The largest piece of the $1 billion in capital improvements includes an overhaul of the Manhattan and Bronx toll plazas and their supporting structures, currently scheduled to begin in 2014.

The RFK Bridge is the oldest of the MTA's seven bridges and two tunnels. Built during the height of the Great Depression, the 75-year-old bridge is one of the first Public Works Administration projects. Known throughout the region as the Triborough Bridge, it was renamed in honor of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in November 2008.

New Harlem River Drive Ramp To MTA Bridges and Tunnels' RFK Bridge Opens Ahead Of Schedule

HRD Ramp1: New rebar put in place before concrete deck is poured on the new Harlem River Drive ramp to the RFK Bridge. The Harlem River Lift Span is in the background.

New Harlem River Drive Ramp To MTA Bridges and Tunnels' RFK Bridge Opens Ahead Of Schedule

HRD Ramp2: New $9 million Harlem River Drive southbound ramp, which reopened to traffic on Dec. 19th.