No clear answer as to cause of City Island temporary bridge malfunction

This photo, submitted to the Bronx Times, shows some of the damage caused to the temporary causeway bridge under construction. The bridge is located next to the existing City Island Bridge and suffered a failure when part of its roadway collapsed during its paving several weeks ago.

A clear reason still has not emerged as to why a piece of a new temporary bridge between City Island and Pelham Bay Park failed recently.

The section of the new temporary bridge, described by NYC Department of Transportation officials at a recent community meeting on City Island, as a pie-shaped section at a turn, partially collapsed on the morning on Monday, September 21 while asphalt was being poured, multiple sources have confirmed.

Principal contractor Tutor Perini, is building a temporary bridge so that it can remove and then replace the existing City Island Bridge.

The company declined to comment through a spokesman, who said that its contract with the city requires DOT to respond to media inquiries.

DOT officials meet with concerned City Island residents at a monthly City Island Civic Association meeting on Tuesday, September 29.

Attendees of the meeting said afterwards that they were pleased by the agency’s’ attention to the matter, but that they were still waiting for official findings as to the cause of the incident.

“(DOT officials) said that until they know what needs to happen to fix the bridge, they will not open it,” said John Doyle, CICA corresponding secretary, adding “They said it was probably a design flaw.”

The CICA was promised access to an official report into the incident once it becomes available, he said, and that the agency believes that there may need to install an additional brace on the temporary bridge.

A Tutor Perini subcontractor designed the temporary bridge, according to DOT, Doyle added, and he said that DOT officials said the temporary bridge would be tested before it was opened.

The opening of the temporary bridge has been repeatedly delayed.

Barbara Dolensek, CICA second vice-president, said she thought it took a great deal of courage for DOT officials to attend the civic meeting.

“We assume that DOT is waiting for some explanation…as to the error,” said Dolensek, adding “We don’t know where the fault lies because we don’t know what the cause was.”

The community definitely wants the new temporary bridge to be tested for strength before it opens, she said.

“I am just glad this happened before people started traveling over it,” she said, adding that she does not think that the bridge should open before tests are done to see if it can withstand the weight of tractor-trailer trucks and heavy vehicular traffic.

According to James Breen, a filmmaker working on a documentary called ‘The New City Island Bridge,’ and who was filming nearby when the damage occurred, said that the part of the bridge that collapsed did not fall into the water, but onto land on the Pelham Bay Park side of the bridge.

The crash brought numerous construction supervisors to the scene to examine the damage, he said, adding that he witnessed the immediate aftermath of the incident but not the collapse itself.

The new temporary bridge runs alongside the existing City Island Bridge, which dates back to the early 20th century, and remains in use.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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