Busy Winter Days at Marine Parkway Bridge

The lift section of the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge has been getting a daily workout to accommodate crossings of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ship en route to a marshland restoration project in Jamaica Bay. As the vessel travels to and fro carting mountains of sand and other materials, the bridge's vertical lift span must be raised for safe clearance as required by the U.S. Coast Guard, which regulates the waterways.

The frequent lifts-at least four per day-started in December and will be necessary through the end of March. The entire lift procedure lasts approximately 12 minutes before vehicular traffic can resume. The bridge staff also schedules weekly maintenance lifts in order to ensure the mechanism is in ship-shape working order.

A vertical lift span like that of the Marine Parkway Bridge goes up and down like an elevator. The normal clearance for the bridge is 55 feet above mean high water; when the center span is raised to full height, total clearance increases to 150 feet. The tops of the steel towers, which curl gracefully, were designed to frame the main span when it was lifted.

It takes four people to execute the electronic lift operation at Marine Parkway: one maintenance operator and one assistant on the Brooklyn side, and another assistant on the Queens side to halt vehicular traffic while monitoring barrier gates and the pedestrian walkway. In the meantime, traffic is stopped at the toll plaza by a Bridge and Tunnel Officer or Sergeant.

Construction of the Marine Parkway Bridge began in June 1936; it opened to traffic on July 3, 1937. When it was built, the bridge's vertical lift span was the longest in the world for vehicular traffic. The bridge stretches 3,840 feet and has four traffic lanes and a pedestrian path. The center lift truss span is 540-feet-long, with two 540-foot-long side truss spans and two 1,061-foot-long approaches.

The 72-year-old bridge, which connects Brooklyn to the Rockaways, was renamed in 1978 to honor the late Gil Hodges, who played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers and later managed the New York Mets. The bridge carries average daily traffic of 22,000 vehicles.