The Pennsylvania Railroad (PATH) Bridge carries PATH passenger trains over the Hackensack River near Kearny, New Jersey.
The Hudson Tunnel Railroad was incorporated by Dewitt C. Haskins in 1873 1 with the goal of connecting the major railroad stations in New Jersey with Manhattan via a tunnel under the Hudson River. Some progress had been completed in 1890 before financial complications halted further progress.
Work on the tunnel resumed in 1900 and in 1902, the Hudson & Manhattan Railway (H&M) was chartered. 1 In 1906, the H&M and the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) agreed on a joint passenger service operation between Newark and Manhattan.
The first trains ran along the H&M in 1907 and revenue service started between the Hoboken Terminal and 19th Street stations on February 26, 1908. 3 4 The extension of the line to 33rd Street in November 1910 5 6 and to Harrison in March 1913 completed the H&M. 7
The H&M went into receivership in 1954 and the PRR ceased running passenger service over the line in 1961. 2 In 1962, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PATH) acquired the trackage and passenger bridge and began operating PATH trains between Jersey City and Manhattan.
Hackensack River Bridge
The H&M constructed the first bridge over the Hackensack River in 1894. It was replaced with a swing-span structure that rested six-feet above mean high water and had channel clearances of 56-feet and 58-feet. 2
Swing span crossings were typically built where wide navigational channels needed to be crossed, but they had significant drawbacks as they were slow to open and close, and pilots with wide barges had difficulty navigating between the mid-channel pivot and river piers. 2 Additionally, swing bridges were often built just a few feet above mean high water which required that the crossing be opened for all but the smallest of vessels.
The passenger bridge became increasingly outmoded with each succeeding year as maritime traffic along the Hackensack River grew, with the bridge opening as much as 35 times per day, delaying river traffic and passenger trains alike. 2 As early as 1920, the swing bridge was noted as being a navigation hazard because of its close proximity to two other bridges for the PRR’s freight line and the Newark Turnpike. 2 It was recommended by the New York, New Jersey Port & Harbor Development Commission that all three bridges be consolidated into one structure.
The crashing of the Glendaruel vessel into the Lincoln Highway swing span in June 1922 resulted in insurance underwriters no longer insuring large self-propelled vessels for damages caused to bridges because of the risk of navigating the Hackensack River near the swing bridges. 2 During the summer of 1924, Col. H.C. Newcomer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held hearings on the fate of the swing bridges as the Corps called the crossings as obstructions to navigation because of their low clearance above the water and narrow draw openings. 1 At public hearings, the representatives of various industries and commercial interests pleaded for larger, higher bridges that would provide a minimum vertical clearance of 35 to 40 feet to allow nearly all tugs to pass unimpeded.
On April 25, 1925, Secretary of War John W. Weeks signed an order notifying the H&M to replace the passenger bridge within four years with a structure that could provide a navigational channel of 150 feet and a vertical clearance of at least 35 feet. 1 The railroad selected Waddell & Hardesty to design a new vertical lift bridge that could be situated immediately north of the existing swing-span. 2 The project was headed by three key PRR personnel: A.C. Watson, Chief Engineer of the New York District, T.W. Pinard, Engineer of Bridges & Buildings, and J.J. Vail, Construction Engineer.
Construction of the new bridge began at the end of 1928 and it opened to passenger traffic on November 2, 1930. 2 Erected by Bethlehem Steel Company at the cost of $4.5 million, it consisted of:
- A Parker through truss lift span 331 feet in length that provided a navigational channel of 166 feet, flanked by two Pratt truss tower spans;
- A western approach with a three-span concrete viaduct, a through girder span, five deck plate steel girder spans, and a deck truss span;
- An eastern approach with eight deck plate steel girder spans, a through girder span, and a three-span concrete viaduct.
- State: New Jersey
- Route: PATH
- Type: Warren Deck Truss, Vertical Lift, Parker Through Truss, Pratt Through Truss
- Status: Active - Railroad
- Total Length: 2,950 feet
- Main Span Length: 331 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “History.” Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 2020.
- Modica, Glenn R. “The Hackensack River Vertical Lift Bridges Historic District.” New Jersey Department of Transportation.
- Cudahy, Brian J. Rails under the Mighty Hudson: the Story of the Hudson Tubes, the Pennsy Tunnels, and Manhattan Transfer. 2nd ed., Fordham University Press, 2004.
- “Trolley Tunnel Open to New Jersey.” New York Times, 26 Feb. 1908, p. 1.
- “M’Adoo Would Build A West Side Subway.” New York Times, 16 Sept. 1910, p. 10.
- “Open McAdoo Extension.” New York Times, 10 Nov. 1910, p. 10.
- Chiasson, George. “Rails Under the Hudson Revisited – The Hudson and Manhattan.” Electric Railroaders’ Association Bulletin, vol. 58, no. 9, Sept. 2015, pp. 2–3, 6-7.