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MTA Bridges and Tunnels to Connect RFK Bridge Walkway to Future Manhattan Greenway Segment Along Harlem River

Bridges and Tunnels
Updated December 15, 2021 1:30 p.m.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels to Connect RFK Bridge Walkway to Future Manhattan Greenway Segment Along Harlem River

New Ramp Will Be Fully Accessible Under Americans With Disabilities Act


New Connector Will Be Ready for Public Use When Greenway Opens


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board today approved a contract to build a new ramp connecting the walkway on the north side of the RFK Bridge’s Manhattan span to a new seven-acre park along the Manhattan Greenway being developed on the Harlem River by the New York City Economic Development Corporation for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

The ramp will connect the existing walkway on the north side of the RFK Bridge’s Manhattan span to the future park south of East 127th Street via a stair-free route that consists of a gently sloping, well-lit, concrete and steel ramp making one switchback before landing in the future park between the RFK Bridge and the Willis Avenue Bridge. The ramp will be fully accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is expected to be 650 feet long and clear a vertical distance of roughly 45 feet between the greenway and the bridge walkway.

This new ramp is one more step in completing the Manhattan Greenway, a 32.5-mile path for walking and cycling along the borough’s waterfront. It will eventually link more than 1,000 acres of open space, creating greater access to the water and transportation alternatives for residents.

“This is an exciting project that will enable New Yorkers to travel on foot directly between the forthcoming Harlem River Greenway and the many recreational opportunities of Randalls and Wards islands,” said Janno Lieber, MTA Acting Chair and CEO. “This project reaffirms the MTA’s commitment to non-motorized travel, which is growing in importance as a way to respond to climate change and promote healthy lifestyles in environmental justice communities like East Harlem, where finding access to green space and recreational opportunities can be challenging.”

“This project is an example of our tradition at MTA Bridges and Tunnels to reinvest our resources for the benefit of the local community,” said Daniel F. DeCrescenzo Jr., President of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. “Work will be coordinated to ensure minimal impact to traffic on the bridge.”

The ramp will be built for $19.6 million. To create efficiencies, the contract is bundled with an additional $26 million of work to renew and upgrade bridge components, including the RFK Manhattan Span’s marine fenders that prevent boats on the Harlem River from colliding with the bridge’s support structures.

“We’re getting this important accessibility improvement done by streamlining design, contracting and construction,” said Jamie Torres-Springer, President of MTA Construction & Development. “This allows crews to perform more work, in less time, at a lower cost.”

“We are excited to work together with our partners at MTA, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and the New York City Department of Transportation to take one more step in completing the Manhattan Greenway, a green space with walking and bicycle paths which encircles the entire island,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Rachel Loeb. “This vital new link in East Harlem will provide more options for equitable access to the river and alternative transportation for residents and New Yorkers as a whole. It is another important project that strengthens neighborhoods while making New York City greener.”

“The MTA’s work to construct their pedestrian ramp connecting the east side greenway—to the north and south—through our future seven acre Harlem River Park is vital to making Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to close the Manhattan loop a reality,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff. “We are happy to have collaborated on the ramp’s design in order to increase the Harlem community’s access to its waterfront through new and existing green space.”

“We thank the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for improving access to the East Harlem waterfront with the addition of a new pedestrian ramp from the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “It will connect to the Harlem River Greenway, a New York City Economic Development Corporation project that will bring much-needed waterfront park space and a more resilient seawall from East Harlem up through Inwood. The seawall will help protect both of these flood-prone communities while the green space and improved waterfront access will help East Harlem residents cope with the extreme heat they experience as a result of the climate crisis.”

The ramp will restore the north walkway’s non-motorized access between Manhattan and Randalls Island, which closed in October 2020 to enable the creation of MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ new vehicular ramp connecting northbound traffic from the RFK Bridge to the Harlem River Drive. That ramp opened in November 2020 and is helping to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions in East Harlem by more than 2,500 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, helping to ease pressure on community childhood asthma rates. The ramp was recognized by the Design-Build Institute of America this year for the National Award of Merit in the Transportation field.

Major construction work on the pedestrian ramp is expected to conclude by spring 2023. The ramp will be open to the public when the new park is anticipated to be complete, in 2025. The pedestrian walkway on the southside of the RFK Bridge has remained open and will continue to be. Work on the new ramp will be performed by Walsh Construction Co.