While it’s not quite as unabashedly starry-eyed as other borough-connecting alternative transport proposals for New York City (hello, East River Skyway), Liberty Bridge is still a giant stretch … literally. But what a magnificent stretch it is.
And to be clear, Liberty Bridge, a proposed mile-long span across the Hudson River with dedicated bike and “express walking” lanes, doesn’t technically link two boroughs. Rather, it connects Battery Park in Lower Manhattan to the historic Sixth Street Embankment in downtown Jersey City. But much like Hoboken, Beacon, Philadelphia, and err, Los Angeles, Jersey City, the second most populous burg in the Garden State, gets slapped with the “sixth borough” title enough for it to qualify.
While Jersey City, with its bustling, skyscraper-laden central business district, is close to Manhattan — as the crow flies, at least — traveling between the Big Apple and “J.C.” is a time-consuming headache occuring in a subterranean tube either via perpetually packed PATH Train or the gridlocked hellhole otherwise known as the Holland Tunnel. There’s also regular ferry service across the Hudson but that option, often faster and certainly more scenic, is too costly for many commuters.
As a dedicated footbridge, Liberty Bridge would cater to pedestrians and cyclists looking to avoid the “unbearable, often delayed mass transit options that are getting wose [sic] over time.”
Explains the Liberty Bridge website:
As Jersey City continues to grow in size (thousands of new residential units hitting the market over the next few years, starting now), the current residents worry about the city’s infrastructure – mainly the PATH system. If you’re a commuter from Jersey City and going into Manhattan every day, you’re already watching multiple trains go by on the platform before there’s any sign of space for you to fit onto a PATH car. The same on your trip back to Jersey City. This is already an issue. What’s going to happen when a few thousand more people are trying to get on that same PATH train? I can assure you that that won't start driving in or taking an Uber. Sure, maybe some of them will take the ferry…but the biggest problem with the ferry is the expense. At $8 each way, an Uber ride doesn't look too bad.
With the PATH system operating at near maximum capacity during commuter hours (240,000 people per work day), the future of PATH travel from Jersey City to NYC is not looking very good. That's not even taking into consideration the unreliability of the train system, and the fact that the tunnels need repairs.
These, of course, are legitimate concerns. However, Jersey City resident Kevin Shane, the brains behind Liberty Bridge, has grander plans for the span than just making it a straightforward means of hoofing — or cycling — it from point A to B. Liberty Bridge would also serve as a bona fide tourist attraction with High Line-y flourishes such as landscaped recreation areas, food kiosks and art installations. The whole ADA-compliant shebang would be powered by solar panels and wind turbines. There’d also be free Wi-Fi for all.
As for the walking and cycling lanes, they’d be partially enclosed as to protect bridge-goers from the elements.
With the way our country is moving towards a green, eco-friendly, Tesla-esque future, a walking bridge could be a solution to more than just a Jersey City commuter nightmare. Yes, a walking bridge would provide a Brooklyn Bridge-like experience from the Jersey side, but it would also symbolize a movement that is part of the biggest topic in the world right now–climate change.
So why “Liberty Bridge,” you ask? While Liberty Island, home to a certain 305-foot tall Roman goddess, is located in the borough of Manhattan, the island is an exclave surrounded by the waters of Jersey City. Basically, the Statue of Liberty, while a New York City landmark, is really a Jersey girl through and through.
There are, of course, questions as to how a Hudson River-spanning footbridge would ever fly.
Shane, who teamed up with architect Jeff Jordan to fine-tune the concept and produce the initial set of renderings, was inspired in part by the Walkway Over the Hudson, a fantastic state historic park located nearly 100 miles north of Manhattan in Poughkeepsie that's situated on an old steel cantilever railway bridge. When it reopened as a pedestrian bridge after decades of abandonment in 2009, the 6,788-foot-long span became the longest footbridge in the world.
While both Liberty Bridge and Walkway Over the Hudson are both really long and really tall footbridges across the Hudson River, the latter in an adaptive reuse project that breathes new life into existing infrastructure. Liberty Bridge would be a newly built creation — and likely not a cheap one at that. And while sizable boats are able to pass under Walkway Over the Hudson, I’m having a difficult time picturing some of the vessels that cruise through the Upper New York Harbor, massive cruise liners included, navigating under the 200-foot-plus-tall Liberty Bridge.
Shane obviously “recognizes the monstrous challenge” that is Liberty Bridge. Still, he’s determined to grab the attention of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (not exactly someone to trust with bridge projects). He's even launched an online petition in an effort to get city and state officials to “start thinking about the current & worsening commuting problem, and take action.”
As for me, I'm still waiting for this conceptual NYC footbridge, which would basically originate in my backyard, to happen.
Via [NY Daily News]