New Design Concept For W. Thames Bridge Is Finally Revealed

The city presented this design for the West Thames Street Pedestrian Bridge. It selected a standard "George Washington Bridge grey" because it's a paint color that the Department of Transportation keeps in stock, said an official. Rendering: NYCEDC/WXY/Weidlinger

Jun. 06, 2013

The city revealed this week its new concept for the West Thames Pedestrian Bridge.

The bridge, an elevated alternative to crossing West Street between Battery Park City and the Financial District at West Thames Street, will have a “light and airy feel,” with a glass roof and stair-and-elevator access at each end, Matt Best, a program manager for the city’s Office of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, told Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee on Tuesday.

The bridge, designed jointly by engineers Weidlinger Associates and WXY Architecture + Urban Design, will have a double lenticular truss, meaning that it takes on the appearance of two, joined parabolic forms, one longer than the other. A preliminary design dates back to 2009, when the Battery Park City Authority released a rendering by SHoP Architects that was also a lenticular truss.

At its busiest, some 1,100 pedestrians are expected to cross the new bridge per hour, more than half of them students.

The Rector Street pedestrian bridge, erected a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks as a temporary crossing, will be taken down once the West Thames bridge opens in mid-2015, Best noted. 

Construction is expected to begin in November.

Nearby bridge elevators along West Street—at Chambers, Vesey and Rector Streets—frequently break down, and some committee members voiced concern about the city’s decision to install elevators in addition to stairs on the bridge’s western side, rather than a more expensive, wheelchair-accessible ramp. (A ramp on the bridge’s eastern side was never considered due to limited space between West and Washington Streets.)

Best said the elevators’ mechanicals would likely be sheltered from the elements and technological improvements over earlier outdoor systems would also help keep them properly functioning.

“The elevators we’ll be putting in here [are] a generation more advanced than these other elevators that you’re having trouble with,” Best said. But, he conceded, “It’s still going to be a problem, because it’s an outdoor elevator. They’ll function as well as they can.”

The bridge design has yet to receive approval from the city’s Public Design Commission. The process of getting that approval is what has delayed the design, Best said, and the glass roof remains a sticking point.

“They don’t think that pedestrian bridges should have roofs,” Best said of some commissioners’ opinion. “We disagree—we feel that it has significant utility in reducing long-term maintenance costs as well as making it even a more attractive option than trying to cross at [street level].”

Best anticipates that the city will present CB1 with more details on the project in July or September, after a third round of review by the Public Design Commission.

The project is being funded with $20 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and $7 million from the BPCA—with hard construction costs estimated at $18 million. Best said the city is “close” to an agreement with the Authority over who will pick up the expense of any cost overruns. Those differences had appeared to threaten the start of the project.

“We’re hoping for a resolution in the next week or two,” he said, “at which time we’ll be fully on schedule.”

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