Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bridge of the Week #41: E. Gun Hill Road Bridge

Not surprisingly, this week's bridge is another over the Bronx River, in close proximity to the last two bridges on this blog. In fact, it is adjacent and perpendicular to the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 2 (as I call it). The E. Gun Hill Road Bridge carries E. Gun Hill Road over the Bronx River between Olinville Ave. and Webster Ave. It is a concrete arch bridge, built in 1918 and has a total length of 93.8 feet. It carries vehicular traffic and has sidewalks on both sides.

This bridge is a nice way to get to or from the pathways in Bronx Park. Van Cortlandt Park is about a mile to the northwest on Gun Hill Road, there is a Metro North station, Williamsbridge, just to the west of the bridge, and the 2 and 5 lines stop at White Plains Road, a couple blocks to the east.

Gun Hill Road is one of the main thoroughfares in the northern Bronx. In the revolutionary war, the American army would use the road to push (or pull) their cannons up to the top of the hill, to a spot currently located in Woodlawn Cemetery, hence Gun Hill. The road itself was called Kingsbridge Road, and was part of the original Boston Post Road. In 1875 it was renamed Gun Hill Road. In the 1940's a highway "upgrade", called Gun Hill Crosstown Highway, was proposed for the corridor, but never came to fruition.

I don't promise a big, exciting bridge for next week's bridge (in fact, I know it won't be), but I do promise it will be in another borough at least.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bridge of the Week #40: Bronx Blvd. Bridge 2

This week's second bridge is another bridge on Bronx Blvd. over the Bronx River, this one located immediately north of Gun Hill Road just south of 211th St. I could also find no name for this bridge or any information on it at all, really. But it is, like the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1 (see last post) a pair of concrete arch bridges, very likely built about the same time as the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1 or the adjacent Gun Hill Road Bridge, 1918-1920. Very charming and attractive, and a nice area to run.

Bridge of the Week #39: Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1

Still in the Bronx, over the Bronx River, this week's bridge is actually a pair of bridges, one for each direction of traffic, on Bronx Blvd. just north of Duncomb Ave., itself just north of Magenta St. I've had trouble finding an official name for the bridge, so I just call it the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1, leaving room for another bridge on Bronx Blvd. just a little farther north.

This is a pair of concrete arch bridges with a total length of 75 feet, and was built in 1920. There is a sidewalk on each side. It lies within Bronx Park, just south of Gun Hill Road, where there are plenty of nice paths to run on. Not much else to mention, but a very nice area of the city.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bridge of the Week #37: Burke Bridge

When I started this bridge series, I intended to do only the bigger bridges over major waterways. I certainly wouldn't waste my time with little bridges that you barely even know you cross over, like the 9th St. Bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn (Bridge #21). But then I decided some of those little bridges have some interest, either in terms of history, engineering, geography, neighborhood, etc. Plus I realized that in some cases I can run across a handful of those little bridges in one run and be good for several weeks. So I decided to do them all. But only the ones over water - no overpasses, viaducts (except one which I'll do later as a bonus) - since this is a city of waterways. And no little footbridges in the parks. Except this one. I chose to do this one, and not ones like Bow Bridge in Central Park, because this at least crosses a river, and upriver and downriver are larger roadway bridges, drawbridges even. Plus, it does connect paths that are good for running, as opposed to the footpaths in Central Park.

The Burke Bridge is a footbridge in Bronx Park over the Bronx River. It's a few blocks north of the Kazimiroff Boulevard Bridge and is even with Burke Ave. to the east, to which it connects by a footpath and stairway. I don't have any specs on it, but it's a stone and concrete arch bridge. The current bridge on the site is fairly new or at least newly renovated. I has a wide, smooth path and nice benches on both sides. It's a very pleasant little spot on the tranquil Bronx River. It also features an informational plaque telling about restoration of the Bronx River floodplain. Much of the area around the Bronx River, especially this section, had been abandoned for decades, used as a dumping ground, but is now cleaned up and a new haven for wildlife, not to mention a nice park area.

Bridge of the Week #38: Hutchinson River Parkway Bridge

I'd heard that it existed, but I didn't know if it was true or just a legend, a myth. There was a cyclists' web site that mentioned it, and the New York City Department of Transportation web site mentioned it. But was it really there, and how did one get to it?

