To the editor:
Is the West Thames Street Bridge a typically managed public project in New York City? Publicity and public meetings are concerning. Questions begin to arise. Why does such a project cost so much? Who benefits? It doesn’t seem to be the taxpayers. How does a $20 million contract become a $40 million project? Who signs off on a contract that provides for that?
Following are a series of questions relating to the West Thames Street / Rector Street Project that should be answered in writing by engaged City agencies, State departments, contractors and LMDC for more complete public discourse.
The following questions relate to the Daniel Geiger article, ‘Lower Manhattan bridge delayed again,” Crains, August 1, 2018.
The West Thames Bridge was designed by WXY Architects and engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti. It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2010 for around $20 million. Why did the project suffer nearly a decade of delays? Was there a problem in the selection of an overly difficult and expensive design? Why and how has the budget grown to $40 million? Is this the most expensive pedestrian bridge of its scale in the nation? Will the public be ultimately responsible to cover all increased costs? For comparison, what were the costs and specifications of the recently completed Morris Street Bridge?
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen stated: “On behalf of the city and EDC, I obviously think this is unfortunate at best and outrageous at worst. We will make sure that all resources are thrown at this to make sure that we can move expeditiously.” What resources has the EDC and the city made available?
Carl Rodrigues, a senior adviser to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, said that a “weld defect” had been discovered that could compromise the lifespan of the structure. David Emil, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, stated: “The bridge was designed to last 75 years.” Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen asked “Do we take what we have and then work out an economic agreement to reflect that the lifespan is not 75 years?” Glen added. “We will try to have those discussions and make a decision sooner rather than later.” What decision will be/has been made in this matter? Is a shorter-lived bridge equally safe?
LMDC board member Thomas Johnson said, the EDC “ought to be ashamed of themselves.” … “This is obviously an example of terrible planning and insufficient attention to the engineering.” Is there still time to improve the execution of this project? What can be learned for the future?
The following questions relate to the Matthew Fenton article, “Bridge of Sighs,”Broadsheet, September 10, 2018 and the September 5 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Manhattan Community Board 1.
Matt Krenek, and engineer with Skanska USA (the firm managing the project) announced that the long-awaited West Thames pedestrian bridge will not open until the second half of 2019. Mr. Krenek: … “we noticed that there was a non-conforming weld that was actually on these pieces of steel.” Are weld defects common in comparable bridge projects? Why were the welds in the West Thames Pedestrian Bridge project defective? Who is responsible for the defect? Is there a penalty to the producer for the late delivery, increased costs or any other problems posed by production complications?
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 one year 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 16th anniversary last month. Proving its usefulness and longevity.) A representative of DOT said that the placing of a crosswalk and removal of one of two spans of the Rector Street Bridge resulted in more pedestrians crossing West Street at grade at Albany Street. But isn’t the Mayor’s Zero Vision Program focused on reducing injuries and fatalities? A representative of the Mayor’s Office stated: “one bridge must replace the other.” Yet if both bridges are providing safety to the public over a dangerous crossing, aren’t both bridges necessary to work towards Zero accidents? Have the daily users of the Rector Street Bridge even been informed of existing plans?
When City Agency representatives say “the community made a decision,” doesn’t this often refer to “few persons in a room at a specific time” and not the actual users of, in this case, the Rector Street Bridge. Do the “users of the Bridge” agree with the Mayor’s Office that one bridge replaces the other? What are the most recent statistics on the use of the Rector Street Bridge and how many are crossing at Albany Street? What are the DOT accident statistics from West Street between Battery Park and Chambers Street? Isn’t human safety really at the heart of this issue?
The EDC also found $3.8 million in federal highway funds to cover the cost of demolishing the existing Rector Place pedestrian bridge. (This figure is $300,000 more than the bridge cost to build in 2002.) With the West Thames Bridge project delayed for nearly a decade, the structure’s anticipated price tag has nearly tripled to $45.1 million, and the delivery date still uncertain, who can justify signing a demolition contract for the Rector Street Bridge at this time?
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