Streams

Workers Set to Install Brooklyn Bridge Canvas

Monday, August 02, 2010

A four-year, $508 million renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge is currently underway. But beyond some lane closures and a few construction signs, you might not have noticed much of a difference. That’s about to change.

Picture yourself on a bridge on the East River with a tangerine canvas that blocks out the skies.

Well, all right, it’s not going to be tangerine.

“The canvas is mostly neutral colors, like light brown, off-white -- these are the normal colors which usually happen,” says Hasan Ahmed. He’s director of the East River Bridges for the New York City Department of Transportation. He says workers will install a huge canvas shield that will protect motorists while the Brooklyn Bridge is repainted. “It will be lots of material,” he promises.

It will have to be. Workers will repaint five million square feet of steel -- and first the old leaded paint has to be removed. Hence the need for a canvas shield. And that necessitates a lot more than throwing down a drop cloth. Ahmed describes what it will look like.  “In a couple of months, you will see a major difference in the outlook of the bridge, when the containment is styled to creep up from one side, little by little a whole section of the bridge will be covered.”

The canvas won’t cover the bridge’s wood-plank pedestrian walkway, which is elevated above the road. But the drive across the span will soon change. “When you are driving on the bridge, you will not see the sky,” Ahmed says, “because you will see a white or off-white or light brown shield on the top of you.”

And that’s not all. Two westbound lanes are currently closed for construction most nights, leaving just one Manhattan-bound lane in service. “So one lane is more than enough.  That’s why you will not usually see any back up unless there is an accident.”

But even at noon on a Friday, the traffic is starting to back up. Couple that with upcoming work on the Manhattan Bridge -- which won’t be shrouded in canvas -- and now might be a good time for drivers to rethink their East River crossing strategies.

New York City Department of Transportation
The Queensboro Bridge with the canvas treatment.
Kate Hinds/WNYC
Kate Hinds
Kate Hinds/WNYC
Kate Hinds/WNYC
Kate HInds/WNYC

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