Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bayonne Bridge

Bayonne Bridge, February 24, 2010
Rob Hickman on a 26", Keith Nelson on a 26", Kyle Petersen on a 20"

After three cancellations due to blizzards and despite a dismal weather forecast calling for a 90% chance of rain and/or snow, we finally crossed the Bayonne bridge. The roads were wet and the sky was misty. Another winter storm was on the way. Rob and Keith made the go-ahead decision at 8:30 am. Kyle was to meet us at the Staten Island Ferry terminal at 9:45. Other riders abstained from this journey either due to prior commitments or simply not taking a chance on a wet arse. A press team from the Staten Island Advance would join us as soon as we got to Staten Island. Everything went like clockwork.

On the ferry Kyle and Rob were stopped by two police officers for picture taking off the stern as we passed the Statue of Liberty. Kyle backed us out of the altercation as it was revealed that one of the officers belonged to the one wheeled brotherhood. We were unable to cox him into giving Kyle's uni a spin. Kyle even offered to hold his gun. They wouldn't even let us take their pictures. It's fine to photograph a cop on a horse, but not on a unicycle on a ferry. We asked the Staten Island based officers if they knew any of the folks who ran the Riker's Island bridge. They suggested we contact the prison's media department.

We met the press team along the harbor's edge near the Staten Island Yankees ballpark. After a brief interview and photo op, a fancy video camera was attached to the stem of Keith's 26" wheel (Staten Island Advance should be posting footage soon). Afterwards we headed off on our adventure - a 6-1/2 mile ride down Richmond Terrace around the northwestern corner of Staten Island to the Bayonne bridge. We rolled past Snug Harbor Cultural Center, where Keith along with many other Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performers have run summer camps and presented shows. Keith fondly recalled all of the entertaining spectacle that Bindlestiff was able to create with Chris Catt and his crew of theater folks.

We clocked an average speed of 6 miles an hour with a top speed of 8, as we were followed by a press van toward the bridge. We crossed a small creek, which probably added another span to our count. We also cycled over a train overpass. These definitions will challenge us as the tally grows. There were numerous construction activities on Staten Island. The workers seem to always enjoy us. Rob received his best flag waving efforts yet. We didn't seem to notice how bad the pot holes were until we were asked about it by a reporter. Then it seemed like we were dodging them everywhere. It's interesting to notice how the number of potholes is proportionate to the number of auto repair shops on Richmond Terrace.

The Bayonne bridge is a breathtaking and extraordinary structure. It is the fourth largest steel arch bridge in the world. The immensity, seen from a distance over buildings and landscapes, is surreal. It's easy to see why it was used as a backdrop in the film, 'War of the Worlds'. We were a little perplexed at the bridge entrance because we were met by a sign which indicated that neither pedestrians nor bicyclists were allowed. Since we were technically neither and because our press team was waiting for us up ahead, we continued on. We were also joined by a vested escort from the Port Authority, the agency that owns and operates the bridge. The crossing was the most terrifying yet. Unlike the Triborough which had a low guard rail to one side, the Bayonne has low guard rails to both sides. Dizzying 150 foot drops to the Kill Van Kull lay to both sides of the narrow cat walk. On a positive note for design, the expansion joints used covered span plates. At first these plates looked quite pronounced and treacherous, but in the end made a much safer route for a thin tire to roll, and was done with ease. We held another press conference in the center of the cold vibrating span as a huge container ship passed underneath. Kyle performed tricks for the press team on the New Jersey side of the span and we returned the uni cam. Down the ramp into New Jersey, we headed off on our own into Bayonne. This was our first time riding as a team in New Jersey, Kyle's home state. A couple weeks ago Keith and Rob did a radio interview with Tom Sharpling on New Jersey based WFMU (which you can listen to by clicking here and scrolling 59 minutes into the program). Sharpling informed us that the uncle of his show's Associate Producer owned a bar in Bayonne. Located only about a mile and a half from the bridge, the bar became our destination. There we were greeted by Joe the bartender and a host of regulars.

Massa's unassumingly sits on the corner of West 24th and Ave A. It is the longest single family owned business in Bayonne. The bar dates back to 1934 when it began as a speakeasy in the basement. Prior to serving illegal liquid delights the bar began as a candy shop. We were given a full tour including secret doors leading to the old speakeasy in the basement. As many good bar discussions will, the conversation went into sports. Kyle's devotion to the Mets nearly lead to a bare knuckle brawl with a 92 year old die hard Yankee fan. Massa's opens at 6 am, pints are $2, conversation is lively and you are sitting in history. More pictures from our visit to Massa's Tavern can be seen at

The Bayonne bridge was our 24th bridge crossing. Next week, Tueday March 2nd, we are going to City Island.

