New York Construction votes "Walkway" Best of 2010

Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, Pre-construction

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, New York’s hottest public space, has received yet another engineering award.

Having already received multiple accolades, including NYSSPE’s Project of the Year award, the Walkway can now add New York Construction News’ “Best of 2010” award for Engineering Design to its resume. Formerly known as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, the Walkway – a 1.2-mile steel cantilever truss bridge that stands, at its zenith, 200 feet about the Hudson River – was no doubt selected because of the innovation, ingenuity, vision, and passion exhibited by its project team.

McLaren was an important part of that team, which included several key visionaries, donors, engineers, and contractors who fast-tracked the project to a successful end. The firm provided structural inspection, evaluation and engineering design for the Walkway, including a full climbing inspection of the structural steel trusses by in-house engineers trained in rope-access techniques. McLaren’s dive engineers also performed an underwater inspection of the four bridge piers.

Following the inspection, McLaren performed an in-depth structural analysis required to assess the bridge’s condition and identify needed repairs. Assistance was then provided in designing the repairs that would convert the railroad bridge into a spectacular pedestrian walkway and public park. McLaren also designed repairs to the bridge piers, addressing deficiencies noted in their inspection.

Since its unveiling last October, the Walkway has welcomed over 600,000 patrons and has set a precedent in the northeast and throughout the United States as one of the premier waterfront public spaces. Visible design details were kept simple: textures in the deck surface delineate and encourage separation of pedestrians and cyclists; unadorned galvanized railings create a ribbon that draws one further along the bridge; dark-sky LED tube-lighting is tucked beneath the upper bridge rail to light Walkway without obscuring the starlit night; three widened overlooks promote observation in all directions; and numerous interpretive panels serve to educate visitors. Each of these design elements may seem quite ordinary, but together they work to provide an attractive, functional and safe facility.

The bridge was originally built in 1889; at the time it was the longest bridge in the world and its cantilever truss design was considered an engineering marvel. After 85 years of carrying commuter and freight traffic over the Hudson, a portion of the bridge burned down in 1974, resulting in the bridge’s deactivation and seemingly condemning it to demolition. Walkway Over the Hudson and New York State Parks, the project’s primary stakeholders, looked to preserve this historic bridge and opened the new public park in time for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the eponymous river in 2009.

See also: "Walking the Line"