An $80.1 million project to resurface a large swath of the Long Island Expressway has reached its final stretch and is on track to be completed before the end of the month, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The much-anticipated plan to repave 287 lane miles, from Exit 64 at State Route 112 to the Suffolk and Nassau border, kicked off in late April and was slated to be completed by the year end, following sharp criticism from motorists and legislators about the interstate’s poor condition.
Motorists in two weeks can expect an uninterrupted ride through most of Suffolk, free of potholes or just-milled roads that temporarily had turned driving into a jarring, off-road experience.
Roughly 152,000 vehicles traverse the section being renewed, which includes the High-Occupancy Vehicle and three main travel lanes, shoulders, and 62 ramps.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Crews started working on the remaining westbound stretch on Oct. 12 between Exit 51 at State Route 231 and Exit 48 at Round Swamp Road.
- Roughly 152,000 vehicles traverse the Suffolk section of the LIE being renewed, which includes the High-Occupancy Vehicle and three main travel lanes, shoulders, and 62 ramps.
- The project is slated to completed by the end of the year, and the new asphalt is expected to have a 10- to 12-year life span.
Stephen Canzoneri, spokesman for the state DOT, said in a statement that the expressway should be finished "pending any changes to weather conditions."
The project started in chunks, beginning with the eastbound segment that was finished in late August. That paved the way for work to begin in the opposite travel lanes starting near Exit 64 and heading west.
On Oct. 12, crews reached the last westbound piece that remains to be resurfaced, between Exit 51 at State Route 231 and Exit 48 at Round Swamp Road, according to the DOT.
Assemb. Keith Brown (R-Northport) was one of several lawmakers who called the condition of the interstate “horrendous” and previously advocated for urgent remediation.
“We were getting a lot of complaints from people having blowouts from the amounts and depths of the potholes,” Brown said. “It was creating a dangerous situation for motorists and motorcyclists."
Industry experts said the interstate was ravaged by a combination of factors, including traffic load, especially the wear and tear caused by trucks; freeze and thaw cycles during winter, and the lack of a routine maintenance schedule.
When pavements are in fair or rough condition, motorists can expect to shell out more money for fuel and maintenance costs.
"That road was horrible," said Lucius Riccio, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation and partner and executive vice president at Syosset-based Gedeon GRC Consulting. He said tight industry standards guide the roadwork.
Parts of the LIE were last repaved in 2015, when the east and westbound lanes between Exits 37 and 46 were completed.
Repaving is a multistep process, industry experts said. The first phase involves the more time-consuming process of milling, done with machines that crunch between three and four inches of the top layer of the road that is removed. The underlying road surface and drainage structures also are repaired.
This leaves long-grooved segments of the road that are cleared of debris and open to drivers until the face-lift is complete, which could take several days. Driving on the rough road is safe until a new layer is poured and flattened.
“It is a much more difficult process to mill. Laying down asphalt is like putting down frosting on a cake. Whereas taking apart the road, you don’t want to damage the base and you need make sure you get the right depth,” Riccio said. “If you mess up the prep, the road will never be good.”
Chris Beckhans, president of Long Island ABATE — American Bikers Awareness, Training & Education, said driving on milled roads has been an inconvenience for many motorcycle riders.
“When they grate the road, there is a lot of dust and foreign material left behind. And when you’re riding a motorcycle, you don’t have a cabin air filter, so you’re breathing in all that dust — and that actually flies up and hits the windshield, as well as our faces, if we don’t have a full-face helmet on,” Beckhans said.
The new asphalt is expected to have a 10- to 12-year life span.
“Aside from it being long overdue, it’s definitely a major improvement, and I’m happy it’s coming to an end,” Beckhans said.