From information about the Bayonne bridge from Wikipedia:
The Bayonne Bridge is the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. It connects Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York, spanning the Kill Van Kull.

The bridge was designed by master bridge-builder Othmar Ammann and the architect Cass Gilbert. It was built by the Port of New York Authority and opened on November 15, 1931, after dedication ceremonies were held the previous day. The primary purpose of the bridge was to allow vehicle traffic from Staten Island to reach Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel.

Ammann, the master bridge builder and chief architect of the Port Authority, chose the steel arch design after rejecting a cantilever and suspension design as expensive and impractical for the site.
The eventual design of the bridge called for a graceful arch that soars 266 feet (69 m) above the Kill Van Kull and supports a road bed for 1,675 feet (511 m) without intermediary piers. The total length of the bridge is 8,640 feet (2,633 m) with a mid-span clearance above the water of 150 feet (46 m). The arch resembles a parabola, but is made up of 40 linear segments.
The design of the steel arch is based on the Hell Gate Bridge designed by Ammann's mentor, Gustav Lindenthal.[citation needed] Gilbert had designed an ornamental granite sheathing over the steelwork as part of the original proposal, but as in the case of the George Washington Bridge, the stone sheathing was eliminated in order to lower the cost of the bridge, leaving the steel trusses exposed. It was the first bridge to employ the use of manganese steel for the main arch ribs and rivets.

Construction on the bridge began in 1928, and eventually cost $13 million. When it opened on November 15, 1931, it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world. It was deliberately built a few feet longer than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened the year after. The presence of the Bayonne Bridge ultimately led to the discontinuation of the Bergen Point Ferry.

The supported roadway carries two lanes of traffic in each direction. The roadway deck could accommodate an expansion for either two traffic lanes or two light-rail lanes. A pedestrian walkway, cantilevered from the western side of the roadway, currently provides the only access by foot to Staten Island. The Port Authority also permits bicycle traffic, however the sidewalk ends abruptly at descending stairs on the New Jersey side. Due to safety concerns, bicycle riders are required to walk their bicycles across the bridge.

Tolls are collected on vehicles traveling into Staten Island (there is no toll for vehicles traveling into New Jersey). The car toll is $8.00, though discounts are available for E-ZPass subscribers.
In September 2007, the New York City Transit Authority began a limited-stop bus route (the S89 ) that crosses the bridge. The route's termini are the Hylan Boulevard bus terminal in Eltingville, Staten Island and the 34th Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Station in Bayonne. This is the first interstate bus service offered by the MTA.
In 2003, the bridge carried about 20,000 vehicles per day.

Height Problem
The span presents a difficult obstacle to large container ships passing under it on the way to and from Newark Bay. Its clearance of between 151 feet (46 m) feet and 156 feet (48 m) feet above the Kill Van Kull depending on the tide means that some of today's ships, which can reach 175 feet (53 m) above the waterline, must fold down antenna masts, take on ballast or wait for low tide to pass through. The problem will become more serious after the Panama Canal is widened when a new generation of monster ships that can potentially carry double the load of current vessels are expected to become commonplace. The Port Authority is considering replacing the span, and has commissioned a study of the question by the Army Corps of Engineers to be completed in the summer of 2009, and has authorized up to $10 million for planning and engineering services to develop options to deal with the bridge's low clearance. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently released a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that looked at three options to deal with the height-challenged bridge. The quickest option is a $1.3 billion project to jack up the bridge 40 percent above its 150 feet which could be accomplished by 2019 at the earliest. It will need a clearance of 215 feet to handle the new ships. Another option is to build a whole new bridge which would take until 2022. The most expensive option would be to get rid of the bridge altogether and replace it with a tunnel through which traffic would traverse under the Kill Van Kull. This option would take to 2024 to complete. Congressmen from both New York and New Jersey are pressing the Port Authority to act quickly.

Appearances in popular culture
▪The bridge was featured in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind.
▪The bridge has appeared in the HBO prison drama Oz.
▪The bridge has appeared in the background on a few episodes on the ▪Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
▪The bridge was featured in the 2005 science fiction film, War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise, appearing in the background several times in the scenes that took place in Bayonne. The main character's home was also located near the bridge, which is destroyed in an attack by aliens.

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