Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bridge of the Week #89: Manhattan Bridge



Thank goodness, this week, just in time for the end of the year, is the final installment in the Bridge
of the Week series! We end with one of the big ones, the Manhattan Bridge. Its construction began
October 1, 1901 and it opened on December 31, 1909. The bridge was designed by Leon Moisseiff,
who also worked on the George Washington and Triborough Bridges, as well as the ill-fated Tacoma
Narrows Bridge (I’m sure you’ve all seen the video). It joins Canal St. in Manhattan at the Bowery with
the Flatbush Ave. extension in Brooklyn at Tillary St. across the East River. It is a suspension bridge with
a main span of 1,480 feet and a total length of 6,855 feet. It is a two-level bridge carrying seven lanes of
traffic – four on top and three on bottom, and four subway tracks which carry the B, D, Q and N trains
(and sometimes R). The height of the towers is 336 feet, and clearance above the East River is 135 feet.

A dedicated pedestrian walkway is on the south side of the bridge, and a dedicated bike lane on the
north side. Construction in recent years has caused temporary closure of the bike lane, but as of now I
believe both are open. The walkway is accessible from the Bowery’s southern approach in Manhattan,
although pedestrian crossings do exist across Canal St. and the Bowery. In Brooklyn, the walkway and
bikeway must be accessed from the intersection of Jay St. and Sands St., directly underneath the bridge.

The Manhattan Bridge is heavily traveled by walkers, runners and cyclists for both recreation and
functional transportation, but the pathways never feel crowded. It is an excellent and enjoyable run, in
no small part due to its proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge to the south, of which runners get a beautiful
view. Many runners make a loop of both bridges, some also including the Williamsburg Bridge to the
north as a fun series of river crossings. The Brooklyn ends of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges are
very close together, just a short distance along Tillary St. for the Brooklyn Bridge’s long entrance or
Prospect St. for the shorter stair entrance.

On the Manhattan side of the bridge, both the Bowery and Canal St. are very congested areas with both
vehicular and pedestrian traffic, being in the heart of Chinatown. That could make for slow or stressful
running, but back when I would regularly run across the bridge home to Brooklyn from work, I came to
love the obstacle course running down the Bowery at rush hour!

In Brooklyn, the bridge has actually given its name to one of the city’s more recently-trendy
neighborhoods with a cute acronym name – Dumbo, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan
Bridge Overpass. Despite the hype, the area, along with the area under the Brooklyn Bridge, is a very
nice area with old historic buildings converted to art spaces, independent stores and restaurants, and
the new addition of Brooklyn Bridge Park right on the water’s edge. The bridge is also a short distance
from Brooklyn’s civic center and downtown, and you can continue up Flatbush Ave. to the Barclay’s
Center, and Prospect Park after just a couple of miles.

The Manhattan entrance features a monumental arch and colonnade that was built from 1910-1915,
designed by the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings, and includes a frieze by Charles Rumsey
called “The Buffalo Hunt.”

That’s an overview of the Manhattan Bridge. And that about does it. I will follow up with an overview,
summary, thoughts and reflections on the bridge series. Till then, thanks for reading, and have a happy
2013!

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