Reconstruction of the chronically congested Hospital Road Bridge in East Patchogue is expected to start next spring — offering potential relief for commuters and first responders who struggle with bottlenecks over the narrow span, officials said.
The two-lane bridge — which has been deemed "functionally obsolete" by state transportation officials because it can't handle the 12,000 vehicles that use it daily — will be widened with the addition of turning lanes and sidewalks, and intersection improvements on adjoining service roads, officials said.
Fire and ambulance company officials have complained that traffic congestion on the bridge, which spans Sunrise Highway, often blocks first responders trying to reach Long Island Community Hospital, about a half-mile south of the overpass.
The $22.8 million project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the state Department of Transportation said in a statement.
In a statement, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the bridge is a "critical artery" for residents and "vital lifeline for law enforcement and first responders."
"Right now, the state of the bridge ... poses a threat to all those who cross it, and the continued progress of this project is excellent news for all who rely on its functionality," Zeldin said in a statement.
State officials on Dec. 3 awarded a contract to DeFoe Corp. of Mount Vernon to rebuild the bridge, Zeldin said in a news release.
Zeldin said 80% of the project will be federally funded, using money from the 2015 Safe Bridges Act, part of a transportation bill signed into law by President Barack Obama.
No funds from the federal infrastructure bill signed in November by President Joe Biden will be needed for the Hospital Road project, Zeldin spokesman Jacob Murphy said.
The overpass has no median and no shoulders, leaving little space for drivers to move over and allow ambulances and fire trucks to pass during emergencies. The problem is worst during late-afternoon hospital shift changes, officials have said.
The new bridge will include "additional through travel lanes, turning lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians," state DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in a statement to Newsday. "Improvements to the intersections with the service roads are also planned."
Long Island Community Hospital president Richard T. Margulis said officials there were "grateful" for the project.
"These improvements will provide better and safer access for our patients and employees, while shortening the response times of our EMS, fire and law enforcement agencies, who are important partners in providing care to the 400,000 lives we serve in the community," Margulis said in a statement.
The bridge widening project had been announced by local officials in August 2016.
Since then, state and Brookhaven Town officials have developed designs and acquired additional land needed to expand the bridge, officials have said.