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City, engineer blame each other for closed bridge

June 4, 2013 2:50:04 PM PDT
As the Eyewitness News Investigators reported in April, a bridge in Queens is so riddled with cracks, the city has kept it closed to traffic.

Not only is this bridge still closed more than a year after a complete overhaul, but there appears to be no real fix short of starting all over again.

Now the city blames the engineer and the engineer faults the city.

The 149th Street Bridge is still closed and still cracking.

Six weeks ago, the city's Department of Transportation Commissioner gave little explanation for why the new bridge which has doubled in cost has been closed to traffic for more than a year.

"There were issues with the concrete and we're not going to open a bridge until its safe," Janette Sadik-Khan, the NYC DOT Commissioner said.

Making it safe could take a long time. Eyewitness News obtained a letter DOT sent to the bridge engineering firm Gandhi which states, "These cracks exist through the full depth of the bridge deck."

But Gandhi wrote back recommending as a fix that the cracks ''be sealed with an epoxy sealer" as a way to make the "deck safe" for traffic.

"You cover over the cracks but not fix the underlying problem that the overpass is structurally deficient," said State Senator Tony Avella, (D) Queens.

State Senator Tony Avella has also been trying to get to the bottom of why a bridge refurbished at a cost to taxpayers of $7 million is unsafe for cars.

"There are structural defects and the city has to go right back and repair them, it doesn't make any sense," State Sen. Avella said.

The city DOT would not answer any of Eyewitness News' questions, but in court documents, the city blames the firm for ''failure to design a bridge in compliance with the minimum load requirements" which ''resulted in significant structural defects."

But in a letter to the DOT, Gandhi blames the city saying it should have anticipated these cracks because the DOT approved a money-saving design that uses "one-third less steel than the conventional design" and because of that "the potential for the concrete bridge deck to crack is increased."

"I find it very frustrating," said Peter Condiles, a resident.

This resident who looked over the documents with Eyewitness News says all the finger pointing gets nothing accomplished. He just wants a bridge that's safe.

"For three years now, we can't use the street, I feel like we all paid for it and nothing's happening, it's a stale-mate," Condiles said.

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