Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bridge of the Week #6: Broadway Bridge

Better late than never, this week's bridge is the Broadway Bridge. It carries Broadway over the Harlem River Ship Canal between the Inwood neighborhood of northern Manhattan and the Marble Hill neighborhood, which is technically part of the borough of Manhattan, although on the mainland with the Bronx. The Inwood end is just north of the intersection of 9th Ave. and Broadway and teh Marble Hill end is at 225th and Broadway.

This is a steel lift bridge whose main span is 304 feet and total length is 558 feet. It carries two lanes of traffic in each direction, 8-foot sidewalks on each side, and the 1 train on an upper level. Construction began in 1959 and was opened July 1, 1962. When open, it has clearance of 136 feet above the water, and 24 feet when closed. It still operates as a drawbridge, although it is seldom raised. I have never personally seen it raised, but I did pass by just after it had lowered.

It is the third drawbridge built on the site since the channel was cut in the 1890's. Previously the Harlem River ran farther to the north, leaving Marble Hill part of the island of Manhattan, which is why it's still part of the borough of Manhattan. In colonial days, the wooden bridge over the original river was called the King's Bridge, which is how the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx got its name. The first bridge on the current site, a swing span, was floated downstream in 1905 to become the University Heights Bridge. The second bridge, also a swing span, was dismantled in 1960. The current bridge underwent a minor overhaul in 2003, and is scheduled to undergo a major three-year reconstruction beginning this year.

It's a quick, uneventful run across the bridge, with no approaches to speak of. Pedestrian traffic can be fairly heavy, though, so use courtesy. From the west sidewalk you get a nice view of the Harlem River ship canal as it meets the Hudson just past the Henry Hudson Bridge, as well as a nice view of Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan. The park is an excellent place to run, with flat, open areas and lots of good forested hills. It is the last stand of natural forest left in Manhattan. It can be reached on 218th St., a few blocks west of Broadway. Also close by is Baker Field, the football staduim for Columbia University. The view from the east sidwalk is less appealing, with more industrial areas visible.

The 1 train, elevated here, has stops at 225th St. immediately north of the bridge and at 215th St. a few blocks to the south on 10th Ave. Just to the west of the bridge on 225th St. is the Marble Hill station for Metro North's Hudson Line.

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