The Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River got stuck...

The Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River got stuck in the open position Monday amid extreme heat.  Credit: WCBS

When the Third Avenue Bridge got stuck open at about 2:45 p.m. Monday, it took an FDNY fireboat pouring cooling water onto the structure for hours before the swing bridge, which spans the Harlem River between the Bronx and Manhattan, was finally able to close again.

Officials blamed it all on heat, saying the recent heat wave, including a high temperature of 95 degrees on Monday, led to an expansion of road deck and steel infrastructure — and operational failure.

What does that mean for the operational well-being of the more than a half-dozen opening bridges on Long Island? Experts consulted by Newsday said, hopefully, not much.

“This is not a reason for panic or concern,” said Rigoberto Burgueño, department chair of civil engineering and mechanical engineering at Stony Brook University. “But it does bring some awareness that may warrant review of the potential changes in temperature demands that may be coming in the future so we can evaluate if our bridges should be inspected more frequently — or, even be designed differently.

“Certainly, it's an interesting new challenge,” he said.

Unlike the Third Avenue Bridge, which is 2,800 feet long with a central rotating swing span of 300 feet, the length of a football field, the bridges of Long Island are almost exclusively steel-decked bascule bridges — better known as drawbridges.

That is, while the central span of the Third Avenue Bridge rotates like a lazy Susan to open the bridge to passing boats, the bridges on Long Island, vehicle bridges such as the Atlantic Beach Bridge; the Long Beach-Michael Valente Memorial Bridge; Bayville Bridge; and Goose Neck Creek Bridge on Wantagh Parkway, have decks that lift upward on a fixed hinge, making their operation very different.

All opening bridges — and, many fixed bridges and roadways, as well — have expansion joints, which provide a surface allowing traffic or rail flow while also allowing for a host of environmental variables, among them: movement and temperature and climate-related expansion and shrinkage changes.

It's these joints that can be most problematic on opening bridges, experts agree, because tolerances can change not only due to temperature extremes but to other environmental causes.

“You have to thread a needle,” Adam Matteo, assistant state bridge engineer for the State of Virginia and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers Committee on America's Infrastructure, said of expansion joints. “You can't let the gap be so big in winter it disrupts traffic or so narrow in summer that it leads to buckling. The expectation of the modern driver is the road will be open — and the bridge will be operational … But, there's a range of other factors that can lead to issues, not just heat.”

In the Northeast, these variables are prevalent, Matteo said, given cold winters and hot, humid summers — for bridges, factors that also include salt water and salt air, road salt and other factors that can cause corrosion and deterioration to mechanisms, as well as the road surface and vital joints.

A number of Long Island's lift bridges have gotten stuck in the past 15 years, though apparently none related to heat. The Michael Valente Memorial Bridge, which connects Long Beach to Island Park, had two malfunctions in September 2010 due to a control board failure and electrical fire, in July 2011 due to broken bridge locks and in 2012 due to electrical issues since resolved. A June 2011 lightning strike caused the malfunction of the Goose Neck Creek Bridge leading to Jones Beach.

Mechanical issues have led to random operational failures of other bridges in recent years.

Experts agree that makes routine maintenance and inspections vital to a bridge's well-being.

As New York State Department of Transportation Long Island Regional spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in a statement Tuesday: “All NYSDOT bridges, including the four drawbridges — technically known as bascule bridges — located along the South Shore waterways, are routinely inspected and receive maintenance as needed.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber said MTA bridges, including all LIRR bridges, are inspected on a routine basis.

“We’re inspecting our facilities regularly,” Lieber said, adding: “We have protocols with heat and extreme cold and rain and every weather condition and we run the system very tight and we’re used to doing it”

Burgueño said there's considerable demand on expansion joints and bridges in general beyond temperature. 

“It's corrosion, rust, debris, deterioration — all things that mean the movement that is expected out of the joint may not actually take place,” he said. “That is why maintenance is key; that bridges continue to be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis, that we inspect all key components, including the joints, gears, bearings, systems … All these things can affect operation.”

When the Third Avenue Bridge got stuck open at about 2:45 p.m. Monday, it took an FDNY fireboat pouring cooling water onto the structure for hours before the swing bridge, which spans the Harlem River between the Bronx and Manhattan, was finally able to close again.

