Unbuilding the Bayonne Bridge

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

The Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project, designed to lift the span to accommodate a new generation of bigger commercial ships, offered an unprecedented engineering challengebuilding a new bridge over the old roadway, while the existing one was still open and carrying traffic.

The effort continues, but in reverse. Engineers are now focused on ‘unbuilding’ the old bridge.

With the Port Authority’s close supervision and the dedication of scores of demolition workers and engineers, the removal of the Bayonne Bridge’s original span is happening at record speed. The old bridge took 38 months to build, and carried traffic for 85 years . The dismantling of the old roadway will take four months. In fact, the disassembly should be done six months ahead of schedule.

The colossal task of removing 9,800 tons of aged steel and concrete – and doing it safely above an active waterway without polluting the environment – is performed section by section and from the center of the span, out to its historic arch.

1 - BB Demo

A container vessel passes beneath the Bayonne Bridge while workers continue removing steel from its lower roadway.  Photo by Mike Dombrowski, Port Authority.

The entire process takes place at dizzying speed in this time lapse video prepared by the Port Authority’s Raphael Azucar and Conrad Barclay: https://youtu.be/lkM1MisRpwA. 

The span is divided into sections called “panel points,” each of which represents a concrete square — 40 feet on a side — that is supported by steel girders and floor beams, and suspended by two wrist-thick steel ropes that support both the original and the newly built roadway from the bridge’s iconic steel arch.

To remove the structure, cranes equipped with giant saws slice each panel point into four 20-foot concrete squares.  The squares are then lifted away, revealing the steel framework that held them in place for nearly a century. Workers then remove the metal box of girders and floor beams, and proceed to the next panel to start the process again.

The material removed was placed mostly on trucks and driven out over the remaining roadway. As the bridge span now is almost entirely gone, however, it needs to be lowered onto a barge on the Kill van Kull. The remaining steel will be recycled. One day, some of it may well be reincarnated as the bones of a new bridge.

7 - BB Demo

Sparks fly as workers separate the 85-year-old steel floor beams and girders that once made up the lower span of the Bayonne Bridge. Photo by Mike Dombrowski, Port Authority.

The “Raise the Roadway” project’s expected economic benefits – not to mention the challenge of building a new roadway 215 feet above the Kill van Kull, 64 feet above the original span– make it one of the most unique infrastructure projects in the United States. Navigational clearance is expected this summer.

“I’m pleased that we are reaching navigational clearance six months ahead of schedule,” said Steven Plate, the Port Authority’s Chief of Major Capital Projects. “I am also extremely proud of what we have accomplished through the drive and dedication of the men and women who are performing this critical work.”

2 - BB Demo

A head-on view of Bayonne from the partially removed roadway on the bridge’s Staten Island side.  Photo by Luis Avendano, Port Authority.

Posted in Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: The Skies Over Queens and the Port Authority’s Decision

By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio editor

Many people living in the vicinity of a Port Authority (PA) airport know that the agency engages actively with local community groups and roundtables on noise abatement issues. What’s less known is that these efforts began more than 50 years ago.

Under the leadership of former PA Executive Director Austin Tobin, the world’s first aircraft-noise monitoring system was developed and installed.


Austin Tobin was the Executive Director of the Port Authority from 1942-1972.  Educated at the College of the Holy Cross and Fordham Law School, Tobin was born in Brooklyn on May 25, 1903.

In 1958, Tobin was facing a serious problem. He had to find a way for a person owning a house near an airport to be able to sit comfortably on his or her porch and enjoy life.  Tobin was convinced that if aircraft noise was too loud, a good quality of life was impossible, and the airport’s relationship with its neighbors would suffer.

Meanwhile, Pan American Airways, at the time the largest international air carrier in the country, wanted PA permission to fly its new Boeing 707 from Idlewild, what is today Kennedy International Airport. It was a military jet transport plane refitted internally as a passenger aircraft.  The airplane had no mufflers.


A group meeting with Austin Tobin and members of the Bolt, Beranek and Newman team in New York discussing noise measurements in August 1958.  Two months later, the Boeing 707 ushered in the commercial jet age on October 26, 1958.  Tobin is third from the left on the back row.  Beranek is seated and wearing glasses.  Tobin’s determination to install noise monitors impacted airport operations across the world.

Aggravating matters was a lawsuit filed by Newark residents because of the noise created by the large propeller airplanes at what is now Newark Liberty International Airport.

Years earlier, the PA had told the airlines that jet planes must make no more noise than large propeller planes during takeoffs and landings. Boeing assured the Port Authority their 707 could meet this requirement, but Tobin was receiving conflicting reports.

During a test flight of the prototype 707, an event attended by Tobin and several sound experts from the acoustical consulting firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), Boeing’s claims about the 707 were contradicted.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Leo Beranek later would later write:  “We were stunned – the noise was terrible, unbelievable. The Boeing people appeared devastated.”

Angst over the Boeing 707 was growing, and Tobin informed Beranek that if something wasn’t done to control the noise, Idlewild residents were threatening to send “mothers with baby carriages onto the runways.”

So, on a late summer day in August 1958, Tobin planted himself on the front porch of a home near the end of the runway in Howard Beach to hear for himself how loud the aircraft were.  The Port Authority authorized BBN to develop a program to determine what level of jet noise would be acceptable in neighborhoods around Idlewild.

