Mill Creek Footbridge

Replacement Mill Creek Footbridge, 2013
Replacement Mill Creek Footbridge, 2013

Crosses: Mill Creek
Connects: Jersey Avenue and Liberty State Park, Jersey City [satellite map]
Carries: Pedestrian/cyclist sidewalk
Design: Arch bridge
Date opened: May 23, 2013

The Mill Creek Footbridge connects Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City, NJ with Philip Street in Liberty State Park. The current bridge replaced an older structure that was destroyed on October 29, 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. Mill Creek feeds into the Morris Canal Basin (now used as a marina) and then the Hudson River.

Original Bridge

Little information is available about the original bridge. Taking into account that maps may be inaccurate, it appears that a Jersey Avenue road bridge crossing Mill Creek was built sometime between 1874 and 1889. A railroad bridge running parallel to it was constructed by 1904. The railroad trestle carried both the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Both lines terminated before crossing the Morris Canal to the north (the canal was located just south of Grand Street). The road portion was demolished at some point between 1928 and 1955. Following the decline of the railroads in Jersey City, the trestle was abandoned and the bridge was converted into a footbridge sometime thereafter. The Jersey Journal notes that city officials do not know exactly when the bridge became a footbridge, and Sam Pesin (president of the group Friends of Liberty State Park) thinks it was there when the park opened in 1976 [1].

Original Mill Creek Bridge, 2010
Original Mill Creek Bridge, 2010

The Jersey Avenue Extension

Various proposals have been made over the last twenty years or so to extend Jersey Avenue over Mill Creek, connecting Downtown with Liberty State Park, as well as providing additional access to the New Jersey Turnpike. The city applied for an $18.4 million federal grant in 2011 to fund the extension. The proposal argues that the extension would ease traffic in the nearby Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood. However, it has also sparked debate among residents over how much local streets would be impacted by cars exiting the Turnpike to avoid traffic at the Holland Tunnel; cars cutting through local Downtown streets have long been an issue. The proposal acknowledges this and tries to defend its position:

The city is also mindful that this new direct connection could be perceived as a short cut for out-of-town commuters by using the 1.2-mile corridor between New Jersey Turnpike Exit 14B and Grand Street to access Jersey City’s central business district or the Holland Tunnel. This corridor traverses Liberty State Park and residential development areas. To achieve the overall goal of improved connectivity and access without increasing traffic speeds and/or inducing additional traffic through the environmentally sensitive park areas or future residential neighborhoods, a series of modern roundabouts are proposed in the park segments and a more pedestrian friendly “complete street” is proposed in the northern segment of dense urban development. [2]

The city was not given the grant and the footbridge was destroyed the following October during Sandy. Initially, it was speculated that the city would not replace the footbridge at all, in hopes that it would be able to begin construction on the Jersey Avenue Extension, which would include a pedestrian pathway. However, it was decided that the footbridge would be replaced (a widely-held suspicion is that it was given priority because 2013 is an election year). In March of 2013, Jersey City was awarded $500,000 by the federal government to do a feasibility study for a road extension; that proposed bridge would run parallel to the new footbridge, which was set to open by Memorial Day weekend.

Hurricane Sandy damage, November 2012
Hurricane Sandy damage, November 2012
Hurricane Sandy damage, November 2012
Hurricane Sandy damage, November 2012

The new Mill Creek Footbridge was delivered on May 1 and opened on May 23rd. It is a prefabricated arch bridge that is painted white; it has a somewhat higher clearance over the creek than its predecessor. It was scheduled to cost about $750,000 and wound up costing about $800,000. Jersey City has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which could reimburse the city for most of the cost of the bridge. It is officially called the Ethel Pesin Liberty Bridge, in honor of a founding trustee of Friends of Liberty State Park (and wife of Sam Pesin). She died in February, 2013, at age 98.

Original walkway, 2010 (left); Replacement walkway, 2013 (right)
Original walkway, 2010 (left); Replacement walkway, 2013 (right)


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References

1874. Watson, Gaylord. Watson’s map of New-York and adjacent cities. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Retrieved from: http://www.davidrumsey.com

ca.1889. Earle and Harrison, civil engineers. Map of Jersey City and environs. Rutgers University Special Collections. Retrieved from: mapmaker.rutgers.edu

1928. C.M Hopkins Co., civil engineers. Plat book of Jersey City. Rutgers University Special Collections. Retrieved from: mapmaker.rutgers.edu

1955. United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey. Jersey City, NJ–NY. Rutgers University Special Collections. Retrieved from: mapmaker.rutgers.edu

[2] 2011, July. Jersey City Redevelopment Agency. Jersey Avenue Extension: Jersey City, NJ: Conceptual Design and Streets Improvement Plan. Retrieved from: jerseycitynj.gov

[1] 2013, February 3. McDonald, Terrence T. Footbridge connecting Liberty State Park with Downtown Jersey City to be rebuilt: city official. Jersey Journal. Retrieved from: www.nj.com

2003, August 29. Troubled bridge over water: Residents question delay on footbridge into Liberty State Park. Hudson Reporter. Retrieved from: www.hudsonreporter.com

2012, November 17. Machcinski, Anthony J. “Disaster” conditions at Liberty State Park in Jersey City will cost millions to fix. Jersey Journal. Retrieved from: www.nj.com

2013, March 19. McDonald, Terrence T. Jersey City gets $500K federal grant to study extension of road into Liberty State Park. Jersey Journal. Retrieved from: www.nj.com

2013, May 1. Conte, Michelangelo. Jersey City to rebuild footbridge to Liberty State Park destroyed by Sandy. Jersey Journal. Retrieved from: www.nj.com

2013, May 23rd. McDonald, Terrence T. Seven months after Sandy, a new $800k bridge in Jersey City. Jersey Journal. Retrieved from: www.nj.com

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