Only three of the 787 bridges maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation are rated in poor condition, and the Brooklyn Bridge — opened in 1883 — is one of them.
Throughout the New York region, state and local authorities have been double-checking the stability of bridges after the collapse of an interstate highway bridge in Minneapolis on Wednesday night. Today, Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey ordered state transportation officials to immediately examine more than 6,000 bridges throughout the state.
The latest annual bridge report card for New York City — which covers only the 787 bridges run by the city, not those run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — shows that only three bridges were rated as poor, the lowest rating, in 2006: the Brooklyn Bridge; a pedestrian bridge at East 78th Street over the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in Manhattan, and a bridge at Willow Lake at 76th Road in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.
In a conference call with journalists this afternoon, city officials said that the state inspects all of the city’s vehicular bridges every two years. The officials said the heavily trafficked Brooklyn Bridge is safe, despite its poor rating.
“The poor rating for the Brooklyn Bridge means that there’s only components of the bridge that are in poor condition,” said Lori A. Ardito, first deputy commissioner at the city’s Department of Transportation. “They’re actually the ramps leading to the bridge — not the span of the bridge.”
The bridge is scheduled for a reconstruction to begin in 2010, a project expected to last two to three years.
Ms. Ardito said the city is taking no special actions in response to the Minnesota disaster. “We feel that the program we’ve been using is sufficient and we obviously are not speculating as to what happened in Minnesota,” she said. “Once we have the information, we’ll work from there.”
She said the city had invested $3 billion in its capital construction program for bridges over the last eight years, and would spend another $2 billion over the next two years.
She maintained that no bridges are currently “structurally deficient.” However, the Willis Avenue Bridge, which connects Manhattan and the Bronx over the Harlem River, is about to undergo a multimillion-dollar reconstruction after the United States Department of Transportation found “structural and seismic deficiencies.”
The state conducts the regularly scheduled inspections of city bridges, but the city has a 42-person unit that handles inspections on an emergency basis or if anything unusual arises.
The city invested in an ambitious bridge-repair effort after several of the city’s major bridges were found to be unsafe in the 1980s. In the most well-known job, the Williamsburg Bridge was closed for several months in 1988 to all but emergency traffic. “We had such poor corrosion that I could put my hand through the cracks,” Samuel I. Schwartz, a traffic consultant who was a city transportation official put in charge of the emergency repairs at the time, said today in an interview.
The New York region has had other bridge-related problems.
On June 28, 1983, a 100-foot section of the Mianus River bridge in Connecticut collapsed, hurling six people into the river 75 feet below, killing three and critically injuring three others.
On April 5, 1987, a bridge on the Gov. Thomas E. Dewey Thruway collapsed — sending 10 motorists to their death — after floodwaters of the Schoharie Creek scoured gravel and silt from around the bridge’s footings. Scouring occurs when rushing water stirs up the stream bed around concrete structures, sometimes causing holes to form and structures to shift.
Although not directly bridge-related, the collapse of a part of the West Side Highway on Dec. 16, 1973, remains a vivid memory for many New Yorkers. On that day, a cement truck that was traveling to make repairs on the highway caused a 60-foot section of the northbound roadway to collapse at Gansevoort Street. The entire highway from the Battery north to West 46th Street was closed immediately.