BBN gauged noise levels in Queens under many different conditions.  They measured and recorded take-off noise, distances of test locations and with cameras pointed skyward, they measured the height of each flight.  Sound meters and cameras were placed in communities.

By the end of August, Tobin had his answer: 112 perceived noise decibels (PNdB) would be the limit for takeoffs at Idlewild. By late October, a Pan Am Boeing 707-120 at full capacity flew from New York City (NYC) to London, and later a British Overseas Airways Comet 4 flew from London to NYC. Both flights had PA approval.  Neither provoked a community reaction to the noise.   Tobin’s decision to install noise monitors impacted airport operations all over the world by establishing rules and baseline noise metrics at a critical point as the jet age got underway. Both manufacturers and European airlines were put on notice that they must work to suppress jet aircraft noise if they planned trans-Atlantic flights to the New York region.

“Credit must [go] to Austin Tobin for financing the study, accepting the results and setting and enforcing limits of “noisiness” in the face of intense industry and government objection,” Beranek wrote in 2004.


The Boeing 707 opened the commercial jet age for the U.S. on October 26, 1958.  Pictured above is the 707 on the tarmac on the day of its inaugural flight. The 707 allowed the U.S. to gain the lead in commercial jet transportation.  It remained in continuous production from the mid 1950s until 1977 with more than 1,000 aircraft produced.

Posted in air travel, airport history, aviation, aviation geeks, Idlewild, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International Airport, NYC, PANYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Port Authority Air Traffic Control: Birds of a Different Feather

By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor

Air traffic controllers orchestrate the movements of airplanes in the air and on airport runways and taxiways to protect passengers and aircraft, while getting travelers to their destinations as efficiently as possible.

But they aren’t the only ones controlling air traffic, human or otherwise.

Flying beneath the radar is an altogether different kind of air traffic controller. This close-knit team, dedicated to reducing the chance of bird strikes, operates not from a control tower but the Port Authority Engineering Department, and comprises James Loudon, principal landscape architect, and three colleagues, Sara Yildirim, Jenifer Horst and Tom Nicklas, who mentored Loudon and works closely as his partner.


A family of geese enjoy an outing on a median strip on Washington Blvd. near the Newport PATH station in Jersey City.

“We do whatever we can to discourage birds because birds cause the greatest threat to aircraft in flight during landings and takeoffs,” says Loudon, who was promoted earlier this year after many years with the landscape team.

“We work on everything together at every facility at the Port Authority,” says Loudon, “it’s that camaraderie that makes us successful.”

When Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after a flock of Canada Geese flew into the engines three minutes after take-off from LaGuardia Airport in January 2009, the incident dramatized the dangers of bird strikes at airports across the country. Sully’s heroic story was further highlighted by a Hollywood movie.

The landscape architecture team aren’t the subjects of blockbuster films and their aviation-related responsibilities are under-publicized. They don’t operate from the tower, but rather from a modest warren of cubicles on the 19th floor of 4 World Trade Center, or in the field across the region.

Nevertheless, they protect against bird strikes by working closely with aviation wildlife biologist, Laura Francoeur, to implement the Port Authority’s wildlife management plan, which includes managing the landscape to reduce the types of trees, shrubs and grasses that birds prefer.

Major airports — such as those operated by the Port Authority — are like Club Meds for birds, featuring large tracts of open land with areas of standing water that attract feathery fliers and create potential hazards to aviation.

Geese, for example, prefer to land on lawns, parking lots and other big open areas. By spacing trees in a grid 50 feet apart, geese can be discouraged from landing in densely wooded areas because they do not roost, Loudon says.

“Large trees are never planted so close together that they create a tree canopy overhead, which would encourage roosting and large populations of flocking birds,” he says.

Loudon and Francoeur follow an advisory by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — which oversees air traffic controllers — that mandates what to plant and what not to plant. For example, trees and shrubs that produce edible seeds or fleshy berries are avoided.

The use of tall fescue seed mix inoculated with Endophyte typically is planted at Kennedy, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports to discourage foraging birds. Endophyte is a fungus that grows within the plant itself, which birds find unpalatable and motivates them to find another food source.


Tall fescue grass inoculated with Endophyte is used at the region’s airports to discourage foraging birds.  Endophyte is a fungus that grows within the plant, which birds find unpalatable.

The landscape architects reduce or eliminate altogether the presence of standing fresh water at the airports through design and construction. Major construction to redevelop Terminal A at Newark Liberty created additional storm runoff and potentially more standing water. Working with civil engineers, the landscape architecture team redesigned a peripheral ditch around the site to capture more storm water, which is bordered by plants to dissuade geese from landing and entering the banks.

At low-lying Teterboro Airport, where heavy rains create high water levels in the ponds, the landscape design is a game of bait and switch. A sub-surface storage for water is constructed that the birds can’t see, which is then camouflaged with a foot of soil.

“By limiting the edible delights of birds and the places they gather to feed and reproduce, we can discourage them from visiting the airports, which goes a long way towards protecting the flying public from deadly bird strikes,” says Francoeur.


A flock of geese congregate at a golf course pond.  The FAA advises on-airport storm water management facilities to allow for the quick removal of surface water.  Where possible, airport operators must modify ponds to allow a maximum 48-hour detention period for drainage.



Posted in airplane crash, airports, Chesley Sullenberger, EWR, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Teterboro Airport, Uncategorized | Tagged ,