Thursday, July 25, 2024


The history of the New York bridges, particularly the Bronx’s, won’t fit into one book but several volumes. There are dozens of functioning bridges in the city. Each of them is unique, interesting and innovative in its own way, as all of them were built using the latest technologies of that time and, therefore, deserve a close look. Learn more about the 145th Street Bridge at

General information about the bridge

According to, the 145th Street Bridge appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and its roadway consists of 4 lanes. It connects 145th Street and Lenox Avenue in Manhattan with 149th Street and River Avenue in the Bronx. Alfred Pancoast Boller was a designer of this construction. Sometimes it is called the Lenox Avenue Bridge, but this name has become almost obsolete nowadays.

Why was it built at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century?

The need to build a bridge between the above-mentioned streets arose at the end of the 19th century, as the city was developing rapidly and it was necessary to connect its surroundings. That is why the public and the city government turned to the legislators. In 1895, the New York State Legislature passed a law that allowed the construction of the bridge and allocated funds for those needs. The bridge was planned to connect the residential areas of Manhattan and the new industrial sites of the Bronx as well as to fill the 1-mile space between the river crossings on the Harlem River. Authorities specified that the bridge should be 240 feet long, 70-60 feet wide and would take 20 years and $1,250,000 to build. Also, it was decided that additional money for the purchase of land under construction and its condemnation would be allocated if necessary. The bridge met the navigation requirements of the Harlem River Canal, which was opened in 1895 and enabled the transportation of goods between the East River and the Hudson. The newly-created canal forced builders and operators to change the designs of existing bridges on the river to meet the new navigational requirements. In the case of the 145th Street Bridge, everything was fine, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York City Board of Estimate approved the plans for the new bridge.

The architect and his advisor

As we have already mentioned, Alfred Pancoast Boller was chosen as the bridge designer. He worked in the Clinton and Russell architectural firm and was an experienced architect who had already built Madison Avenue, the Macombs Dam, and the University Heights drawbridges. William H. Burr was his assistant in the engineering aspects of the project.

The bridge planning and changes in its design

The 145th Street Bridge was actually copied from the Macombs Dam. However, it was decided to make certain changes based on the previous experience to build it more reliably. First, the span length was reduced from 400 to 240 feet. The width increased from 60-70 to 90 feet making the roadway wider too. They also changed the type of materials for the bridge approaches, using steel and concrete instead of the earthen foundation. The design has become more modest, as the amount of materials was reduced. Also, they decided that since the bridge was supposed to be swinging, it was better to use electricity as a source of energy instead of steam.

In 1900, the bridge project was approved by the Secretary of Defense. The budget council of the city once again reviewed the project and approved it too. Even at that stage, it was already clear that the funds would be exceeded, so the city requested more money and got them from the New York Legislature.

Beginning and completion of the construction

The beginning of construction was postponed due to the building of the subway tunnel next to the bridge and was started on April 19, 1901. It cost $2.75 million in 1905 and was opened for traffic on August 24 of the same year. The bridge and approaches were 1,603 feet long (including 300 feet of the very bridge) and 90 feet wide (including 54 feet of the very roadway). Then it underwent testing and inspection of its electrical systems and mechanisms. After that, the administration, the operating company and the architect revised everything once again.

What is a bridge made of?

The 145th Street Bridge is a swing bridge consisting of 3 trusses that move on a drum beam resting on a center pier and swing lifts on the approach piers. The weight of the rotating platform is 368 tons. The vehicles can drive on a 27-foot-wide roadway that lies between the center truss and the outer truss. Also, there are two 9 feet-wide sidewalks. Its swing bridge system consists of drive motors, brakes, a control panel for an electrical system, railings, fencing, lighting and alarms.

Reconstruction and its modern appearance

In 1957, the bridge approach was reconstructed to ease traffic to Manhattan and the Bronx. The same year, the 1st and 2nd spans were added to connect Harlem River Drive to the bridge. The other spans were replaced and reconstructed in 1990. In addition, the original flank span was replaced to provide a right-of-way for the Oak Point Link.

The entire bridge reconstruction took place in 2004 and cost $85 million. It was planned to replace the turning and approach spans, to carry out reconstruction under the structure and improve the seismic resistance of the bridge. The builders installed notice boards that displayed information about the reconstruction and were also engaged in traffic regulation during the closure of the bridge at night.

Initially, the bridge and the passages to it were partially blocked. Then the bridge was completely closed, the old turning mechanism was dismantled and a new one was installed. In order to be able to deliver the new bridge to the place of installation, it had to be assembled outside the factory and then delivered by water along the Hudson River, East River and Harlem. In February, when the preparatory work was completed, the new 145th Street Bridge reached its final destination by the water of the Harlem River. Two lanes were opened in June 2007 and the rest of the bridge in September. So, today, the bridge has 4 lanes for traffic in both directions again. 30,000 cars use this bridge every day. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, namely in 1905, New York, realizing the need to improve transport connections within the city and state, planned and built the 145th Street Bridge. During the 20th and 21st centuries, it has been reconstructed and strengthened several times and today it continues reliable functioning, as 120 years ago. How often do you use this bridge?

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