A team from the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) updated the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) on Tuesday evening about the plans for the West Thames pedestrian bridge, which is slated to begin before the end of this month.
Matt Krenek, an engineer with Skanska USA (the outside firm managing the project) said, “the project’s funding is now in place, and we expect to start construction in the next week or so, with a formal groundbreaking ceremony sometime before the end of November.” Current plans calls for the bridge to be completed sometime in the first quarter of 2018.
Mr. Krenek also shared slightly encouraging news about a concern raised by CB1’s Battery Park City Committee in September. “We are withdrawing our earlier plan to demolish the pedestrian bridge at Rector Street before the West Thames Bridge is complete,” he said. “But we cannot promise that the Rector Bridge will remain in place until the new bridge is open.” This is viewed as a critical part of the plan by many community leaders, who fear that the lack of a bridge crossing over West Street during any gap between demolition of the Rector span and the completion of the West Thames bridge may prove to be a grave safety hazard to handicapped pedestrians and to parents escorting small children, with in strollers or on foot.
Committee member Tammy Meltzer said, “we need EDC to come back with a guarantee that the old bridge doesn’t come down until the new one is up. Committee chair Ninfa Segarra said, “our clear message is that is doesn’t come down until the other is up.”
Mr. Krenek and Lynne Guey, an assistant vice presidents at EDC, acknowledged these concerns, but stopped short of promising that the earlier plan to remove the Rector Street bridge before the West Thames span opens would not be reinstated. Ms. Guey explained that the removal of the existing bridge is being treated as a separate project, with its own budget and different sources of funding.
The West Thames pedestrian bridge is intended to be a permanent replacement for the Rector Place span, which was erected as a “temporary” crossing after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (The Rector Place bridge was originally slated to be demolished within two years of its opening, but instead celebrated its 14th anniversary in August.) The new bridge will stretch diagonally across the intersection of West and West Thames Streets, from the southwest corner on the Battery Park City side, to the northeast corner on the Financial District side, near the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, where a new residential tower is currently under construction. The project is now seven years behind schedule and slated to open nine years after its originally announced opening date of 2009. Its estimated cost has almost doubled in the past nine months and nearly tripled since the original, 2009 target date for completion.
In other updates about the West Thames bridge, Mr. Krenek noted that the sidewalk on Joseph P. Ward Street (the one-block thoroughfare that connects Washington and West Street, beneath the Battery Parking Garage) would be widened to accommodate the expected increase in pedestrian traffic that the West Thames Street bridge will bring. He also noted that three trees alongside the dog run on the south side West Thames Street will have to be cut down to make room for the bridge’s approach ramp, but said these would be replaced with three new trees that will be planted on the north side of the street once the project is completed.