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July 22nd, 2009, 06:02 AM
Throgs Neck Bridge Fire Reveals Fragility of New York’s Travel Network

July 21st, 2009



When a worker’s blowtorch started a fire on scaffolding beneath the Queens approach to the Throgs Neck Bridge early on July 10, there were immediate consequences.

Nearly 140 firefighters were called in to battle the blaze, and the authorities had to close the bridge to traffic in both directions, cutting off a major artery between the Bronx and Queens that carries 112,000 vehicles on an average day.

But nearly two weeks later, the fire’s aftermath is still being felt: one major entry point, via the Cross Island Parkway, remains closed, and trucks are still not allowed to use the bridge from Queens.

Susan Kupferman, president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bridges and tunnels division, said at a news conference on Tuesday that interim repairs would reopen the Throgs Neck Bridge to most truck traffic by Saturday and that the Cross Island entrance would reopen by Aug. 10.

The continuing problems underscore the fragility of New York’s interconnected transportation infrastructure — and the vulnerability of the city’s aging bridges.

“In terms of how sensitive the network is, it is incredibly sensitive,” said Samuel I. Schwartz, a former chief engineer for the city’s Department of Transportation who is president of his own engineering firm. “Most bridges are operating at capacity.”

There are 2,027 bridges, large and small, in New York. The city’s Department of Transportation is responsible for 789 of them; the others are overseen by agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A 2007 report by the Department of Transportation found that 3 bridges maintained by the city were rated “poor,” down from 24 in 1998; the number rated “very good” was 111, up from 75 in 1998. And New York’s bridges are getting old. The Brooklyn Bridge celebrated its 125th birthday last year, and the most recently built crossing, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, opened in 1964. Anil K. Agrawal, a professor of civil engineering at City College, said that many of the bridges were approaching the end of their design lives.

“Typically we design bridges for a 75-year life,” he said. “As you approach the 75 years, the trend becomes clear that maintenance costs start going up.”

Professor Agrawal added that older bridges not only require more work, but become harder to maintain at a given standard.

The law requires inspections at least every two years, and bridges are graded on a numerical scale. A new bridge would receive a score of seven — very good condition. But, Professor Agrawal said, “If you have a 60-year-old bridge, you’ll need a huge amount of effort to maintain the bridge at five.”

The size of the expenditure involved in bridge maintenance was apparent on a recent Wednesday, at a groundbreaking for the rehabilitation of the 46-year-old Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which crosses the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx. The cost of the project was listed at $407 million.

The various types of bridges in the city also present different maintenance challenges. Mr. Schwartz said structures like the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges bear the hallmarks of the design philosophy of their time. Monumental structures, they were deliberately over-engineered. “Our East River bridges were built to last,” he said.

By contrast, Mr. Schwartz said, post-World War II highway bridges were not built with the same standards, and so — although they are much younger — they are now a more pressing concern. “They are all going to be failing in the next 20 years,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Outside the city, the Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson between Westchester and Rockland Counties, is a reminder of the decisions planners must make when faced with postwar highway bridges.

The Tappan Zee was built in the 1950s. Yet last year, state officials announced a plan to replace the structure and make repairs in the meantime. The new bridge is to be wider and able to accommodate more cars; currently, traffic in peak hours can result in logjams six miles long. An accident or spill can create havoc.

When there is a problem on a bridge, the cause is nearly irrelevant in terms of the traffic impact, said Neville A. Parker, director of the Institute for Transportation Systems at the City University of New York.

But the amount of disruption is influenced by other factors, notably the time it takes for the authorities to detect a problem, and then the time it takes to clear the obstruction.

Since last year, a new joint traffic management center in Long Island City has brought together police officers and technicians from the city and the state. And when the fire broke out on the Throgs Neck Bridge, officials were able to post alerts on highway signs around the region and recommend the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge as an alternative.


