The most recent update about the West Thames bridge came from Matt Krenek, the engineer supervising the project for Skanska USA, the contractor hired to erect the span, who spoke to the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) last November. At that meeting, Mr. Krenek noted recent progress, saying, “we have all our piles in the ground, we’ve done our utility work, and now we’re coming out of the ground.”
Since then, the staircases approaching what will be the eastern and western ends of the bridge appear to have been largely completed. The elevator shafts that will stand beside both sets of stairs, “are substantially complete and offsite, in upstate New York,” he added. Mr. Krenek also predicted that, “for rest of this quarter we will keep working on foundations on the east approach.” This work also appears to have been finished sometime in February. The adjacent public plaza, alongside the new residential tower at 50 West Street, has opened to the public, and the staircase for the bridge is now fenced off.
Mr. Krenek said that the next major milestone, the deliver of the spans that will cross West Street, “is scheduled for the second quarter of 2018.” He acknowledged that this represents a significant delay, because the trusses that will cross diagonally from West Thames Street to Morris Street were originally due to be delivered and installed in the second half of 2017.
“The steel in not straight,” he explained. “It has a lot of curves, and there are a lot of techniques to this, which we’ve had to tweak. So we had to push the fabrication schedule to make sure quality is the best.”
“The bridge will be assembled at the fabricator’s shop in upstate New York, to make sure everything fits perfectly. Then it gets taken apart, into smaller pieces, which are still gigantic loads. These require special permits, and the only way to deliver them is via barge. But ice on the Hudson will prevent this until the second quarter of 2018.”
Once the spans are delivered to the construction site, he said, “we will set the bridge, probably in the third quarter, and then aim to finish and open in the fourth quarter.”
This delay represents a further slippage from the project’s previously announced schedule. The West Thames bridge began construction on November 15, 2016. A few weeks before ground was broken, Mr. Krenek, told CB1 members, “we’ll be constructing the bridge truss itself, off-site. We hope to be erecting it in the summer of next year” — meaning July or August of 2017 — “and have the bridge itself finished by the first quarter of 2018.” By the June, 2017 meeting of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, this target had slipped to, “the second quarter of 2018,” according to Mr. Krenek. But that expectation appears to have been predicated upon the plan to have the trusses for the bridge delivered to the site, “in the second of third quarter of this year,” in the words of EDC officials.
The ground breaking for the West Thames Bridge in November 2016
The West Thames pedestrian bridge span is intended to be a permanent replacement for the Rector Place pedestrian bridge, 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 celebrated its 14th anniversary in August.) Although plans for a pedestrian span at West Thames stretch back to the era when the current governor’s father occupied the State House, the most recent version of the proposal dates from the mid-2000s, when the BPCA proposed to pay for the bridge itself, and have it open by the first day of school at the newly built P.S./I.S. 276 in 2009. But the City (which must approve major capital expenses by the BPCA) refused to allow the Authority to spend the $18 million the bridge was then projected to cost.
The Rector Street pedestrian bridge
The West Thames Bridge is now slated for completion by the end of this year. That means that children who entered the first grade on the day P.S./I.S. 276 opened in 2009 (when the most recent incarnation of the plan was slated for completion) will be juniors in high school by the time that the bridge becomes available to the public, assuming the project adheres to its current schedule.
BPCA spokesman Nick Sbordone said that, “with our local partners we look forward to this beautiful new addition to the local streetscape, which will further integrate Battery Park City with the larger downtown community.” Although the BPCA has little direct involvement in the construction of the West Thames bridge, it will assume primary responsibility for maintaining it once the project is complete.
An EDC sources says that ongoing activity at the site includes utility and sidewalk work, as well as installation of mechanical and electrical equipment. This source adds that the project remains within its most recent budget of $45.1 million and its most recent schedule, which calls for the bridge to be in place by the third quarter of this year, and open before the end of 2018.