LiRo provided construction inspection and environmental engineering services for the rehabilitation of this historic steel-and-masonry bridge spanning the Harlem River. Constructed in 1848, the upper portion of the bridge conceals a large aqueduct which once brought water from Westchester County’s Croton Reservoir into New York City. A pedestrian walkway on top, opened in 1864, connects Washington Heights in Manhattan to the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx, and was a popular 19th century tourist destination. The aqueduct stopped functioning in 1958, and although the walkway remained open through the 1970’s, the bridge was subsequently abandoned for almost 40 years. The goal of this project was to reopen High Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists while respecting the grandeur of the original design. The bridge is a New York City landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Embedded in the bridge’s walkway are large bronze medallions offering brief history lessons.
About the Project
Before significant work on the outer bridge could begin, stabilization and conservation of the concealed aqueduct pipe was required. Paint containing lead was removed from the structural framework, and new coatings applied to protect the steel. The masonry arch span, steel arch span, brick arch deck, and brick walkway was rehabilitated. Historic railings and walkway lighting posts have been restored. To serve as a welcoming pedestrian destination, barrier-free access was incorporated into the design, a wayfinding system greets visitors, and new architectural lighting provides a safe environment.
Project Challenges & Solutions
Coordination with multiple agencies and with the surrounding communities was required throughout construction. Specialized restoration techniques were implemented to effectively restore the historic masonry and structural elements, and thorough, hands-on construction inspection was required to ensure that the work was completed safely, efficiently, and in accordance with the contract specifications.
The completion of the project saw high praise from both communities as it reconnected the long separated Bronx and Manhattan boroughs.