West Street pedestrian bridges

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Tribeca Bridge, seen from Chambers Street

The West Street pedestrian bridges are pedestrian bridges that cross the West Side Highway to connect Tribeca and the Financial District of Lower Manhattan with Battery Park City. The bridges were built to provide alternatives to crossing the busy street. Prior to the September 11th attacks, there were a total of three bridges at these locations: Chambers Street, Vesey Street and Liberty Street. The Vesey Street and Liberty Street bridges connected the former World Trade Center complex directly to the World Financial Center.

The collapse of the Twin Towers destroyed the Vesey Street bridge and heavily damaged the Liberty Street bridge. To improve pedestrian flow, a new bridge was built at Rector Street. Originally it was planned to be temporary, so that a new bridge farther south could be built, it has now become permanent.[1] A temporary bridge at Vesey Street opened in November 2003 near the site of its predecessor. Currently, all bridges have ADA access.

Tribeca Bridge[edit]

Tribeca Bridge, interior

The Chambers Street Bridge (40°43′2.5″N 74°0′46″W / 40.717361°N 74.01278°W / 40.717361; -74.01278) or the Tribeca Bridge, was built in 1994[2] to improve connections for the northern part of Battery Park City. It connects Stuyvesant High School inside Battery Park City and the property of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Although an exit to the street level on the Battery Park City side of the span exists, the bridge connects directly into Stuyvesant High School, making it a favorable point of access for many of the students there. Designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, its lighting display at night has earned it the 1996 IES/NY Lumen Lighting Award.[3]

Vesey Street Bridge[edit]

North bridge, built 2003

The first Vesey Street Bridge (40°42′49″N 74°0′49″W / 40.71361°N 74.01361°W / 40.71361; -74.01361), or North Bridge, connected the above-ground concourse of the former World Trade Center complex with the World Financial Center,[4] paralleling nearby Vesey Street. It began at a point between 1 WTC and 6 WTC linking the upper levels of the Winter Garden Atrium. The grand marble staircase inside the Winter Garden pavilion provided access to the lower levels of the building and to the adjacent waterfront.[5] The bridge was destroyed in the collapse of 1 WTC during the September 11th attacks.[6]

Because the intersection of Vesey Street and West Street was closed to pedestrians due to the September 11th attacks,[7] ground for a temporary Vesey Street Bridge was broken in August 2003 by then-Governor George E. Pataki.[8] The bridge opened on November 2003 in time for the return of the PATH train to the temporary terminal by the WTC site[9] and connected the southwest corner of Vesey Street and West Street, next to 3 WFC, with the northeast corner, next to 140 West Street (Verizon Building).

The Vesey Street bridge was designed with ADA accessibility in mind, and escalators were installed to allow pedestrians access the bridge without using stairs. The escalator by the World Financial Center, at the western end, opened on April 16, 2004.[10] They were followed by the escalator on the eastern side in June 2004.[11] The elevators at either end opened in the same summer. The elevators and escalators were prone to problems, and an escalator was closed for six months due to a failure.[12] The bridge was met criticism for the breakdowns and also bridge closures due to construction activity at the 1 WTC construction site.[13] Thus residents from the Battery Park City area clamored for the reopening of the Vesey Street walkways across West Street, as an alternative to the bridge. (The elevator and escalator on the east side of the Vesey Street bridge were inoperable for an extended period of time forcing individuals who are unable to climb stairs to cross at Murray Street, which is north of Vesey Street.)

The bridge was finally closed and taken apart on October 7, 2013. At the same time, the crosswalk on the north side of Vesey Street was reopened,[14] The bridge has been replaced by the West Concourse of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, an underground passageway connecting the World Financial Center with the World Trade Center PATH station. This will eventually connect to the Fulton Center via the Dey Street Passageway when the WTC Transportation Hub is completed. As of October 2013, the temporary bridge has been demolished[15] and replaced by a pedestrian crosswalk.[16]

Liberty Street Bridge[edit]

Liberty Street Bridge on opening day

The original incarnation of the Liberty Street Bridge(40°42′38″N 74°0′53″W / 40.71056°N 74.01472°W / 40.71056; -74.01472), was called the South Bridge, as it was seen as a companion to its Vesey Street counterpart and had a similar design. Due to the attacks, it had sustained significant damage. However, unlike its counterpart, it was extended and repaired and was reopened in April 2002.[17] Since then, the bridge has been revamped and rerouted, due to its location near the World Trade Center site and the construction activity for the Vehicle Security Center and the demolition of the Deutsche Bank Building at 130 Liberty Street. On April 21, 2010, the eastern bridge access point was shifted onto the east side of West Street, from Liberty Street. A pre-fabricated segment was attached to the existing bridge, for use while construction proceeds on both sides along Liberty Street. The new pre-fabricated southward extension was fitted with an elevator for ADA accessibility.[18] It will be connected to the Liberty Park when the latter is complete.

Rector Street Bridge[edit]

With the destruction of the North Bridge and the closure of the South Bridge due to the terrorist attacks, Battery Park City residents sought for safe passage across West Street in the immediate months following September 11, 2001. The Rector Street Bridge (40°42.45′N 74°0.915′W / 40.70750°N 74.015250°W / 40.70750; -74.015250) was seen as a temporary solution, as it was planned that a bridge further south would open in its place in the near future. The bridge was designed by SHoP Architects and opened in August 2002. The bridge has a span of 230 feet (70 m), with a 170 feet (52 m) ramp on the western end of the bridge. Much of the bridge was built from pre-fabricated materials, the design of the bridge was a steel box truss system.[19] The panels surrounding the bridge allow natural light to flow through, but it limits the view to disallow people from using it to view the World Trade Center site.[20] In 2006, the New York State Department of Transportation released its proposal to reconstruct West Street into a promenade. The plans did not feature a permanent replacement, suggesting that the first Rector Street Bridge may be permanent. However a renovation was planned then, to keep the bridge in place for another ten years.[21]

Billed by SHoP Architects as "Rector Street Bridge #2", this structure was in fact the renovated version of the bridge.[22] The renovated structure had the truss system replaced by a canopy, that would allow views. However during its immediate opening in October 9, 2009,[23] the elevators were unusable, drawing some outrage from Battery Park City residents.[24]

Designs for a new, permanent bridge at West Thames Street, near the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, were created in 2009 by SHoP Architects.[25] A newer design was created in 2013 by WXY Architecture and Weidlinger Associates.[25] The West Thames Street Bridge is intended to replace the Rector Street Bridge, which would be demolished. Construction of the new bridge is scheduled to begin at the end of November 2016, and take until 2018 to be completed. The New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is undertaking the project, says that the Rector Street Bridge will remain in place until after the new bridge is open.[26] Cost for construction of the West Thames Street Bridge is estimated, as of September 2016, to be $45.1 million, though was previously estimated in November 2015 to cost $27.5 million. Funding for the bridge includes $33 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (with funding reduced towards “New York City Parks and Open Space"), and $8.25 million from the Battery Park City Authority.[27]


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