By Julie Shapiro
The Rector St. pedestrian bridge, which connects southern Battery Park City to the Greenwich St. South neighborhood, will likely close for four weeks sometime this summer, the State Department of Transportation said last week.
State D.O.T. does not know exactly when the bridge will close, but at least 12 weeks of other work on the Route 9A project has to take place first, said Thomas Mellett, construction manager for Route 9A. The closure will definitely happen in 2008, he said.
The bridge will be closed so State D.O.T. can move the eastern staircase and landing. As they currently stand, the towers supporting the eastern staircase would extend past the new curb line of the revamped 9A, also called West St. To fix this, State D.O.T. is removing the entire staircase and rebuilding it 8 feet to the north.
Last month, State D.O.T. removed the south tube of the Rector St. bridge, also because its footings interfered with the Route 9A work. State D.O.T. had long-term plans to remove the entire bridge which was meant to be a temporary structure after 9/11 but after the community and the Battery Park City Authority advocated for keeping the bridge, State D.O.T. agreed to the staircase shift.
During the four weeks the bridge is closed, the B.P.C.A. will refurbish the ramp, bridge floor and lighting. The authority will also seal and weatherproof the bridge’s tube. To ensure coordination with State D.O.T.’s schedule, the authority will use the same contractor.
The bridge is still considered temporary, and the authority is working on designs for a new bridge in the south neighborhood. The authority set aside a landing space for the permanent bridge near the W. Thames St. dog run, but the problem is finding a landing space for the bridge on the east side. For now, it looks like the Rector St. bridge will stay up for years, at least.
When Mellett presented the plan to Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee last week, the board had many concerns and suggestions.
Several people want the new staircase to be less steep and easier to climb than the old one, which they said was dangerous and difficult to manage. Others worried that after the south tube of the Rector St. bridge was recently removed, the single north tube would not be able to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Mellett replied that he would look into the concerns.
Mellett also gave the community board updates on the Vesey St. and Liberty St. bridges. The Vesey St. bridge will stay up until the underground concourse connecting the World Financial Center to the World Trade Center site opens in a few years. State D.O.T. doesn’t know when the Vesey St. bridge will come down, because the timeline depends largely on the Port Authority’s work, Mellett said.
The Liberty St. bridge will stay as it is for 2008, but in 2009 State D.O.T. plans to begin constructing a Cedar St. extension, routing pedestrians crossing the bridge onto Cedar St. rather than Liberty St., to allow work to continue at the World Trade Center site. The new stairway and elevator will touch down on the southeast corner of Cedar and West Sts. and will take three months to construct.
The Cedar St. extension is temporary, but Mellett expects it to be in place for at least four years. Ultimately, the Liberty St. bridge will land in the vehicle security center at 130 Liberty St., in the basement of what was slated to be the new JPMorgan Chase headquarters Downtown. But the contaminated Deutsche Bank building is still standing on the site, which could further delay the construction of the vehicle security center, and JPMorgan is now looking to use Bear Stearns’ trading floors rather than building new ones at the W.T.C.
The Route 9A project is on schedule, Mellett said. Stage 1, which was north of Vesey St., is complete. Stage 2, which goes south to Albany St., will be complete by July 1 or possibly earlier, he said.
The next major section of the project is the intersection of Albany and West Sts., which needs to be widened. State D.O.T. will maintain pedestrian crossings and vehicle traffic on West St. throughout the work on the intersection, which will take about 12 weeks.
When Mellett added that construction workers might do double shifts, community board members immediately wanted to know if they would be kept awake by noisy work. Mellett replied that State D.O.T. recently fitted all of their trucks with quieter backup alarms and that they would try to keep the louder operations during the day or the beginning of the second shift.
The last project Mellett mentioned was utility work on Vesey St. State D.O.T. needs to get everything from electric lines to sewer lines ready to serve the Freedom Tower and other W.T.C. buildings. The work, which will take place over 10 weeks this summer, involves a new manhole on Vesey St. at West St. and requires a crane. The construction will not disrupt traffic on Route 9A, and cars will still be able to turn southbound onto West St. from Vesey St. However, for the 10 weeks of work, cars will not be able to turn northbound onto 9A from Vesey St.
To longtime residents, the work on Route 9A seems never-ending. State D.O.T. had nearly finished overhauling the road seven years ago, when 9/11 sent them back to the starting line.
Tom Goodkind was one of several board members who just want the work to be done.
“If you guys could leave it alone for a few years, we’d be really happy,” he said.