When the Hell Gate Bridge was completed in September 1916 it was the longest steel-arch bridge in the world. Its construction, using more steel than the Manhattan and Queensboro Bridges combined, began in 1912.
Antonio Meloni, a member of Community Board 1 and Director of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, speaking at the April 26 meeting of the 114th Precinct Community Council, is seeking to engage the community in the upcoming centennial of the Hell Gate Bridge.
“It’s a landmark, we grew up with it (and) we should adopt it as our own,” Meloni said.
The bridge crosses Hell Gate, a strait in the East River, between Astoria and Randalls and Wards Islands.
Dedicated and officially opened to rail traffic on March 9, 1917, the first direct rail service between Washington D.C. and Boston Massachusetts was established when a Pennsylvania Railroad train went over the bridge about a month later on April 1.
A series of possible celebrations, including fireworks, historical tours, a badly needed paint job, and lighting are among the ways the Hell Gate centennial could be marked said Meloni.
“We’re trying to involve Amtrak,” he said.
The Hell Gate Bridge is owned and maintained by Amtrak and still has the 17th longest main steel arch span in the world. It is an essential part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail network.
Amtrak, or the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, was founded in 1971 to take over intercity passenger rail service that had been previously operated by private railroads.
The NEC, 80 percent of which is owned and/or maintained by Amtrak, is the busiest passenger railroad network in the United States and its mainline between Boston Massachusetts and Washington D.C. carries more than 700,000 commuter rail and 40,000 Amtrak trips each day into and out of several large economic markets.
The Hell Gate carries Amtrak NEC trains on its two south tracks and CSX and Norfolk Southern freight trains on its north inner track. The north outer track is not in operation.
Penn Station Access, a projected $695 million project in Amtrak’s fiscal 2017- 2021 budget, would use the Hell Gate Bridge to connect the New Haven Line to Penn Station.
Gustave Lindenthal, also involved in the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge and construction of the Manhattan Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge, developed plans for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1892 as a way to bring rail traffic from Pennsylvania Railroad routes in New Jersey through New York City to New England.
The Pennsylvania Railroad bridge project, originally called, The East River Arch Bridge, chose Lindenthal as consulting engineer and bridge architect in 1904 for the eventual Hell Gate Bridge.