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Bridging the Gap for New Yorkers

Transportation is key for New Yorkers, and Henry Perahia explains how his work at the New York City Department of Transportation has rehabilitated bridges formerly in "poor" condition -- improving the city's infrastructure and safety.

Henry Perahia

In 1993, the year before I came to the New York City’s Department of Transportation, 72 of the City’s bridges were listed in “poor” condition. Fast forward to today, and I’m proud to say there are only two NYC DOT bridges in that condition … and both of those spans are currently undergoing rehabilitation, getting the care they need to bring them into a state of good repair.

NYC DOT’s Division of Bridges oversees 787 bridge and tunnel structures. As vital components of New York’s transportation network, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make all these pieces work in lockstep, and I am extremely proud to represent the 714 DOT employees in my division who manage the City’s capital bridge program, conduct bridge inspections, and maintain our spans and related infrastructure.

The NYC DOT’s Bridges Division team knows that every day we are working to improve the city’s infrastructure and further enhance safety. And our progress delivering on those goals is tangible and in plain sight as people walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, bike over the new Willis Avenue Bridge or drive over the Belt Parkway Bridges in Brooklyn.

Our current project to rehabilitate the St. George ferry terminal ramps is a great example of the positive impact of our work on the lives of everyday New Yorkers. This construction project is also the largest ARRA-funded project in New York State, for which we have an outstanding partner in the FTA.

Right now, NYC DOT is overhauling the terminal’s eight vehicular bridges, a pedestrian bridge, and two parking fields. The project also includes improved pedestrian access as well as dedicated bike lanes for the increasing number of two-wheeled commuters. Constructed in 1946, the ramps have been exposed to decades of saltwater, weather and wear and tear. The terminal is a vital transportation hub serving well over 65,000 riders a day, and our work to rehabilitate the ramps will not only preserve the structural integrity of these bridges for years to come, but modernize the very gateway to this borough. The terminal provides a direct connection to Manhattan and also links the local railroad and 22 bus lines that crisscross the entire borough, which is home to approximately half a million New Yorkers. What’s more, this project added the full time equivalent of 148 construction jobs to the economy last quarter.

I joined NYC DOT in 1989 as Director of Engineering Management for the Bureau of Transit Operations, and then became the Assistant Commissioner for Bridge Maintenance, Inspections and Operations in 1994. Maintaining our bridges and keeping these essential pieces of city infrastructure in a state of good repair has been incredibly rewarding, with never a dull moment.

During my tenure at DOT, New York City has experienced a renaissance in the care and maintenance of our city's bridges, largely driven by the Bloomberg Administration’s $5 billion investment in bridge rehabilitation as well as federal programs like ARRA. I am grateful for the incredible support I receive from my commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, whose commitment to improve the infrastructure is unwavering; for the gifted and talented engineers on my team and the dedicated public servants who support the engineers and professional staff. This is such a wonderful acknowledgement of all NYC DOT employees for the work they do each day to make the city’s bridges and roadways safe today and for the countless generations of New Yorkers that will follow.

Henry Perahia is the Chief Bridge Officer of the New York City Department of Transportation, a position he has held since 1999.