New Bridge Keeps Traffic Flowing to the Bronx’s City Island

After more than a century of providing motorists with access to a historic New York City seaside neighborhood and popular local destination, the old City Island Bridge has been removed and replaced with a new bridge.

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WSP USA was the resident engineering and inspection firm throughout constructability review, redesign and construction of the new bridge crossing Eastchester Bay, on behalf of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT).

The original bridge, built in 1901, had historic significance and restoration was considered as a possible option. However, by 2011 it became clear to the NYCDOT that the best approach to the deteriorating structure was to design and build a new City Island Bridge.

“There are no other bridges to City Island, and this is a go-to destination for people in the Bronx, hosting annual events, boating and marine activities, and other attractions,” said Dhiaa Shubber, resident engineer for WSP on the project. “When we started the process, the old bridge was nearing the end of its service life. Replacement was the only way to go, and the client was eager to provide the City Island community with a reliable new bridge.”

The $102 million project opened to traffic on Oct. 29, 2017, although work is continuing with the removal of a temporary bridge that accommodated traffic during construction, and on the rehabilitation of the seawall.

“The new bridge features wider traffic lanes, dedicated bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks for pedestrians, and features a higher profile to accommodate boat navigation in the bay,” Shubber said.

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The new City Island Bridge. The temporary steel bridge, located behind the new bridge, is currently being demolished.

Temporary Changes

Although only 950 feet in length, the City Island Bridge replacement project proved to be a complex undertaking, as two contractor-initiated value engineering proposals led to design changes early in the process, significantly altering both the temporary and permanent bridge designs.

The first major stage of the project involved the construction of an off-line temporary bridge to facilitate demolition of the original seven-span structure and construction of the new City Island Bridge while maintaining the same level of services and access to the island. A change proposed by the contractor, Tutor Perini, involved changing the temporary bridge type to a modular steel structure.

WSP reviewed the new proposal to assess the constructability and cost for the new temporary bridge, and assisted NYCDOT officials with negotiations that led to the approval of the change, resulting in a substantial cost benefit.

“The temporary bridge was equal in size to the existing bridge, and was able to maintain traffic at all times without disrupting access between City Island and the Rodman’s Neck peninsula of the Bronx,” Shubber said.

The temporary bridge opened in mid-December 2015, and accommodated traffic through the opening of the permanent bridge.

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The original City Island Bridge, built in 1901, was deteriorating to the point that demolition and reconstruction was necessary. The finials at the top of the truss have been preserved.

Another Change in Plans

When WSP performed a constructability review of the City Island Bridge design in 2011, it was initially planned to be the first cable-stayed bridge constructed in New York City. However, when work began on the temporary bridge, the community expressed concerns with the design not blending with the overall character of the community.

WSP helped review conceptual plans to replace the existing bridge with various structural alternatives, such as a short tower suspension bridge, a short tower cable-stay structure, and a long-span girder structure. After several public hearings concerning the bridge design, the contractor developed the designs for a three-span structural steel bridge. Tutor Perini prepared the design that was ultimately approved by the city and the community.

“Throughout the decision-making process, WSP helped the client, community residents and local officials find the viable alternatives and achieve their goals with this new bridge structure,” Shubber said.

WSP facilitated the design change from a cable-stay to causeway bridge, and responsibilities included conceptual design review, cost estimating, scheduling and negotiation. The firm also assisted in incorporating materials that were already purchased for the original bridge design in the new design, which minimized the need to re-purchase or discard previously purchased materials.

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After the design for a cable-stayed bridge was rejected, WSP returned with several alternative designs, including the causeway bridge that was chosen as the replacement.

Partially Preserved

A ceremony on Oct. 29 marked the grand opening of the new bridge and was attended by residents, NYCDOT and government officials, stakeholders and representatives from the resident engineer inspection, design and construction teams.

Military veterans were also on-hand to mark the reconstruction of the City Island Legion Triangle, a veterans’ monument near the entrance to the bridge, which was also a part of the project. Construction work is continuing with the monument and park.

While the old bridge is now history, some parts of the bridge were preserved or repurposed. Stones from the bridge piers were used to reconstruct the American Legion memorial. Finials that were once located at the top of the old bridge truss were saved, and are now permanently preserved in a local museum.

“It was great to provide the community with a new and reliable bridge, while still being able to preserve some of the history of the region as well,” Shubber said. “It has been a very rewarding experience.”

“Our entire team met the challenge of being able to provide value added services through every step of this project and its many changes,” added Ray Moran, WSP project manager. “We are proud to have helped NYCDOT meet a broad range of its goals with the successful opening of the new bridge.”

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