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Nassau Expressway flood-control project to be done by 2019, Cuomo says

A car splashes through a puddle along the

A car splashes through a puddle along the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the $130 million project will strengthen a flood-prone stretch of the road that's also known as Route 878 and serves as an evacuation route. Credit: Barry Sloan

A nearly milelong stretch of the Nassau Expressway will be reconstructed and elevated by 2019, six years ahead of the previous timeline, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Sunday in Lawrence.

The $130 million project will strengthen a flood-prone stretch of the road that’s also known as Route 878 and serves as an evacuation route for 400,000 residents, he said. The project also will provide an economic development boost for the area near Kennedy Airport, he told an audience at the Five Towns Community Center.

Cuomo called funding large transportation projects such as this “one of the fundamental obligations of government.”

He said of the previous timeline, “The problem is that I may be dead by 2025. That’s a long time from now, and who wants to wait and put up with it until 2025?”

He remembered the stretch of road flooding back when he lived in Hollis, Queens, and would visit a friend in Inwood. “I remember going up and down, saying to myself, why doesn’t somebody fix this? I mean does anybody notice besides me that there’s 3 feet of water here and I’m afraid that I may have to get out and swim?” he said.

Preliminary design of the project is scheduled to start in May. Construction is scheduled to start in January 2019 and end later that year. It will raise portions of the roadway that regularly flood, as during Saturday night’s rain. The section to be improved, from Rockaway Turnpike to Burnside Avenue, carries 56,000 vehicles each day.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said the project “had become a symbol of what government can’t accomplish.”

Legis. Carrié Solages, who represents the area, said he hoped the project would provide an economic boost to Inwood, which he called “the forgotten fifth town” of the Five Towns area.

Cuomo was introduced at the event by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, in their first joint public appearance since Mangano was arrested on federal corruption charges in October. Mangano has pleaded not guilty.

Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters after the speech that he continued to have a “working relationship” with Mangano, a Republican. “I’m working with him the way I have and his personal situations are just those,” he said.

Mangano said before the event he was keeping a busy schedule and other meetings kept him from other Cuomo appearances on Long Island.

Nassau Legis. Laura Curran, a Baldwin Democrat running for county executive, said after Cuomo’s speech, “There’s sort of a ‘Twilight Zone’ aspect to it. It’s sort of surreal. The fact an indicted county executive is introducing the governor, it’s embarrassing.”

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