2004-09-03 / Community

Rockaway’s MTA Bridges – Not For Summer Alone

Managers for local MTA bridges pose in front of Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge.
Managers for local MTA bridges pose in front of Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge. It’s a double challenge for John Ryder, the General Manager of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Rockaways Facilities. Ryder is the only MTA Bridges and Tunnels General Manager responsible for two facilities. He directs an operations staff of 80 employees at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge that connect the Rockaway Peninsula with Brooklyn and Queens.

Only four miles from each other, both facilities are gateways to the Rockaway Peninsula featuring some of the most extensive beaches and parks in New York City, including the Gateway National Recreation Area.

John Ryder, a native of Brooklyn, is a 22-year veteran of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. He joined the agency as a Bridge and Tunnel Officer and worked his way up through the ranks as a Sergeant and Lieutenant while working at all nine of the agency’s facilities. He has served as an Operations Superintendent at the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn- Battery Tunnels. He was appointed General Manager of the two Rockaway Bridges in 1999. The job also involves coordinating with the engineering staff.

“We do everything we can to provide a safe and efficient trip over each of our facilities” said Ryder. “Safety for our customers and employees is our top priority especially when we are performing maintenance in the lanes at the facilities. We are constantly working to ensure that all our systems are up and running in all 22 lanes of two toll plazas 24 hours a day.”

During the summer, average traffic increases from 20,000 to more than 24,000 vehicles per day at each facility. In the summer months temporary toll collectors, usually college students, are hired from Memorial Day to Labor Day to help with the summer surge in traffic.

The Cross Bay Bridge is a high level fixed bridge while the Marine Parkway Bridge is a vertical lift span that is raised by electrically driven motors.

“Under Coast Guard regulations, Marine Parkway Bridge traffic is halted about 60 times a year so we can lift the span to allow ships to pass,” said Ryder. “We’re required by Coast Guard regulations to lift the span on demand weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and at all other times with 8 hours notice.”

Both bridges are constantly undergoing maintenance that keeps all systems at peak performance. It is a year-round job that results in a safe and efficient crossing for customers

who use these facilities.

“We recently completed the annual re-lamping of the toll plaza canopies at both bridges,” said Ryder. “It is more cost effective to replace all the lamps at once because we reduce the number of burned out lamps and the number of times we have to close a lane to make replacements.”

In addition to lighting, the annual maintenance checklist includes lubricating the cables of the Marine Parkway Bridge’s lift span using more than 80 gallons of synthetic oil. The drainage systems were cleaned this summer using pressurized water and a huge vacuum to remove debris and silt.

“We do this annual work in summer so that the bridge is ready before the winter for the worst that winter can dish out,” said Ryder.

During summer months the five snow trucks assigned to the Rockaway facilities undergo their annual inspections. All repairs to the vehicles are performed including repainting the trucks, servicing their electrical systems, replacing connectors, oil conveyors and spreader plates are all performed. In addition, hydraulic hoses that operate the spinners and plows are replaced and the snowplows are serviced. Pipes and plumbing to the facility’s service buildings and trailers are checked to make sure heat tracers to pipes are working to prevent freezing.

The Rockaway management staff includes Operations Superintendent Marc Levy, a Brooklyn native, who supervises both the Sergeants and Bridge and Tunnel Officers, and helps oversee the entire operation of each facility including security, E-ZPass, traffic safety, law enforcement, toll collection and assistance in supplementing snow removal, when necessary.

Another part of the Bridge’s management team is Maintenance Superintendent Carlton Cyrus, originally from Grenada, who is responsible for a 13-member maintenance workforce, whose duties include lighting, sweeping and cleaning the roadway and toll lanes and snow removal operations. He is also in charge of the free wrecker services provided to customers, pothole repair, tollbooth cleaning, general electrical maintenance and the operation of the Marine Parkway Bridge Lift Span.

Rockaways Facility Engineer Adrian Moshe, who hails from Romania, is responsible for all construction planning and activities on both bridges. Moshe oversaw the $95 million deck replacement, repainting and rehabilitation of the Marine Parkway Bridge that was completed in 2002.

Currently, the two-year upgrade of the Cross Bay Bridge’s sea wall, promenade and electrical network is nearing completion. This $2.5 million project is part of the MTA’s Capital Program to improve the infrastructure and includes underwater concrete repairs to the seawall performed by divers.

The second part of the restoration is a $4 million electrical rehabilitation that includes a new generator, high voltage feeders, transformer and switchgear, to ensure that the bridge’s power source remains in a state of good repair.

The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge opened to traffic on July 3, 1937. In 1978, Gil Hodges’ name was added to the bridge in honor of the Brooklyn Dodgers great first baseman and New York Mets manager. The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1970 after replacing the original 1939 drawbridge.

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