Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bridge of the Week #22: Henry Hudson Bridge

This week's bridge is one of the really good ones - the Henry Hudson Bridge. This bridge carries the Henry Hudson Parkway over Sputen Duyvil Creek (the proper name for that westernmost section of what most people call the Harlem River) between the Inwood neighborhood and Inwood Hill Park of Manhattan and Spuyten Duyvil (rhymes with Titan Rival - it just does, accept it) in the Bronx. It is situated at the very northern tip of Manhattan Island just east of where the Hudson River meets tke Spuyten Duyvil Creek (or Harlem River if you prefer).

The bridge had been discussed and planned since 1904. It was to have been completed in time for the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's 1609 exploration of the currently-named Hudson River. But all that was built was a 100-foot tall marble column in the Riverdale section of the Bronx that was to have been topped by a statue of Hudson and was to stand at the northern end of the Henry Hudson Bridge. It took Robert Moses in 1934 to finally bring the project to fruition. He conceived the bridge along with a parkway to connect upper Manhattan with Westchester County's Saw Mill River Parkway, via the Bronx.

Most planners favored the parkway to follow a route east of Fort Tryon Park and Inwood Hill Park, in order to avoid damaging precious parkland in Manhattan and the Bronx. But by going through the parks, with "park access roads," Moses' project actually qualified for federal money from the Civil Works Administration. Plus, he avoided costly eminent domain issues. Construction began in June 1935 and the bridge opened on December 12, 1936.

The bridge, designed by David Steinman, is a steel arch bridge that features an 840-foot main span, the longest such steel arch span in the world at the time it was built. The total length of the bridge is 2,209 feet. At its center it has a clearance of 143 feet above the river. Its lower deck carries four lanes of traffic southbound, and the upper deck, completed in 1938, carries three lanes of traffic northbound. The single pedestrian walkway is on the west side of the bridge alongside the lower deck. It is a toll bridge, with a $3 toll being collected each way. I've just heard that the MTA plans to implement a boothless-toll pilot program that deducts the fare from the driver's EZ Pass reader, or sends a bill to the owner's home.

The pedestrian walkway had been closed since June 2007 to facilitate repairs and other work on the bridge, but it just repoened a few weeks ago, so hurray! It is not very wide, about six feet, that must be shared with cyclists, who are supposed to walk their bikes across. I've never seen much traffic on the walkway. It is accessible in the Bronx on Henry Hudson Parkway West (an access road to the parkway) near its southern end, just east of its intersection with Independence Ave. In Manhattan, the walkway is accessible only by park pathways in the hilly forested sections of Inwood Hill Park. The correct path can be tough to find at first, so if anyone wants specific directions, let me know.

The bridge gives great views of the Hudson River, and the Palisades of New Jersey. You can also look down on the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a low-lying drawbridge just to the west that carries Amtrak's rail lines over the river. On the Manhattan side, runners can enjoy the hilly, forested paths of Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan's last remaining undisturbed forestland. The park also has nice open areas and ballfields on its eastern side, alongside Indian Road, and has the Dyckman Fields on the west, right along the Hudson River. The nearest subway station would be the 215th St. station on the 1 line, on 10th Ave., just east of Broadway.

In the Bronx, runners can enjoy even more hillwork in Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale. Of particular note is Palisade Ave., a low-traffic street which runs parallel to the Hudson River, and passes in front of some of the most interesting homes in New York City, and continues northward alongside Riverdale Park, where you can step off-road for some easy trail running. But just to the west of the walkway entrance, at Independence Ave., is Henry Hudson Park. Here stands the marble column built in 30-year anticipation of the bridge, complete with its statue of Henry Hudson on top. The nearest subway station is the 225th St. station on the 1 train at Broadway, a ways to the east of the bridge, but directly under the bridge at water's edge lies the Spuyten Duyvil station on Metro North's Hudson Line.

Pics: 1. Henry Hudson Bridge from Inwood Hill Park; 2. The bridge from the Spuyten Duyvil Metro North station in the Bronx; . Henry Hudson's column and statue in the Bronx

1 comment:

  1. "The correct path can be tough to find at first, so if anyone wants specific directions, let me know...."

    I need specififc directions ASAP! :-)