Walking the Line

The Walkway Over the Hudson

SOURCE: Civil Engineering Magazine · PUBLISHED: December 2009 · AUTHORS: Peter Melewski, P.E., John Brizzell, P.E., Mike Cooper, P.E., David Thurnherr, P.E., Malcolm McLaren, P.E., and James Green, P.E.

Thanks to the efforts of engineers, divers, contractors, government agencies, and preservation-oriented nonprofit organizations, the historically important Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge has been transformed from a neglected structure to a unique and vibrant connection for hikers, bikers, and visitors to the Hudson River valley.

The Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge is a 19th-century engineering marvel listed in the National Register of Historic Places and recently recognized by ASCE's Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Program. The cornerstone of the bridge was laid in 1873, and when the crossing was completed - in 1888, five years after the Brooklyn Bridge - it was the longest in the world, at 6,767 feet. It had the largest cantilever spans ever built, and its four river piers were supported on massive concrete-filled timber crib foundations that were more than 10 stories tall. As the first bridge spanning the Hudson River between Albany and New York City, it had an enormous effect on the transportation of freight in the northeastern part of the country as well as on the modern transportation network. But in 1974 a fire brought an end to its useful life as a railroad bridge.

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