The Hutchinson River Parkway Bridge certainly did, and does, exist. It's clearly on all the maps, and it carries the Hutchinson River Parkway over the Hutchinson River from the Co-Op City area to the undeveloped northwestern regions of Pelham Bay Park before heading on up to Westchester County. But was there a walkway, was it open, and how could I get to it?
The DOT web site just says there's an eight-foot sidewalk. A cyclists' web site says it's a rough ride and gives some vague or cryptic directions to approach it. I had optimism, though, since even a rough ride for cyclists is certainly runnable. But my first two journeys to try to catch a glimpse of the beast were unfruitful. From Co-Op City, a sidewalk on Bartow Ave. goes directly underneath the bridge, and would surely have an entrance to the walkway. But it doesn't. Staring up at the bridge from different angles, it looked possible that there was a sidewalk on the west side, but I couldn't be sure. Maybe the entrance was a little further back, so I ran alongside the line of trees and bushes that separate the parkway from the sprawling parking lot of the Bay Plaza shopping center. But the parking lot ended with no entrance to the walkway, and I didn't see any sign of a sidwalk along the parkway.

After re-checking the cyclist web site, I took a second trip to the bridge, but still could find no entrance. I saw a worn path that went into the bushes, and possibly to the bridge, but that couldn't be it. No one would take a bike through there at least. And with a police car parked right there I didn't want to have them see me wander off into the bushes. There must be a real entrance. The web site's instructions on entering from the northern side were even more confusing, and sounded much more treacherous. I'd been in the general area where such a path must originate, and I saw nothing, and no pedestrian access along the roads.

But before I continue on my adventure, here are the specs. It's a twin-leaf bascule drawbridge, 673 feet long, carries six lanes of traffic (three in each direction) plus the possibly mythical eight-foot sidewalk. It opened in 1941 and was reconstructed in 1985. The river, the parkway and the bridge all bear the name of Anne Hutchinson, who settled in the area in the early 17th century proclaiming religious freedom.

After my second unfulfilling journey, I went back home and looked for more information on the internet, and studied Google maps carefully, and then I found it! What surely had to be the entrance to the bridge walkway began all the way back about a half mile south of the bridge, just south of the I-95 interchange, at the intersection of Gun Hill Road and Stillwell Ave., across the street from a nursing home.

So back I went, trotting down Gun Hill Road all the way to its southeasternmost point to the nursing home, and there was the sidewalk as on the map. It crossed under I-95 but I had to be careful of traffic on the access ramps. The pavement was buckled and unmaintained, it appeared. And as it continued alongside the parkway, it was even more overgrown to the point where it disappeared altogether in spots and I was forced onto rough grass dangerously close to the traffic whizzing by. But it must come out to the bridge. Every once in a while I'd see a patch of pavement reassuring me that someone was meant to walk here at one time. So on I pressed until the bridge came within sight. Sure enough, that dirt path through the bushes from Bartow Ave. does give quick and easy access to the sidewalk. Live and learn. I'm glad I found the "official" entrance, though, terrifying as it was. But now I wsa on the bridge and all was well, although the roadway shook with every car that passed. I never felt so much like a bridge was about to fall. And the tires on the steel grating roadway of the draw span made a ghostly moaning or howling sound.
So now on the northern side of the bridge I'd discover the fabled north entrance. First I descended to a rough paved path. There was a worn grass pathway that led under the bridge, but that was a little too scary even for this adventurer. I didn't want to interrupt any murder, body drop or pagan rituals. Sticking to the paved pathway in what looked like the logically correct direction, it followed an onramp to the parkway, including an overpass, but soon became a dirt pathway, then an overgrown dirt pathway, then an area where the leaves looked only slightly more trampled than surrounding areas. Doing a little bushwhacking (and who among us hasn't done a little bushwhacking?) what remained of the path seemed to come to an end onto a roadway, but at least a famliar roadway. It was just west of where Orchard Beach Road meets Shore Road, and there's a bridge over the rail lines on which construction is being done. There is a nice bike path along Shore Road there, but from Shore Road, it certainly looks like there is no pedestrian or bike access to this access road. But I only had to run on the roadway for about 100 yards or so. So the third journey was a success! I had found the fabled pathway onto the Hutcinson River Bridge.
So to make a long story short, it's totally not worth it at all. You see what I go through for you guys?
Pics: 1. Entering the bridge; 2. View of the river, part of Co-Op City and surrounding wetlands on the west; 3. Steel grating surface and landscape to the east; 4. Looking back from the north.