Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that the County intends to enter into a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to reconstruct the Smith Point Bridge as a long term economical solution to the bridge’s compounding operation and maintenance concerns. The Smith Point Bridge, which was constructed in 1959 and serves as the main access point to the largest Suffolk County owned park, is traversed by approximately one million beachgoers and campers annually.
“The reconstruction of the Smith Point Bridge will be a state-of-the-art structure that will transport millions of residents and visitors alike to our world class county park for generations to come,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “We are committed to doing this project with a Project Labor Agreement in order to make sure this project is not only done right, but it is done effectively, efficiently, and safely. The men and women of the building trades have the training, the skills, the knowledge, and the ability to get a major project like this done.”
“The Building Trades Council strongly supports the vision of Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone as he leverages his relationships with Organized Labor to strengthen investments in infrastructure and rebuild the Smith Point Bridge,” said Matty Aracich, President of the Nassau Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council.“Project Labor Agreements not only provide real cost savings for the county but also keeps our local workforce economy strong and growing. We look forward to our continued collaboration to support meaningful investments in Suffolk County.”
A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement that sets the terms of employment on an entire construction project, guaranteeing uniform wages, work rules, and benefits across the multiple crafts employed on a project. PLAs lead to labor harmony, ensuring consistency and efficiency for the duration of a construction project.
The project is estimated to cost a total of $75 million, with efforts to secure funding from both the federal government and New York State underway. County Executive Bellone and the Suffolk County Legislature have currently allocated and appropriated more than $7 million for this project.
The current bridge, which began construction in 1956 and was opened in 1959, has structural deficiencies which can no longer be fixed effectively by interim repairs. The bridge, while still safe to use, is nearing its end of useful life. There are currently weight restrictions and vulnerabilities including exposed and broken tendons, cracks in the concrete, cracks at the beam ends, and frozen bearings. With narrow sidewalks for pedestrians, the bridge does not include any distinct accommodations for bicycles. Additionally, the bridge contains the original 1950s mechanical and electrical equipment, which is now obsolete.
If not reconstructed, deterioration will continue with weight restrictions expected to increase within the next several years to allow only passenger cars, with service and delivery trucks being banned from crossing completely.
In late 2018, the Suffolk County Department of Public Works submitted the final Design Approval Document to the New York State Department of Transportation. The final design approval document is awaiting approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
Once approval is received from the NYSDOT and FHWA the County will enter into the final design phase with construction expected to begin in 2021 with project completion by 2024. The new structure will be built to the west of the existing bridge, allowing the existing structure to remain in use until construction is complete.
The new modern design for the bridge, which is subject to approval by NYSDOT and FHWA, would be built to last more than 75 years and eliminate the need for a drawbridge with a 55-foot channel vertical clearance, compared to the current bridge, which has only a 22-foot clearance, a 100-foot channel horizontal clearance, two 12-foot lanes, narrow 4-foot sidewalks, and no bicycle accommodations. The new design also includes wider buffers for pedestrian traffic with two 5-foot shoulders and a 12-foot multi-use sidewalk, providing safer and easier access for pedestrians.
Smith Point County Park, which is only accessible via the Smith Point Bridge, is the most heavily used County Beach, generating significant revenue for the County and serving as an economic engine for the tourist economy. A 2003 report from the Suffolk County Legislature’s Budget Review Office estimates $256 million per year of economic activity is generated by the Suffolk County south shore beaches.