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Demanding Answers: What's Taking So Long With The Van Wyck Expressway?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For more than eight years, drivers who use the Van Wyck Expressway have dealt with frustrating delays as the cost of the project has soared.

What's taking so long?

CBS2's Political Reporter Marcia Kramer asked the master builder himself, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"I am a Queens boy," the governor said right before cutting the ribbon for the newly repaired Queens Midtown Tunnel, damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

But if you want bragging rights for having Queens roots, you have to take the pain with the acclaim, Kramer reported. Right now, there are some borough residents who have a bone to pick with "Andy from Queens."

"Construction is horrible around here. You can't go nowhere," one driver said.

"Very annoying," said another.

"It's not easy to travel everywhere," another said.

"I'm always late," a man added. "I have to leave an hour earlier to get on the Van Wyck."

The work began in 2010, but that was just phase one, which, according to the state's records, was a year and a half late and millions of dollars over budget.

They're now working on phase two, phase three and the yet-to-be started phase four to replace six decaying overpasses, rehab four more and widen the highway from six lanes to eight – a complex and intricate project that first required widening everything else to accommodate more lanes.

As the phases have multiplied, so has the cost.

When CBS2 first examined the project in March 2016, it had a price tag of $300 million. In October 2016, when the state Department of Transportation took CBS2 on a tour, it was $400 million. Now, it's $700 million.

Kramer: "What's taking so long, governor?"

Cuomo: "We have been widening all the bridges and overpasses and moving the exit and entrance ramps to allow for an additional lane... a massive undertaking."

"Takes time," he added.

The time part frustrates Cuomo, who built the new Tappan Zee and Kosciuszko bridges in record time.

"Look, I'm not big on patience," he said. "We are doing the impossible... And you had to operate the road in the meantime."

Officials now say the end date is March 2021, which is either possible or an impossible dream.

"Phases 2, 3 and 4 of the Van Wyck/Kew Gardens Interchange project – which were initiated and overseen by Governor Cuomo – are on time and on budget," said Commissioner Paul Karas. "Phase 1 predated this governor and was behind schedule because the previous administration did not effectively prioritize the various components of the project.

"Governor Cuomo took office in 2011 and made it a priority to get the project back on track to expand this vital artery and ease traffic for commuters as quickly as possible," he added.

A spokesperson for the governor said phase one took so long, because "time was not a focus then." She said the rest of the contracts are on time and on budget.

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