Multiple bridges and at least one tunnel that carry thousands of vehicles each day in Lower Manhattan are classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by the federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT). Among these are one leading into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, two ramps serving the Brooklyn Bridge, and the viaduct that carries the FDR Drive between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Battery Underpass.
The federal DOT maintains a database of more than 600,000 bridge and tunnels around the United States, known as the National Bridge Inventory (NBI). This compendium also contains information about the physical condition of each structure, as well as the results of recent inspections.
A search of the NBI for local bridges and tunnels shows that several are, at a minimum, in serious need of repair, and perhaps critically dilapidated. Two of these are ramps that connect the FDR Drive with the Brooklyn Bridge.
The 1,800-foot ramp that connects the northbound FDR Drive to the Brooklyn Bridge runs parallel to the highway, then cuts left and runs westbound, parallel to the bridge, before veering sharply to the right and joining traffic on the bridge. Through the 1990s, this structure was rated as “structurally deficient,” by the NBI. In the early 2000s, it was upgraded to “functionally obsolete.” Inspections in 2014 and 2015 categorized it overall as “not deficient,” but described it in three categories (including the structural appraisal) as, “basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action.” The estimated price for remediating this structure is $1.4 million.
Another ramp, used by traffic exiting the Brooklyn Bridge, begins at Pearl Street and leads onto the southbound FDR. This 192-foot bridge also earned an overall rating of “not deficient,” while its structural appraisal was similarly categorized as, “basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action.” The NBI projects the cost of fixing these issues to be in the range of $2.9 million
The viaduct that carries the FDR Drive from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery Underpass is more than a mile long. Like the two ramps cited above, this structure was rated “structurally deficient” through the 1990s and upgraded to “functionally obsolete” in the early 2000s. Unlike the ramps in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Bridge, however, the FDR viaduct was never boosted to “not deficient” status. Its overall rating remains “functionally obsolete.” The good news for the viaduct is that the structural appraisal deems it to be, “equal to present minimum criteria.” The less-than-encouraging news is that the condition of its underside is “basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action.” And the really bad news is that the NBI estimates the cost of bringing the viaduct up to code to be around $790 million. Such a budget might argue in favor of the proposal recently resurrected by supporters of the park on Governors Island to demolish the viaduct, and sink this portion of the FDR below street level, in order to create a grand public plaza on South Street, in front of the Battery Maritime Building, which serves as the ferry terminal for visitors to Governors Island.
At the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the submerged passage that carries traffic from West Street (near Albany Street) into the entrance plaza east of the Battery Parking Garage also has a lingering overall ranking of “functionally obsolete,” which is an improvement over its previous rating of “structurally deficient.” As with the FDR Viaduct, this structural appraisal for this tunnel is “equal to present minimum criteria,” with the caveat that its understructure is categorized as, “basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action.” The estimated cost of repair for this project is approximately $12 million.