Construction to start on new bike and pedestrian bridges next year
Construction on a missing link in the Bronx River Greenway will begin next summer thanks to a $10 million federal grant secured by the Bronx River Alliance and the city’s Parks Department.
Two bicycle and pedestrian bridges will cover 0.75 miles to create a pathway between Concrete Plant Park and its neighbor on the north, Starlight Park. Currently, park users have to walk along an unpleasant stretch of the Sheridan Expressway access road to get between the two parks.
The total cost of the project is $40.5 million, of which $35 million has already been secured, according to Maggie Scott Greenfield, the alliance’s deputy director.
The funding, which was ushered through the process by local Congressman Jose E. Serrano, will be matched by funding from Mayor de Blasio, New York State Department of Transportation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Department of the Interior Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant program, and funding allocated by NY State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., according to the alliance.
“This has been a real partnership effort,” Greenfield said. “It’s really important to reclaim the waterfront, and transform it into what the residents envision. This goes one step closer to achieving a connection between communities that have long been disconnected.”
Once this segment along the waterfront is finished, the Greenway will extend north from Concrete Plant Park eight miles to the Westchester line. It continues past that another 13 miles into Westchester. But that still leaves the waterfront south of the Bruckner Expressway inaccessible, except for Hunts Point Riverside Park.
“I think this project is beneficial to the South Bronx community,” said Ralph Acevedo, chair of Community Board 2’s environmental committee. “But I wish there was more money so that we can connect the dots further downstream — for example, the peninsula.”
The future of the peninsula’s waterfront, said Greenfield, is dependent on the state Department of Transportation’s studies of the Bruckner-Sheridan interchange. A continuation of the Greenway would also have to go around the Food Distribution Center, 329 acres on the tip of the peninsula south of Hunts Point Riverside Park.
“I’d love to see a Greenway connection from Concrete Plant Park down to Hunts Point Riverside Park,” said Adam Green, executive director of Rocking the Boat, whose students use the river regularly. “But that’s complicated, especially because it involves crossing the Bruckner Expressway and getting through a series of private businesses that operate on and actively use the waterfront along Edgewater Road.”
The pedestrian bridge north of Concrete Plant Park will go alongside the Amtrak line, where the Acela Express runs, at East 172nd Street and over the river near the intersection of Westchester and Bronx River avenues. This will connect more than 20 acres of waterfront open space.
“As a longtime champion of efforts to green the South Bronx and restore the Bronx River, I am thrilled to see this project take another important step,” Serrano said in a press release. “These two pedestrian/bicycle bridges and a nearly mile-long pedestrian trail will close a gap in the Bronx River Greenway and will help connect thousands of South Bronx residents to the Bronx River Greenway.”
The $10 million came from the federal Department of Transportation through a competitive program called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER for short. The Bronx competed with 627 other municipalities on projects that must “provide significant and measurable improvements over existing conditions,” according to the department’s website. The Bronx River Alliance is committed to raising the remainder of the funds through federal, state and local grants. The project will start in June of 2016, and is projected to end 2020.
City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo said she is excited about the project because it unites communities.
“Even though it’s a very expensive project to accomplish, we welcome the link,” said Arroyo.