The Willis Avenue Bridge bridge extends from First Avenue and East 124th Street in Manhattan to Willis Avenue and East 134th Street in the Bronx. Oriented north-south, the bridge is a northbound route and works in concert with the nearby Third Avenue Bridge, which carries southbound traffic. The bridge crosses the Harlem River Drive, a concrete plant, the Harlem River, the Metro-North Railroad Oak Point Link, the Harlem River Rail Yard, and Bruckner Boulevard. Over 70,000 drivers use the bridge each day.
By the turn of the 20th century, intensified manufacturing development in the southern Bronx had rendered the Third Avenue Bridge inadequate for traffic demand. In 1894 the State Legislature authorized a new bridge to be built in the same location where a ferry ran in the 17th century. After a delay due to a right-of-way conflict with the New Haven Railroad, the bridge opened on August 22, 1901, at a cost of $2,444,511. Significant work to strengthen the structure was performed in 1916, when the Union Railway Company routed a trolley line across the bridge.
The New Bridge
By the early 2000s, the Willis Avenue Bridge exhibited the effects of age, weather and the continual, daily usage by motor vehicles. As part of a $612 million project, DOT completely replaced the bridge, including the FDR Drive approach ramp and the ramp onto Bruckner Boulevard in 2010. The project is ongoing, as DOT completes reconstruction work on surrounding ramps and approaches. The project is a major component of DOT's long range Harlem River Bridges program, which has so far reconstructed or replaced the Macombs Dam, Third Avenue, Madison Avenue, 145th Street and University Heights Bridges.
The new Willis Avenue Bridge was built to current engineering design standards and features a direct connection from the FDR to the northbound Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx. It has wider lanes than the old bridge, and a combined pedestrian/bicycle pathway along its north side. A symbolic portion of the original Willis Avenue Bridge will be retained as a monument in Harlem River Park.
The bridge's steel members were manufactured in Wisconsin, and the bridge itself was assembled in Coeymans, New York. This work is part of more than $5 billion in bridge investments made by the Bloomberg Administration since 2002, which includes rehabilitation and repainting projects on all of the City-owned East River bridges. Download the project overview (en Español)
Arrival of the New Bridge
On July 12, 2010 the swing span was loaded onto barges and began a 135 nautical mile journey to NY Harbor passing underneath 14 bridges. On July 26, the bridge traveled on barges to its permanent location along the East River. The bridge is 350 feet long and weighs 2,400 tons. Read the press release about the bridge's arrival in New York City Read the Mayor's press release about the bridge's installation in the Bronx
This video shows the bridge arriving in New York Harbor early on the morning of July 14, 2010, after being towed down the Hudson River from Coeymans.
These images show the bridge being towed up the East River on July 26. For larger versions of these images, please see DOT's Willis Avenue Bridge photoset.