Bridges To Rockaway Are Busy The Year-Round
It’s a double challenge for John Ryder, General Manager of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Rockaways Fa-cilities. Ryder is the only MTA Bridges and Tunnels General Manager responsible for two facilities. He directs an operations staff of 80 employees at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memo-rial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge that connect the Rockaway Peninsula with Brooklyn and Queens.
Only four miles from each other, both facilities are gateways to the Rock-away Peninsula featuring some of the most extensive beaches and parks in New York City, including the Gateway National Recreation Area.
John Ryder, who grew up in Marine Park, is a 22-year veteran of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. He joined the agency as a Bridge and Tunnel Officer and worked his way up through the ranks as a Sergeant and Lieutenant while working at all nine of the agency’s facilities. He has served as an Oper-ations Superintendent at the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels. He was appointed General Manager of the two Rockaways Bridges in 1999. The job also involves coordinating with the engineering staff.
“We do everything we can to provide a safe and efficient trip over each of our facilities,” said Ryder. “Safety is our top priority especially when we are performing maintenance in the lanes at the facilities. We are constantly working to ensure that all our systems are up and running in all 22 lanes of two toll plazas 24 hours a day.”
During the summer, average traffic increases from 20,000 to more than 24,000 vehicles per day at each facility. In the summer months temporary toll collectors, usually college students, are hired from Memorial Day to Labor Day to help with the summer surge in traffic.
The Cross Bay Bridge is a high level fixed bridge while the Marine Parkway Bridge is a vertical lift span that is raised by electrically driven mo-tors.
“Under Coast Guard regulations, Marine Parkway Bridge traffic is halted about 60 times a year so we can lift the span to allow ships to pass,” said Ryder. “We’re required by Coast Guard regulations to lift the span on demand weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and at all other times with 8 hours notice.”
Both bridges are constantly undergoing maintenance that keeps all systems at peak performance. It is a year-round job to assure a safe and efficient crossing for customers who use these facilities.
In addition to new lighting at both bridges toll plazas, the annual maintenance checklist includes lubricating the cables of the Marine Parkway Bridge’s lift span using more than 80 gallons of synthetic oil. The drainage systems were cleaned this summer using pressurized water and a huge vacuum to remove debris and silt.
During summer the snow trucks as-signed to the Rockaways facilities un-dergo annual inspections, maintenance and repairs.
In addition to Ryder, the Rockaways management staff includes Operations Superintendent Marc Levy, from Mill Basin, Maintenance Superintendent Carlton Cyrus, originally from Grena-da, and Facility Engineer Adrian Moshe, who hails from Romania, who oversaw the $95 million deck replacement, repainting and rehabilitation of the Ma-rine Parkway Bridge that was completed in 2002.
Currently, the two-year upgrade of the Cross Bay Bridge’s sea wall, promenade and electrical network is nearing completion.
The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge opened to traffic on July 3, 1937. In 1978, Gil Hodges’ name was added to the bridge in honor of the great Brooklyn Dodger first baseman and New York Mets manager. The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1970 after replacing the original 1939 drawbridge.