Officials blamed it all on heat, saying the recent heat wave, including a high temperature of 95 degrees on Monday, led to an expansion of road deck and steel infrastructure — and operational failure.

What does that mean for the operational well-being of the more than a half-dozen opening bridges on Long Island? Experts consulted by Newsday said, hopefully, not much.

“This is not a reason for panic or concern,” said Rigoberto Burgueño, department chair of civil engineering and mechanical engineering at Stony Brook University. “But it does bring some awareness that may warrant review of the potential changes in temperature demands that may be coming in the future so we can evaluate if our bridges should be inspected more frequently — or, even be designed differently.

WHAT TO KNOW

•An expansion of road deck and steel infrastructure contributed to the Third Avenue Bridge, which spans the Harlem River between the Bronx and Manhattan, getting stuck open on Monday.

•Officials blamed the expansion on the heat, with temperatures well into the 90s on Monday and in the days before.

•A number of Long Island's lift bridges have gotten stuck in the past 15 years, though apparently none related to heat.

“Certainly, it's an interesting new challenge,” he said.

Unlike the Third Avenue Bridge, which is 2,800 feet long with a central rotating swing span of 300 feet, the length of a football field, the bridges of Long Island are almost exclusively steel-decked bascule bridges — better known as drawbridges.

That is, while the central span of the Third Avenue Bridge rotates like a lazy Susan to open the bridge to passing boats, the bridges on Long Island, vehicle bridges such as the Atlantic Beach Bridge; the Long Beach-Michael Valente Memorial Bridge; Bayville Bridge; and Goose Neck Creek Bridge on Wantagh Parkway, have decks that lift upward on a fixed hinge, making their operation very different.

All opening bridges — and, many fixed bridges and roadways, as well — have expansion joints, which provide a surface allowing traffic or rail flow while also allowing for a host of environmental variables, among them: movement and temperature and climate-related expansion and shrinkage changes.

It's these joints that can be most problematic on opening bridges, experts agree, because tolerances can change not only due to temperature extremes but to other environmental causes.

“You have to thread a needle,” Adam Matteo, assistant state bridge engineer for the State of Virginia and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers Committee on America's Infrastructure, said of expansion joints. “You can't let the gap be so big in winter it disrupts traffic or so narrow in summer that it leads to buckling. The expectation of the modern driver is the road will be open — and the bridge will be operational … But, there's a range of other factors that can lead to issues, not just heat.”

In the Northeast, these variables are prevalent, Matteo said, given cold winters and hot, humid summers — for bridges, factors that also include salt water and salt air, road salt and other factors that can cause corrosion and deterioration to mechanisms, as well as the road surface and vital joints.

A number of Long Island's lift bridges have gotten stuck in the past 15 years, though apparently none related to heat. The Michael Valente Memorial Bridge, which connects Long Beach to Island Park, had two malfunctions in September 2010 due to a control board failure and electrical fire, in July 2011 due to broken bridge locks and in 2012 due to electrical issues since resolved. A June 2011 lightning strike caused the malfunction of the Goose Neck Creek Bridge leading to Jones Beach.

Mechanical issues have led to random operational failures of other bridges in recent years.

Experts agree that makes routine maintenance and inspections vital to a bridge's well-being.

As New York State Department of Transportation Long Island Regional spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in a statement Tuesday: “All NYSDOT bridges, including the four drawbridges — technically known as bascule bridges — located along the South Shore waterways, are routinely inspected and receive maintenance as needed.”

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber said MTA bridges, including all LIRR bridges, are inspected on a routine basis.

“We’re inspecting our facilities regularly,” Lieber said, adding: “We have protocols with heat and extreme cold and rain and every weather condition and we run the system very tight and we’re used to doing it”

Burgueño said there's considerable demand on expansion joints and bridges in general beyond temperature. 

“It's corrosion, rust, debris, deterioration — all things that mean the movement that is expected out of the joint may not actually take place,” he said. “That is why maintenance is key; that bridges continue to be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis, that we inspect all key components, including the joints, gears, bearings, systems … All these things can affect operation.”

People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Jeff Bachner; File Footage

'I think it's the best for the country' People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee.

People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Jeff Bachner; File Footage

'I think it's the best for the country' People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee.

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