New High Line Bridge: A Safe, Ecological Connection

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

In midtown Manhattan, the street crossings surrounding the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel were once some of the most challenging in the city. A mess of highway ramps, missing sidewalks, and concrete barriers made the corner of Dyer Avenue and 30th Street an area to avoid.

Now with a new $50 million elevated connector, pedestrians can safely move 30 feet above the intersections, using a 600-foot-long L-shaped bridge from the High Line to Moynihan Train Hall.

On their way, they can take a moment to experience a woodland landscape and a marvel of glulam wood engineering designed by landscape architects at James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) and architects and engineers at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).

“This new and vital pedestrian walk connects Midtown to the High Line and the West Side with a heightened sense of drama, spectacle, and delight,” said James Corner, FASLA, founder and CEO of JCFO.

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

The connector links the High Line — which starts on Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District and ends at Hudson Yards and the Jacob Javitz Convention Center on 34th Street — with the $1.6 billion train hall that opened in 2021.

The new pedestrian passage can be expected to be used by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people a year. Pre-Covid, the High Line saw eight million visitors annually; and the train station has already welcomed 700,000 travelers.

Like all complex NYC projects, the connector came out of collaboration among a slew of public, private, and non-profit organizations — Empire State Development, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Brookfield Properties, and the Friends of the High Line.

This team states that the connector is part of a collective effort “to create safer, more enjoyable pedestrian access, connect people to transit, and seamlessly link public open spaces and other community assets in the neighborhood.”

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Ken Smith, FASLA

And JCFO, which has designed the High Line since 2004, notes that the connector is just one of new access improvements for the elevated park. A street-level plaza at the edge of the park on 18th Street is in development, and additional spaces to integrate the High Line into the community could happen in the future.

Spanning 600 feet, the walkway is comprised of two segments — a 340-foot-long woodland bridge running east to west, and a 260-foot-long timber bridge going north to south.

The woodland bridge is an extension of the landscape of the High Line Spur, which veers east off the main route of the High Line for half a block at 30th Street. Connected soil beds built into the black steel structure support 60 trees, 90 shrubs, and 5,200 grasses and perennials.

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

“The trees [are] characteristic of an Eastern deciduous forest that will grow into a lush landscape for birds and pollinators, provide shade, and shield pedestrians from traffic below,” the team writes. Ninety percent of the landscape is comprised of native plants, selected to provide color year round and habitat.

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

The timber bridge rises above the stream of traffic coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel, using a truss structure to minimize its footprint on the ground.

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

Made of glulaminated Alaskan yellow cedar wood from British Columbia, Canada, the connector also advances more sustainable practices. The highly compressed wood layers sequester carbon, and construction of the beams released far less greenhouse emissions than a steel alternative.

High Line – Moynihan Connector / Andrew Frasz, courtesy of the High Line

“The selection of glulam was based on its numerous benefits: It is a sustainably-sourced building material that has a lower carbon footprint than concrete or steel, while still providing exceptional durability and strength. Additionally, it adds warmth and texture as a natural material, enhancing the pedestrian experience, and offering a modern take on New York’s historic warren truss railroad bridges and structures,” said Lisa Switkin, ASLA, senior principal at JCFO.

(Switkin explains that glulam has many potential uses for landscape architects. The same Alaskan yellow cedar glulam was also used in their Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California).

Where the two bridges meet, the team also created a small plaza that offers a “moment of pause” amid the cacophony of midtown. Instead of dodging traffic, one can sit and take in the vista.

“We’ve heard for years about how inhospitable these streets around the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel felt for people in the community. Now, the connector will give our neighbors a safe, green, and inspiring pathway,” said Alan van Capelle, executive director of the Friends of the High Line.

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