These plans were reviewed for the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 on May 1, when Matt Krenek, an engineer with Skanska (the firm overseeing the bridge’s construction and installation) explained that, “the barge carrying the two spans of the bridge is in Brooklyn right now. The bridge pieces left Pennsylvania in various segments, and these super-loads were trucked down the highway, taking up two lanes.”
“We have begun installing temporary traffic and street lights,” he added, “because the wires for the permanent lights are in the way of bridge. These will be put back once the bridge is installed.”
“We’ll begin posting ‘no standing’ signs on Monday evening, Memorial Day,” he noted, explaining that the five-day process will entail street closures on Wednesday (during the late morning and early afternoon), as well as from 6:00 pm Friday through early Sunday morning. “Parking and standing will be temporarily eliminated on South End Avenue, from Rector Place to the cul-de-sac, and on West Thames Street, between West Street and the Esplanade,” for multiple days. During this period, the M20 and M9 bus routes, along with the Downtown Connection shuttle, will be detoured away from their stops on West Thames Street.
The span under construction
On Tuesday morning (May 28), “we’ll begin setting up,” Mr. Krenek noted. Starting that morning, the painted medians at the center of West Thames Street and South End Avenue will become staging and holding areas for the large vehicles needed to transport the bridge spans from the Esplanade to West Street. “During this time, the parking lanes will be used for emergency vehicles and building access,” he said.
On Wednesday (May 29), he continued, “we will, weather permitting, bring three large barges up the Hudson and tie them up where West Thames Street meets the Esplanade.” One of these barges will contain a 500-ton crane, while the remaining two will each hold one section of the bridge. (The span is divided into a pair of trusses, each of which will cross one half of West Street, and meet above the traffic island in its center.)
“On Wednesday,” Mr. Krenek said, “the crane will lift these over the Esplanade, to West Thames Street, and lower them onto large trucks, which will be driven to South End Avenue, where they will make a k-turn, and then back into our cordoned-off work area, between Battery Place and West Street.” During this process, trees on West Thames Street and South End Avenue will be protected by tying back branches that the spans (each of which is 16 feet wide, and will be lifted 25 feet into the air) might brush against.
The two sections of the bridge will remain parked on West Thames Street for all of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, awaiting the weekend, when reduced traffic volume will make it possible to lift them into place.
“On Friday, we have a land-based crane coming in,” Mr. Krenek explained, “which requires ten tractor-trailers worth of equipment to set up.” This crane will be used to lift the two bridge spans from the trucks on West Thames Street and into position, over West Street. “We’ll begin assembling this crane just after 6:00 pm,” he noted. From that time, through early Sunday morning, West Thames Street (between Battery Place and West Street) will be closed to vehicular traffic, although pedestrians will have intermittent access.
“On Friday night, he said, “West Street will become one lane in each direction, until after midnight. Starting at 2:00 am on Saturday morning, the Department of Transportation has given us permission to use ‘traffic holds,’ which close the street entirely, for periods of 15 minutes.” During these stoppages, southbound traffic on West Street will be diverted to Broadway via Chambers Street, while northbound traffic (coming from the FDR Drive or the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel), will be detoured to Trinity Place.
“We’re allowed to close West Street temporarily,” he said, but then we have to flush out the traffic that has backed up, before we begin another 15-minute hold.” Friday night and Saturday morning have been set aside for lowering into place the half of the span that will traverse the northbound side of West Street.
On Saturday night, the schedule calls for placing the second half of the span, which will cross the southbound side of West Street. “For Saturday,” Mr. Krenek predicted, “the logistics will be very similar, except that we shouldn’t need to close the northbound side of West Street, since that section of the bridge will already be in place.”
“We should be done installing that second span of the bridge by sunrise on Sunday morning” Mr. Krenek anticipated, after which several smaller structural elements will also be hoisted into place. Once this work is done, “that same fleet of ten tractor trailers will come back, and the crew will begin taking down the crane and hauling it away.”
“By dusk on Sunday evening,” he said, “everything should be back to normal, except that there will be a new, 150,000-pound bridge crossing West Street.” At that point, street closures will end and parking regulations should be restored to their normal pattern shortly afterward.
“Please keep in mind that all of this is weather-dependent,” Mr. Krenek cautioned. “A storm on Wednesday would mean we delay bringing the barges in until Thursday. And bad weather on Saturday or Sunday would require us to wait until the following weekend to install the bridge over West Street.”
Although installation of the two trusses will mark a major step forward in the years-long process of designing and building the West Thames pedestrian bridge, several months of work remain before the span can open to the public. Mr. Krenek said that current plans anticipate a ribbon cutting around Labor Day weekend.