Multi-Phase Project Revamps Heavily Traveled Corridor, Improves Access to JFK Airport, Increases Safety, and Advances Ambitious Climate Goals
Fortifies Climate Resilience with Upgraded Stormwater Drainage Along the Roadways
Promotes Multi-Modal Transportation with Dedicated Shared Use Path for Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the completion of the $739 million Kew Gardens Interchange project in Queens, marking the conclusion of a multi-phase undertaking by New York State to revamp this heavily traveled commuter corridor. The transformative project addressed a number of key challenges stemming from the structural and operational deficiencies of the old infrastructure, showcasing how a more strategic and visionary design provides solutions and maximizes the benefits for the public.
“The transformation of this vital interchange near one of New York’s major airports is the latest accomplishment in our efforts to modernize the state’s transportation network,” Governor Hochul said. “The complete overhaul of Kew Gardens Interchange will provide a safer, less congested network of roads – improving the travel experience for nearly 600,000 daily motorists, enhancing quality of life, and boosting the regional economy for decades to come.”
The revamped Kew Gardens Interchange allows for faster travel times, safer merging and exiting, and more reliable connections for the hundreds of thousands of commuters, travelers and local businesses who use it daily to reach the John F. Kennedy International Airport and other key destinations throughout the region. It features 22 new bridges, three rehabilitated bridges, wider travel lanes, new lane configurations, updated signage, upgraded stormwater drainage, and a new dedicated shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.
These improvements and others collectively provide enhanced safety and resilience for all users in Queens and the surrounding communities.
The Kew Gardens Interchange is the complex intersection of the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike, serving nearly 600,000 vehicles daily. In the past, major deficiencies throughout the interchange contributed to congestion and higher than average accident rates. After careful assessment, the New York State Department of Transportation concluded that a bold and complex undertaking was necessary to adequately address these challenges and invested a combined $739 million to make a number of structural and operational improvements through four construction contracts at the interchange.
Phase IV, the final phase which cost $366 million and was funded by the State, tied together improvements already made during the first three phases of construction. It installed five new bridges and replaced six existing bridges; widened travel lanes and shoulders; improved on and off ramps to enhance traffic flow; changed lane configurations for safer merging and exiting; improved sight distance; updated signage; and made lighting, drainage and landscaping improvements.
In October 2021, Governor Hochul announced significant milestones as part of Phase IV, including the completion of new ramps to provide easier connections for motorists entering the westbound Grand Central Parkway from the westbound Union Turnpike, and for those heading from the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway at Exit 8W to the Grand Central Parkway. At the time, Phase IV also increased the merge length from the eastbound Jackie Robinson Parkway to westbound Grand Central Parkway – which allowed for the removal of a stop sign at the end of the ramp – and upgraded the drainage systems.
Since that time, Phase IV proceeded to eliminate a stop sign from Jackie Robinson Parkway to the eastbound Grand Central Parkway. The project created an acceleration lane on the ramp from westbound Union Turnpike to westbound Grand Central Parkway and also eliminated a stop sign where these two roads meet.
The project improved at-grade ramp connections between the Grand Central Parkway, Union Turnpike, Jackie Robinson Parkway, southbound Van Wyck Expressway and northbound Van Wyck Expressway roadways with standard-width shoulders, to allow for safer operations. Reconstruction of the single lane ramp from southbound Van Wyck Expressway to westbound Jackie Robinson Parkway created a standard-width lane and standard-width shoulder for safer operations.
The project further reconstructed the storm water drainage system to mitigate the existing roadway flooding, specifically along Grand Central Parkway, Union Turnpike and Jackie Robinson Parkway.
Additionally, the project addressed pedestrian safety, creating a dedicated shared use path that provides access to the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike subway station and includes bicycle access to and from existing bicycle paths. The dedicated path eliminates a pedestrian route which previously forced pedestrians to utilize three crossings with substantial high-speed vehicular traffic.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York State continues to be a national leader, advancing critical infrastructure, showcasing how these big investments in transportation help to fuel our economy and uplift communities with reliable connectivity. Thousands of commuters, travelers and truck drivers pass through the Kew Gardens interchange each day to reach destinations throughout New York City and Long Island. With this multi-phase project finally completed, we can ensure a safer, more efficient flow of people and goods at this vital corridor.”
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. said, “The completion of this multi-stage project brings brand new travel infrastructure to this vital roadway. The Kew Gardens Interchange will allow commuters better access to the many points of interest around Queens including JFK Airport. By making these roads easier and safer to travel — for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike — it will benefit commuters who use these roads every day as well as those traveling through our city.”
Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi said, “Strong, up-to-date infrastructure is the backbone of our communities. This will connect people from across Queens, and also make commutes much safer for thousands of drivers, bikers, and walkers. I speak for all of our neighbors when extending our gratitude to State DOT and Governor Hochul for having the vision and the wherewithal to effectively carry out this massive undertaking.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr. said, “The successful overhaul of the Kew Gardens Interchange, located just outside Queens Borough Hall, is a significant achievement and a major milestone in our continued push to modernize Queens’ transportation infrastructure. Drivers and commuters who travel through the interchange to reach my office and other destinations across Queens will now experience safer and smoother rides while reducing congestion and cutting commute times. The Kew Gardens Interchange project was a vitally important undertaking, and I thank Governor Hochul and state Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez for seeing it through to completion.”
In the past, the completed Phase I project included widening a portion of the Van Wyck Expressway and rehabilitating the exit ramp from the northbound Van Wyck to westbound Queens Boulevard, four bridges over the Van Wyck, the Van Wyck Bridge over Main Street, and the Queens Boulevard Bridge over Main Street. This project also included constructing auxiliary lanes on both the northbound and southbound Van Wyck between the Grand Central Parkway and Main Street and provided a dedicated exit lane southbound to Hillside Avenue.
The completed Phase II project constructed a new, wider northbound Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, which carries three travel lanes now that Phase III is completed. In addition, it replaced the one-lane entrance ramp connecting the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Union Turnpike with the northbound Van Wyck Expressway with a new two-lane ramp. A new deck was installed on the eastbound Union Turnpike bridge over the Grand Central Parkway connector ramps, and a new deck and steel girders were installed on the bridge where Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway merge.
The completed Phase III replaced the existing deteriorated two-lane Van Wyck Expressway southbound viaduct over the Grand Central Parkway with a continuous three-lane viaduct and constructed new exits to the westbound Union Turnpike and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The three lanes from the Van Wyck Expressway also now merge with two lanes from the Grand Central Parkway over a longer distance.