The new Willis Avenue Bridge, now nearly complete, has made it easier for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to travel between the Bronx and Manhattan. For motorists, there is now a huge flyover ramp directly connecting the bridge to the northbound Major Deegan Expressway. This should result in better air quality for this section of the South Bronx.
What’s more, a good deal of thought was given to pedestrians and cyclists, particularly on the Bronx side. The bridge walkway has three basic access points, including two that are stair free. It’s a major improvement over the former single, stairway-only access point. Through these improvements, the local neighborhood that’s impacted by the bridge gets benefits from it as well. And through-cyclists can move ahead more easily without being blocked by the Deegan, as they were in the past. Let’s take a look.
As you’re traveling northbound on the bridge pedestrian path, the first thing you come to is a stairway down to the street level. This leads you to the southwest corner of Bruckner Boulevard and Willis Avenue. It’s particularly useful if you want to say in the local neighborhood, where an apartment building called Bruckner By the Bridge has just been completed. So if you live by the bridge, now you can walk right to it without having to cross a busy street or go several blocks out of your way. This stairway replaces what had formerly been the only pedestrian/cyclist access point on the Bronx side to the old bridge.
The next thing you come to is a ramp that leads to the northwest corner of the same intersection.
As you see here, pedestrians or cyclists heading northbound toward the camera have a choice of continuing forward toward the right foreground, or in doubling back toward Bruckner Blvd. In this way, particularly beneficial for cyclists or wheelchair users, destinations that are local or more distant are accessible without the need to negotiate stairs. Notice also the rusticated, rough-hewn stonework, giving the bridge an air of permanence, solidity and fine craftsmanship.
Finally, of value to those whose destinations are further north, the bridge’s pedestrian path continues with a bridge that engineers managed to slip in underneath the flyover ramp and over the Major Deegan. This is probably the biggest benefit of the new configuration over the old.
Going through here takes you over the Deegan to the southwest corner of E. 135th Street and Willis Avenue. From there, you can continue along Willis Avenue’s two-way bike path, which leads right to the major shopping district at The Hub. Previously, if you wanted to continue into the Bronx and you were on a bike, you’d have to carry your bike down the stairs, then go out of your way along busy Bruckner Blvd. to find a way across the Deegan. The closest underpasses are at Alexander Avenue one block to the west, or Brook Avenue two blocks to the east. Now there’s a beautiful, hill-free direct connection.
And finally, as yet another benefit of this new bridge, there’s a walkway on the east side of the bridge, allowing a direct connection between 134th St. and 135th Street without needing to go down and around to the other side of the bridge where the main walkway is.
All in all, cyclists and pedestrians can now enjoy much better connections between Manhattan and the Bronx, as predicted back in 1997.