July 25th, 2009, 01:36 AM

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March 2nd, 2010, 06:16 AM
Test finds high levels of lead and tin under Throgs Neck Bridge but MTA denies toxic soil

BY Joe Kemp

The Throgs Neck Bridge rehabilitation project, which claimed the life of a construction worker and also produced a fire last year, continues to get heat from local leaders - now for allegedly raining pollutants.

Locals claim the work has dumped toxic metals in the area - but the agency responsible for the project denies the charges.

Testing by an environmental scientist found high levels of lead and tin under the Queens side of the bridge, which connects the borough to the Bronx.

The contamination allegedly occurred as workers blasted lead-based paint off the 2,300-foot span, said James Cervino, a marine biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

"When we get under the bridge, we see high levels of lead," Cervino said. "Piles of waste are just sitting there."

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials couldn't comment directly on Cervino's report because the results had not yet been given to the agency.

But MTA Bridges and Tunnels, which is overseeing the project, said no dice.

"We're confident that we do everything possible to protect not only our customers and employees, but our neighbors near the bridge as well," said spokeswoman Judie Glave. She noted that the agency spent $1 million on environmental testing throughout the paint removal project and that all of the state and federal regulations were met.

Elected officials, however, are gearing to meet with the MTA and call for a remediation project soon.

Though Cervino's tests were done with limited resources, they "clearly and unequivocally uncovered significant lead paint contamination in the soil samples, which poses serious health risks," said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

Contamination is typically traced more than 12 inches down in the ground, but dangerous levels of lead and tin were found in surface soil in areas surrounding the bridge - which raises the risk of exposure to the toxins, Cervino said.

"There are about 1,000 kids that use that area," Padavan said of the fields and walking paths under the bridge.

The MTA "should remove whatever topsoil was contaminated," he said.
Other leaders are prepared to fight as well.

"When children are concerned, we always have to be very careful to ensure that they are safe and that there are no risks to them," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). "Remediation needs to be done."

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2010/03/02/2010-03-02_mta_denies_toxic_soil_find_dig_up_throgs_land_l ocals_say.html

March 2nd, 2010, 05:23 PM
"When children are concerned, we always have to be very careful to ensure that they are safe and that there are no risks to them," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). "Remediation needs to be done."
When it comes to grown-ups, it's not nearly as important.

January 19th, 2011, 06:02 PM
news (http://www.amny.com/urbanite-1.812039?tags=news)

By Tim Herrera
Unsung Throgs Neck Bridge turns 50

http://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.2600357.1294707932!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/display_576/image.jpgPhoto credit: Getty Images
The Throgs Neck Bridge turns 50 Tuesday, a big if unheralded milestone for a structure that helped transform the Bronx.

The city’s first major post-war bridge, which connects Queens and the Bronx, is the youngest of the East River spans.

The bridge was built to divert traffic from its sister bridge, 1939’s Bronx-Whitestone, but ended up doing much more than that.

“The bridge stirred up the population of the Bronx in ways that never would have happened without it,” said Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan.

Here’s how the span, named after its neighborhood in the Bronx, compares to some of its bridge brethren in the five boroughs.

— Throgs Neck is the city’s third youngest bridge, with the High Bridge from 1848 serving as the oldest.

— The bridge is named after the Throgs Neck area of the Bronx, which it connects to Queens.

— The Throgs Necks was designed by Swiss-born engineer Othmar Ammann, who also designed the George Washington Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Bronx-Whitestone

— Some 114,000 cars pass the Throgs Neck daily, compared to 293,000, the highest in the city, that cross the George Washington.

— The Throgs Neck cost $92 million ($659,037, 997 in today’s dollars), while the Brooklyn Bridge cost $15.5 million in 1883 (a real deal at $352,243,645 in today’s money)


January 19th, 2011, 06:13 PM
Can we build a bridge like this today for $659 million dollars?

January 19th, 2011, 07:53 PM
Can we build a bridge like this today for $659 million dollars?

You could build a Cable Stayed bridge for that amount with the same span.