The new ramp connecting the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge to the Harlem River Drive opened on Monday, November 23, easing the way for motorists to enter the Harlem River Drive directly from the bridge without detouring through East Harlem streets as the were forced to do for more than 62 years since the initial segment opened in 1958.
In the past, drivers on the RFK Bridge who wanted to travel northbound on the Harlem River were forced to exit between 125th and 126th Streets, travel northbound on Second Avenue, then merge onto the on-ramp, which ran along a community playground. The parallel direct southbound connection from the Harlem River Drive to the RFK Bridge has been in place since the Harlem River Drive’s opening in February 1958.
The new ramp project was originally expected to take 15 months to build, but contractors are completing the project in just 14 months, one month ahead of schedule. Gas emissions in East Harlem are projected to be reduced by more than 2,500 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, which should help ease pressure on childhood asthma rates in the area.
“It is almost unbelievable that a bridge of this magnitude, one of the busiest crossings in the country, wasn’t already connected to a major highway like Harlem River Drive,”Governor Cuomo said. “Despite the barriers of COVID-19, New York State is building back better for our future. Not only was this project completed ahead of time, but this new bridge connection will improve safety and traffic flow for travelers, as well as provide a higher quality of life in the surrounding community by reducing noise, traffic and air pollution.”
The new ramp is projected to save 17,000 motorists a day an average of over 3 minutes during peak travel times daily, adding up to 150,000 hours per year of total travel time savings, or nine hours a year for a daily commuter pre-pandemic.