Bridge Lifts Slow Down Commute
Residents who traverse the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge may have noticed an increase in lifts of the central span of the bridge, something that was rare in the past, but has become more frequent during the past two weeks.
Officials of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers say that the increased bridge lifts and the delays they bring are directly related to the process of restoring a section of marshland in Jamaica Bay by dredging sand from New York Harbor and transporting it under the bridge and into Jamaica Bay.
According to MTA Bridge and Tunnel Authority spokesperson Joyce Mulvaney, there have been multiple lifts since December 27 to facilitate the movements of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging ship, “Padre Island.”
“The captain told us he will be using the channel regularly until the end of February, 2010,” Mulvaney said. “We are required to abide by U.S. Coast Guard rules when marine traffic needs to cross under our bridge with the height clearance of a raised lift span.”
She says that since the start of the marshland restoration project there have been 23 lifts for the dredging ship.
“The captain said timing depends on high tide because he comes into the bay loaded and low in the water, but the goal is off-peak, with vehicular traffic and community in mind,” Mulvaney adds.
Additionally, cable maintenance work caused the bridge to be lifted on several other occasions, but that work is now complete and the bridge will only be raised for the “Padre Island.”
The restoration project is for the Elders West salt marsh which will utilize about 200,000 cubic yards of clean sand from the ongoing New York-New Jersey Harbor 50-foot deepening project to restore about 35 acres of low and high marsh habitat in Jamaica Bay. It is expected to cost $11.5 million, with 65 percent of the cost borne by the federal government and 35 percent divided between the State of New York and the City of New York. Included in the federal cost share is about $3.9 million in federal stimulus funds.
Restoring salt marshes and coastal wetlands in Jamaica Bay is a critical component of the Comprehensive Restoration Plan. The marsh islands ecosystem within Jamaica Bay is a home for a variety of wildlife. Salt marshes provide valuable habitat for fish and shellfish, are an important food source for native and migratory birds, and also help improve water quality by removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates.