Contractors race to finish Ocean Parkway repairs

Construction crews continue work on portions of Ocean Parkway that were destroyed during superstorm Sandy. Videojournalist: Steve Pfost (April 22, 2013) 

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Contractors racing to finish the Ocean Parkway and dune repairs expect to have most of the work completed by late Wednesday -- the key deadline for securing 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government for much of the project.

The $33.2-million project is set to cost New York State just $3 million -- provided work on the roads and dunes that were entirely destroyed by superstorm Sandy is completed on time.

Robert Harding, project manager for the triventure that won the contract, said Monday the job is on track.

"The road will be finished and ready by late Wednesday. Temporary lane closures on the eastbound side might be needed as we finish plantings on the road side of the dunes, but from the 24th, the road's done and the new dunes are in place," Harding said.

The final patches of asphalt were laid Monday and work on the perimeter of the Robert Moses traffic circle, badly undermined in the Oct. 29 storm, is also finished, Harding said.

With that deadline met, the state can qualify for 100 percent reimbursement for $18.2 million of the work from the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief fund. The federal government also will fund 80 percent of the remainder as part of an agreed funding formula. In total, five miles of dunes and about two miles of the parkway were damaged in the storm.

To ensure Wednesday's deadline was met, the state Department of Transportation imposed stiff penalties on the triventure of Bove Industries of East Setauket, John P. Picone of Lawrence and Tully Construction of Queens, of $25,000 for each day past the deadline.

Passing the milestone will be a welcome development for state parks and transportation officials -- and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo -- all of whom have pledged publicly that the project will be done by Memorial Day, giving full public access to the beaches in time for the official start of summer.

For the Long Island traveling public and visitors, the road's reopening should also bring relief in easing congestion on the heavily trafficked Southern State Parkway. When fully open, Ocean Parkway carries an average annual daily traffic volume of about 20,000 vehicles. With the single-lane Ocean Parkway emergency detour in effect since Sandy, much of this traffic has diverted onto the Southern State and other roads.

Despite talk of hardening infrastructure in Sandy's aftermath, the Ocean Parkway-Robert Moses traffic circle repair has only restored the roadway and dunes to pre-Sandy condition, with no decision yet on what's being considered to make the vital barrier that helps protect South Shore communities more resistant to future storms.

Phillip Eng, chief engineer for the state DOT, said last month that the state was looking at how the issue had been addressed elsewhere as the department weighs a bevy of infrastructure demands in light of Sandy.

Monday, amid an easterly wind gusting over 20 mph, workers scurried to unload several thousand shrubs off the back of a covered 18-wheeler on the still-closed eastbound side of Ocean Parkway.

A 10-foot-high pile of topsoil and several piles of mulch lay on the still-closed southern side of the roadway. A telescoped conveyor belt pumped the dirt onto the side of the dunes facing the roadway to form a planting bed for the hundreds of thousands of shrubs, vines and ground covers being planted to help secure them.

But Harding, of John P. Picone, was undaunted and paid tribute to workers who braved the elements to get the job done. "The planting will continue, but the road's ready," he said.

Editor's note: John P. Picone Inc. is based in Lawrence. The company's location was incorrect in a story on Tuesday about the Ocean Parkway reconstruction project.

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