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Multi-Level Bridges Over Manhattan Eyed as Alternative to Tunnel Project

 Consultant Scott Spencer sees the "Empire State Gateway" as a solution to the city's transport issues.
Empire State Gateway
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MIDTOWN —  A pair of "futuristic" multi-level suspension bridges running across Manhattan from New Jersey to Queens could be the solution to New York City’s commuter woes, said the transportation expert behind the proposed project.

A Delaware-based transportation consultant has proposed the "Empire State Gateway” — a pair of four-level suspension bridges on which Amtrak and NJ Transit trains and buses could run — as an alternative to a plan to build two tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station, NJ.com first reported.

Port Authority officials, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and others have thrown their support behind the $24 billion tunnel plan, but consultant Scott Spencer sees his suspension bridge plan as a “much more do-able, manageable construction” than the Gateway Project.

The proposed tunnels have some “significant limitations,” including the potential for flood damage, limited capacity and limited revenue streams, said Spencer, who presented the idea at a Gateway Tunnel meeting last week.

“I started thinking about the options other than the tunnel, including bridges, and the problem with bridges is, where do you put them in Manhattan?” he told DNAinfo New York. “I was inspired to think, what if the bridge didn’t end in Manhattan?”

The bridges would run no lower than 120 feet above Manhattan, using air rights above 38th and 39th streets, said Spencer, who consulted on the now-defunct ARC Tunnel project.

Each bridge would have a level for utilities including power, gas and telecommunications; a level with two tracks for Amtrak and NJ Transit trains; and a level with two E-ZPass lanes for buses that could also house a light rail in the future, Spencer said.

The fourth and topmost level would hold a "spectacular 'skyline trail'" for pedestrians, hikers and bikers, he added.

Support towers for the bridges in Manhattan would be constructed on the West Side at the Hudson River, in Midtown — where passengers would travel to and from the bridge by elevator — and on the East Side, a rendering shows.

In Queens, supports would be built "in an area that has land available," with a set of ramps leading to the interstate highway, Spencer said.

Amtrak trains would be able to connect with Hell Gate Bridge and NJ Transit would go to storage above the existing Sunnyside Yard, he said.

In New Jersey, the bridges would begin near where buses come off the New Jersey Turnpike, where Route 495 begins its approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, he added.

A total of four support towers would be constructed to hold up the bridge at 38th and 39th streets below Bryant Park.

“Obviously not encumbering the sidewalk or street,” Spencer noted.

The bridges would be high enough that they would not cast direct shadows onto the street and wouldn’t create much noise, he added.

The Empire State Gateway would draw from several sources of revenue, including E-ZPass fees, biking fees, and user fees from Amtrak and NJ transit passengers, Spencer explained.

Although plans to build the bridges aren’t currently in the works, the consultant sees them as “the best solution for the future of New York’s transportation mobility needs.”

“It is a majestic, futuristic, multi-modal solution for New York’s next 100 to 200 years,” he said.