Replacement of Willis Ave. Bridge is underway

An artist rendering of the new Willis Avenue Bridge that will connect the Bronx and Manhattan when construction is completed in 2011. - Photo courtesy of the NYC DOT

A landscape with over 100 years of history in the trendy Mott Haven section of the south Bronx is going to be no more come 2011. But according to the Department of Transportation, traffic will be flowing better than ever as a glistening new Willis Avenue bridge rises in its place.

Work has recently commenced on a new bridge connecting Manhattan with the Bronx.  The bridge, which will be open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic, will serve as a replacement to the current Willis Avenue Bridge that was built in 1901.

The present structure will meet the needs of motorists until the new bridge, which will sit alongside the current one, is floated into place in May 2011.

Beginning later this year and continuing through November 2009, the foundations for the new bridge will be constructed on land and in the water, with work being done on both the Bronx and Manhattan sides of the Harlem River to ensure the new bridge is structurally sound.

 “Stage one of the project is currently underway. During June and July 2008, work commenced to reconstruct a portion of the north sidewalk of the Willis Avenue Bridge,” stated Craig Chin, a DOT spokesman.

Because the south sidewalk of the bridge has been closed to pedestrians, the north sidewalk, from First Avenue in Manhattan to the stairway at Bruckner Boulevard will allow Bronx-bound pedestrians to continue to use the bridge. Pedestrians must exit by using the stairway to Bruckner Boulevard and cannot travel past that point on the bridge.

Pedestrians in the Bronx wishing to walk to Manhattan will enter the bridge from the stairway at Bruckner Boulevard and proceed along the north sidewalk of the bridge to First Avenue.

“The next, and longest phase of the work will build portions of the new off-ramp in the Bronx and lay foundations for the new bridge on land and in the water,” Chin continued. “The new swing span will be floated in mid-2011, and traffic should be using it by that fall.”

As a definite relief to motorists, a direct connections to the Major Deegan Expressway will at last be established for traffic coming off the new bridge. The current bridge routes traffic over the expressway onto a local street, before making a turn onto the highway.

All sharp turns onto or off the bridge will be eliminated, especially the potentially hazardous S-shaped approach onto the bridge from the Manhattan side, making for an easier commute home to the Bronx.

There will also be wider travel lanes with shoulders, and a broader combined pedestrian and bicycle path across the span.

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