Essay On Cross Bronx Expressway

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Cross Bronx Expressway

Plans for the Cross Bronx Expressway kicked off in 1936, after the recommendation of the Regional Plan Association. It was proposed by the RPA that an extensive network of parkways and expressways be built to cover the Connecticut-New Jersey-New York metropolitan area. It was believed that the expressway would be instrumental in giving both commercial and pleasure traffic an uninterrupted roadway that is both safe and enjoyable. It was believed that if a new freeway system is constructed that can accommodate all kinds of vehicles, then the persistent traffic problems in New York would be addressed conclusively (Bruner 16). One of such recommended routes was the Cross Bronx Expressway. This particular route was to be used to connect the various bridges within the area.

Construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway would be an engineering challenge that was unprecedented. It is in 1945 that a system of highways that are of limited-access was proposed. If implemented successfully, this expressway system was to supplement the already existing parkway system that had been constructed earlier in the 1920’s (Caro 98). In New York’s five boroughs, new expressways that would exceed 100 miles were proposed. The Cross Bronx Expressway, it was decided, would be 8.3 miles long, and it would have six lanes. Further, it would run through South Bronx’s center. Of all expressway projects, this would be the most challenging.

For successful completion of the expressway, there would have to be the redirecting of rivers, crossing valleys, as well as blasting through ridges. It must also be noted that there were nearby apartment buildings, and it was important that very minimal disruption be made (Dolnick 3). Even more importantly, the design of the expressway was one where it would have to go past seven parkways and expressways, as well as 113 streets. This further underlines how complex the design was to be. It would also have to cross three commuter rails, five elevated lines, one subway lines and numerous sewer and water lines. The constructors were under strict orders not to disrupt any of the lifelines.

The designer of the expressway, Ernest Clark maintains that utmost care was exercised during the construction. There were careful chiseling and blasting of rocks from supporting girders because any wrong move would have untold consequences (Feuer 6). At the time, not even the designers and the constructors were sure if the project would be a success. It is evident that the Cross Expressway was made visually appealing by the highway engineers, and it was also ensured that nearby communities were disrupted minimally. This was to be a mixed traffic expressway, and it was important that the construction and design standards be of the highest standards. Wide rights of way were acquired, and this consequently ensured ample space for playgrounds, mall parks, as well as landscaping. Modern safety devices were used, and this was complemented by attractive lighting devices and stone-faced bridges (Hermalyn 12).

However, the current state of the Cross Bronx Expressway is not the one that was envisioned. The expressway is currently in poor physical condition; its traffic is clogged and it is notoriously old (Caro 76). However, its numerous tunnels remain fascinating to drive through. Different sections have varying features, brick walls and overhead arches. It also has two underpasses that still stand out. Like other New York City expressways, Cross Bronx Expressway has its location in a constricted right-of-way. In a bid to ensure community disruption is minimized, the constructors ensured numerous pedestrian overpasses and underpasses. The expressway itself was also put below grade (Short 11).

The funding, construction and design of the expressway were all received differently by various quarters. It was characteristic of expressways of the early and pre interstate era in New York. The designers ensured that the six lanes were all 12 foot wide, with each direction having three lanes. The cobblestone shoulders were 10 foot, and the median guardrail was made of continuous steel.

It is in 1948 that the official construction began. In 1955, the initial sections were opened, and this ensured that a nonstop route was provided at Bruckner traffic circle. Both sections were constructed with similar Federal and State funds. At some point, construction was threatening to stall due to lack of funds. However, Washington soon offered relief, and it was agreed that the Federal government would cover 90 [percent of interstate highways costs. The other 10 percent would be picked up by the states (Bruner 7). Other significant challenges were soon experienced, especially when it came to the East Tremont battle. Section three was yet to be constructed; six years after the construction plans had been announced. It was feared that construction of this section would see many residents displaced, especially those of Morris Heights and East Tremont.

Over 1,500 families in 160 building would be displaced. This is a scenario that caused an impasse. It was suggested that an alternative route be sought, but this idea was shot down by the designers. It is in the 1950’s that the link between bridges was completed. This also marked the completion of the two remaining segments. In 1961, traffic was opened from the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Bruckner interchange. However, one significant challenge still remained. This was the section that was to ensure the Cross Bronx Expressway goes above Major Deegan Expressway. The entire process required a complex interchange, and it was a delicate act for designers (Worth 4). In 1963, the expressway’s final link was completed, and this was 15 years after the commencement of construction. The Cross Bronx Expressway’s total cost is believed to be in the region of $ 140 million.

