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New Willis Avenue Bridge on its way to NYC

COEYMANS, N.Y. - A marine transportation crew prepared Monday to haul a prefabricated, 350-foot-long, 2,400-ton bridge from an upstate Hudson River port to New Jersey before its eventual installation over New York City's Harlem River.

The replacement span for the nearly 110-year-old Willis Avenue Bridge linking Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx was moved early Monday morning onto two barges welded side-by-side and docked at the Port of Coeymans, 10 miles south of Albany.

The new swing bridge is scheduled to depart for Bayonne, N.J., where it's expected to arrive later Wednesday. It will be docked in Bayonne for a couple weeks before being hauled to its permanent site just south of the existing Willis Avenue Bridge. Installation of the new bridge is scheduled to begin Aug. 2.

The new bridge was built at the three-year-old, privately owned port. The span rested atop a large, box-shaped steel frame while supported at both ends by towers of scaffolding. On Sunday morning, the bridge and the steel frame were placed onto four separate trailers, each 100 feet long. The trailers slowly transported the span about 1,000 feet to the dock. The move, which involved taking a right turn, took about 40 minutes, according to port spokeswoman Karen Moreau.

Getting 4.8 million pounds of steel the final few yards to the barges required four 50-foot-long steel ramps connecting the vessels' decks to the docks. The move was timed to the peak of high tide. The 4 1/2-hour process involved precise measuring of the height of the tide and pumping ballast water through the barges to keep them level with the dock, Moreau said.

A crew from Weeks Marine Inc. is handling the bridge transportation in a joint venture with the Kiewit Corp., the Omaha, Neb.-based construction company contracted by New York City for the $612 million bridge replacement project.

The new bridge will replace a span that opened in 1901 and carries more than 70,000 vehicles a day. The existing bridge will remain open to traffic as the new span is being floated into place atop foundations and piers.

The project is scheduled for completion in December 2012.

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