A narrow overpass in East Patchogue, where officials say emergency vehicles can get blocked by traffic while bringing patients to a nearby hospital, will undergo a major expansion over the next several years, officials said.

Hospital Road Bridge is expected to be widened as part of a $26 million project announced Friday by state and local officials, who said they had spent two decades seeking funding for the work. Federal highway funds are expected to pay for most of the project.

The two-lane bridge, which spans Sunrise Highway, has no median and no shoulders, leaving no room for drivers to allow ambulances and fire trucks to pass during emergencies, officials said. That has caused delays for emergency responders carrying heart attack victims and women in labor to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, less than a half mile away.

“Any delay . . . could be life-threatening,” said Gregory C. Miglino Jr., chief of the South Country Ambulance Co., one of more than a dozen emergency service agencies that regularly use the bridge.

“On any given day, it’s difficult to deal with this bridge, at any time,” he said, adding the road becomes slippery from ice in the winter.

The bridge has been deemed “functionally obsolete” by state transportation officials because it can no longer handle daily traffic volume. The bridge carries an average 12,044 vehicles a day, according to the Brookhaven Town Highway Department.

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Details of the expansion are incomplete. Town highway officials plan to start designing the new bridge in the fall and put the project out for bid next year, with construction expected to begin in 2018, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in an interview.

He could not estimate when construction would be completed.

“It’s going to make things safer, first and foremost,” he said. “It is going to allow for an ease of traffic that is clearly a bottleneck and is going to replace, obviously, a piece of aging and insufficient infrastructure that has been at the top of my list to be able to upgrade.”

Most of the money — about $20.5 million — for the Hospital Road project will come from the federal Safe Bridges Act, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said Friday during a news conference at the North Patchogue Fire Department. The rest of the funding is expected to come from Brookhaven and state coffers.

Traffic crowds the Hospital Road Bridge on Aug. 5, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Officials said traffic congestion on the bridge is at its worst during late-afternoon shift changes at the hospital.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) noted that the hospital and the North Patchogue Fire Department’s Station 3 are less than a mile apart, with the bridge in between.

“That’s unacceptable,” Murray said.

Richard T. Margulis, the hospital’s president and chief executive, said the bridge expansion should improve response times.

“The work that will be done on this bridge will improve access to a Level 2 trauma center,” Margulis said, referring to the hospital’s emergency room. “It will also bring relief to our employees, who have to cross the bridge twice a day.”

The Hospital Road Bridge, Aug. 5, 2016 Photo Credit: Ed Betz