There were numerous engineering, economic and social difficulties during the execution of this project. This was not made any easier by the political meddling, especially when it came to funds allocation. The constructors and designers of the Cross Bronx Expressway still maintain that they had to act with humane firmness and understanding, and it is because of this that the project was completed. As far as metropolitan arterial chain is concerned, the status of the Cross Bronx Expressway has never been in doubt. Three lives were lost in the expressway’s completion.

The expressway, it must be noted, has had numerous impacts. Although the project was subjected unending criticism during the entire time, the role that it has played in the New York transport system cannot be underscored. It is an indispensable part, largely because it links the interstate highway network in the East Coast. Concerns have been aired that construction of highways only makes established neighborhoods decay.

However, opinion is still divided as to whether the Cross Bronx Expressway was a negative or a positive to surrounding communities (Dolnick 8). There are various improvements that this expressway has been subject to, and further improvements are expected to be carried out in the future. Statistics from the transportation department in New York indicate that on a daily basis, the Cross Bronx Expressway is used by over 175,000 vehicles.

However, the expressway has had to contain heavy traffic for over four decades, and this has obviously had its consequences on the expressway. Various rehabilitation efforts have been undertaken in a bid to salvage its reputation. For instance, the Bruckner interchange was subjected to a $155 million reconstruction in 2002. Over 14 bridges and ramps were reconstructed, and new electrical and drainage systems were also installed. Rehabilitation projects have also aimed at improving esthetics along the expressway. Other suggestions being considered include continuous service roads and truck priority lanes.

It must be appreciated that at the time, this expressway represented an engineering marvel. This point is underlined by the fact that its construction was done through an urban environment that was densely populated. It put the neighborhoods around the area at loggerheads with the constructors because they felt that they were unfairly targeted because of their low-income status. The South Bronx was most affected. This shows that the Cross Bronx Expressway is not without its share of issues and controversies.

It has often been blamed by South Bronx neighborhoods for worsening the decay that the region was experiencing, with Tremont being a prominent example. It has been argued that the designers and constructor specifically targeted this neighborhood even though options that were more viable were available. This is yet another controversy that the Cross Bronx Expressway has found itself in. The expressway lowered the property value in the area, and the area’s economy was significantly affected. It has been suggested that great compromises have to be made by individuals seeking to live by the expressway (Hermalyn) 14. Traffic always lurks, and this can be dangerous for pedestrians, especially children. There is also environmental degradation that the pollution causes.

At the time of Cross Bronx Expressway’s construction, Robert Moses was an instrumental figure, especially when it came to modern buildings. Moses is till adored and criticized in equal measure. Some of the locals have come to appreciate his efforts, whereas some have found even more reasons to condemn him, especially given the road’s current state. Some of the poor South Bronx residents still maintain that Moses and his team did not compensate them even after demolishing their buildings with no remorse.

It is claimed that even those who were compensated were given a paltry $ 200 for each room, before being forced out (Feuer 11). The mass relocations, it must be noted, had untold ramification on South Bronx’s economy. In excess of 600,000 jobs were lost during the period, and youth unemployment also increased drastically. However, although the Cross Bronx Expressway is a project that has been received differently by differently quarters, it must be appreciated that even the constructors and designers of the project had the best intentions in mind.

Works Cited

Bruner, John. "Americas Worst Intersections." Forbes (2009). Print.
Dolnick, Sam. "On Bronx Stoops, a Highway’s Traffic Entertains." New York Times (2010). Print.
Feuer, Alan. "Hell on Wheels, and Nerves." New York Times (2002). Print.
Hermalyn, Gary. "The Bronx: It Was Only Yesterday, 1935-1965." The Bronx County Historical Society (1992). Print.
Short, John R. Alabaster Cities: Urban U.S. Since 1950. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006. Print.
Worth, Robert. "Guess Who Saved the." The Washington Monthly (1999). Print.
Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Vintage
Books, 1975. Print.