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 former aqueduct which once brought water from Westchester County's Croton Reservoir into New York City. A pedestrian walkway on top connects Manhattan to the Bronx. 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. Scope included: rehabilitation of the masonry arch span, steel arch span, brick arch deck, and brick walkway; deleading and painting of structural elements; stabilization and conservation of the aqueduct pipe; incorporation of barrier-free access and safety features for pedestrians and wheeled users; rehabilitation of historic railings and walkway lighting posts; provision of architectural lighting; and incorporation of a visitor information wayfinding system.
The High Bridge is a designated New York City landmark as well as the oldest bridge in the city. How did working on this project differ from previous experience because of its historical nature?
As a structure constructed in the 1830s and the 1920s, the High Bridge displays a variety of historic materials including granite, common brick, cold-rolled steel, and decorative cast and wrought iron as well as construction techniques uncommon to contemporary reinforced concrete and steel bridge and construction. The successful rehabilitation of the structure required careful attention to the original materials and the original construction techniques. Specialized restoration techniques were employed and protection of the historic materials was essential during construction operations.
Due to the age of the structure, layers of heavy industrial pollutants had to be removed from the granite surfaces by micro-abrasive cleaning from an extensive scaffolding system. Lead paint coatings had to be safely removed prior to repair and re-painting of steel. Decorative metals railings had to be shipped off-site for detailed restoration. Moisture-deteriorated masonry had to be field surveyed by Inspectors and carefully repaired with appropriate materials.
Overall, the project required a familiarity with traditional and modern construction techniques and materials and a higher level of specialized attention to construction methods, procedures and operations than typically required on contemporary infrastructure projects.
What are some of the unique safety challenges posed by working on and underneath a bridge?
The High Bridge is a 1,400 ft long pedestrian connecting link between the Bronx and Manhattan suspended 100 ft above the Harlem River. Underneath the bridge there are local streets, highways, railroad and waterway. It was very complex and challenging to comply and coordinate with several agency regulations and provide a safe passage to public and vehicular traffic. A timely submission of work schedules and well established lines of communication were key elements for success of this project. My team and I worked with several agencies and the contractor from start to finish in order to minimize impact on moving traffic and public safety.
Recently you were commended by NYCDDC for your assistance with their high school internship program. You provided a group of students a behind-the-scenes site tour of the High Bridge. What advice did you give to these kids looking to start their career in the construction industry?
The construction industry is facing a shortage of young engineers. I advised the eager students that engineering is a field with great opportunity. And that choosing an engineering career is both rewarding and challenging and also a great way to serve the community.
What is the best piece of advice you received during your career?
Team work = 3 Cs
Communication, Commitment and Cooperation
What do you like most about your day?
I like that my day usually begins with a challenge and ends with resolving the problem in a practical manner.
Bharat Patel has provided program and project management and quality control / quality assurance services for public and private sector projects for 25 years. Since joining LiRo as a Resident Engineer in 2008, he has been involved in several high profile projects including the redevelopment of properties surrounding the new Yankee Stadium; and reconstruction of retaining walls and roads for various NYCDDC assignments.