The Old Goethals: What Goes Up, Must Come Down

By Steve Coleman, Media Relations Staff

Literally overnight, one of the iconic pieces of New York’s transportation landscape disappeared this week. Travelers returning home Monday night on the new state-of-the-art Goethals Bridge probably had no idea that history was being made just a few hundred feet to the north.

During the night and well into Tuesday morning, construction crews worked tirelessly to remove the iconic 350-foot mainspan of the old Goethals Bridge.  The bridge, a 1920s-era cantilever span, was built beginning in 1925 under the watchful eye of Port Authority consulting engineer Major General George Washington Goethals. It first opened to traffic in June 1928. Goethals Bridge

Deconstructing the mainspan, which has been a fixture in the skyline for those traveling through Staten Island to the east and on the New Jersey Turnpike to the west, was perhaps even more painstaking than its original construction. The first, and one of the most challenging aspects of the project, was securing U.S. Coast Guard approval to close the Arthur Kill Channel, a major shipping waterway to many privately operated petroleum terminals in New York Harbor, for up to 36 hours.

After receiving approval to close the channel, the mainspan was lowered 135 feet via a jacking and cable system to barges below, a slow, methodical process that took well in excess of 10 hours. Once secured to the barges, the crew had to wait for the appropriate tide in the channel before transporting the steel structure to Port Newark, where it will be dismantled for scrap.

Here’s a time-lapse video on the end of the road for the old mainspan:

Lou Franco, a senior project manager in the Port Authority’s Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Department, spent months preparing for the historic move, and now must continue the efforts to demolish the approach roadways that remain on the old Goethals Bridge.

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Senior Project Manager Lou Franco

“The many months of preparation paid off and the task was completed without incident,” Franco said. “While in some ways I was sad seeing the old bridge float away, I was very grateful to be part of such a great team on such a historical moment.”

While one phase of history marked a fitting end this week, work continues on the next piece of history – the full completion of the new Goethals Bridge, the first new crossing built by the Port Authority in more than 80 years.  While one span of the new bridge was opened last June, the entire structure is scheduled for completion in the middle of this year.


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