By Jon Schuppe
MANHATTAN — Three years after Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed to a multimillion-dollar restoration of a historic bridge connecting Washington Heights and the Bronx, his administration has taken its first big step toward making it happen.
The Parks Department last week awarded a $4 million contract to Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, which will design the renovation of the High Bridge, including wheelchair and bicycle access. The work will begin this winter and will take about a year, a department spokesman said.
Construction won't begin until sometime next year.
The 1,200-foot-long Roman-style span opened in 1848 above the Harlem River, making it the oldest bridge connecting two boroughs.
It was built as part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, which used gravity to supply New York with drinking water from Westchester County.
New York stopped using the aqueduct in 1958, but the bridge remained popular for walking. It was closed to pedestrians in 1960, and came under the protection of the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission 10 years later.
In 2007, Bloomberg announced plans to restore the bridge as part of his plan to expand access to New York’s waterfronts. About $65 million in public money has been set aside for the project, but the project has lagged behind schedule (construction was supposed to start last summer).
The construction will include repair of the brick walkway and supporting arches, new safety fencing, restoration of historic hand railings, and construction of bicycle and wheelchair ramps.