Marine Parkway Bridge Vertical Lift Span Active Year Round
The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge has a 50 percent increase in vehicular traffic due to beach-bound motorists, but the raising of its lift span for marine traffic to pass through it gets steady business all year. The 71-year-old bridge, which connects Brooklyn to the Rockaway peninsula in Queens and spans the entrance to Jamaica Bay, generally raises its center section more than 100 times per year; in 2007, there were 136 lifts for crossing vessels.
"We lift the bridge frequently in summer because of requests from large sailboats that use the waterway," stated John Ryder, General Manager of the Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges. "But the lift is raised a lot during the off-season, too, mostly for commercial shipping barges, cranes and the Department of Environmental Protection, which has a plant on Beach Channel Drive. Our lift operators can handle whatever type of vessel [that] comes their way."
A vertical lift span, like that of the Marine Parkway Bridge, goes up and down somewhat like an elevator. The normal clearance for the bridge is 55 feet above mean high water; when the center span is raised to full height, total clearance increases to 150 feet. The tops of the steel towers, which curl gracefully, were designed to frame the main span when it is lifted. Right-of-way belongs to the waterway, regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which requires the facility to lift on demand between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The bridge staff schedules weekly maintenance lifts in order to ensure the mechanism is in ship-shape working order.
It takes four people to execute the lift process at Marine Parkway Bridge: one maintenance operator and two assistants, one on the Brooklyn side and one on the Queens side, to halt vehicular traffic while monitoring barrier gates and the pedestrian walkway. In the meanwhile, Queens-bound traffic is stopped at the toll plaza by a Bridge and Tunnel Officer or Sergeant.
The bridge is normally raised electronically with the help of computer controls. The length of these lifts, closure to resumption, is approximately 12 minutes. In this mode, the roadway is raised to its maximum height of 90 feet and returned to its starting position in seven minutes. The remaining five minutes are spent stopping traffic and lowering and raising the gates and barriers. If there is a failure of the computer-controlled lift, the span can be raised via manual controls and emergency motors, which can take up to 20 minutes.