Dominic Ambrose Blogblot

of words: narrative, film and non-fiction

Bayonne Bridge: Sydney it ain’t, but it’s a beautiful span anyway

The Bayonne Bridge has been a beautiful sight on the New York harbor horizon since 1931. And for me, it has remained on the horizon – far away, as the urge to travel between the  depressed residential area of Port Richmond in Staten Island to the rusted industrial area at the tip of the Bayonne peninsula in New Jersey has never been high on my list of things to do. But a recent article about the bridge has stoked my interest enough to convince me to get up close and take a walk across the span.

Most people don't get any closer than this.

Most people don’t get any closer than this.

When the bridge opened 80 years ago, arching gracefully over the watery passage known as the Kill Van Kull, it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world. It is still the fourth longest. If the parabola design looks familiar it is probably because of its celebrated cousin, the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia (in fact, the same golden scissors were used to cut the ribbon on both bridges). Although its span is a few feet longer than that Australian bridge, it seems much lighter, without the massive masonry pylon towers. But an even greater difference is the destiny of each bridge in its city’s life. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is centrally located, a major artery and a major conduit for the economy of that city. It is a symbol of the city and valued enough to be well maintained and kept in the public spotlight. The Bayonne Bridge, on the other hand, is almost unknown to most New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. Connecting two perennially depressed areas, it has never really reached its potential (a second roadway, though planned, was never deemed necessary) and it has slipped into the shadows, rusting away at the periphery of New York Harbor. Most people only know it as a nameless silhouette on the horizon as they ride across the harbor on the Staten Island Ferry. Even commuters

A view of the Staten Island along the Kill Van Kull.

A view of the Staten Island along the Kill Van Kull.

between Staten Island and New Jersey are far more likely to use the other two bridges, the Goethals and the Outerbridge Crossing.

However, the bridge’s obscurity may finally come to an end, as the Port Authority now plans to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge in order to allow container traffic to reach Newark Bay from the harbor.  It is considering plans to include in the new roadway an extension of the Huson-Bergen Light Rail line into Staten Island, beyond its present terminus in Downtown Bayonne. Let’s hope they also keep the walkway, which gives such unique views of harbor traffic westward between Staten Island’s North Shore and New Jersey.

Some more pics taken on the bridge:

Shipping in the channel

Shipping in the channel

Way in the background is the Newark Bay Bridge, another steel arch bridge.

The steel arch. Longer than the Sydney bridge by a few feet.

Suicide prevention sign on the walkway. Every year someone tragically jumps into the dank Kill Van Kull.

Overgrown station of the abandoned North Shore rail line on Staten Island.


September 27, 2011 - Posted by | architecture | , , , , , ,

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