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The University Heights Bridge
Spans Manhattan to the Bronx crossing the Harlem River.
From 207th Street in Inwood to West Fordham Road in University Heights.
Before the current bridge was erected, a wooden footbridge known as the 'Fordham Footbridge' crossed the the same point of the then shallow, Harlem River. This bridge was removed in 1895 when the Harlem River Ship Channel was dug and the northern stretch of the river became navigable by ships.
Replacing the bridge turned out to be a bit more complicated than expected. The New York City Department of Bridges favored a newfangled lift bridge, but the city wouldn't pay for it and opted for a cheaper 'swing' style. The Broadway Bridge was due for replacement as part of the opening up of the river, and so they decided to reuse the center span of the Broadway Bridge in the new University Heights Bridge.
Alfred P. Boller, who designed the Madison Avenue, 145th Street and Macombs Dam swing bridges, designed the New University Heights Bridge as well, and work began in November 1903.
The old Broadway Bridge span was floated down the river and lifted onto the new center pier in June 1906.
The University Heights Bridge opened to traffic on January 8, 1908.
Beginning in 1989, the NYCDOT undertook a $35 million project to rebuild the bridge. A new swing span was barged to the site and hoisted into place, and new electrical and mechanical controls were installed. The renovation was completed in 1992.
The swing mechanism below the center span of the current bridge.
View from the span looking South down the Harlem River towards the Alexander Hamilton Bridge.
The similarity to the Macombs Dam Bridge is most obvious in the aesthetic of the bridge, most prominently in the little decorative gazebos and frivolous decorative elements that adorn both bridges.
But the University Heights Bridge suffers in comparison due to it's location.
From 10th Avenue on one end to the entrance of the Major Deegan Expressway on the other, according to the DOT, the bridge carries 45,000 vehicles per day (as of 2007?).
Crossing on foot or by bicycle is done only via the sidewalk and the approach on the Bronx side is especially hazardous due to traffic.
The University Heights bridge celebrated it's 100th birthday in 2008 with little fanfare although it is one of only ten bridges in New York City to have been granted landmark status.
The University Heights Bridge circa 1933
From the collection of the NYPL
Type of bridge: Swing
Construction started: November 18, 1903
Opened to traffic: January 8, 1908
Length of main span: 267 feet
Length of two channels: 100 feet
Total length of bridge and approaches: 1,566 feet
Width of bridge: 50 feet
Width of roadway: 33 feet, 6 inches
Number of traffic lanes: 2 lanes
Clearance at center above mean high water: 25 feet
Foundation type: Caisson
Cost of original structure: $1,200,000
Bridge facts from NYC Roads.com
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Thursday, October 9, 2008
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