It Was So Hot in New York City That a Swing Bridge Got Stuck Because Its Steel Expanded Too Much

  • The affected bridge is the Third Avenue Bridge, connecting the Bronx with Manhattan.

  • This incident happened on Monday, which was the hottest day in the city this year so far.

New York
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Blistering summers bring many problems, including heat strokes and forest fires. Extreme weather events also affect city infrastructure, and New York City is experiencing this firsthand.

The Third Avenue Bridge, which connects the Bronx to Manhattan, was out of service on Monday, July 8, due to high temperatures. How could this happen? According to local outlet FOX 5, the bridge’s metal structure expanded during the heat wave.

A Swing Bridge That Couldn't Return to Its Original Position

The Third Avenue Bridge, a structure made in 1956 that received a major upgrade in 2005, isn’t static. Its rotating design helps people cross the Harlem River. This means that the bridge often moves to one side to accommodate passing boats. However, on Monday, this system encountered an issue.

On the hottest day of the year in New York City, the bridge stopped working, causing a traffic jam. The city's Department of Transportation and Fire Department responded to the incident.

Firefighters used boats typically used for extinguishing fires to address the issue, attempting to reverse the expansion of part of the bridge’s steel structure caused by the high temperatures. Several videos on social media show the firefighters working to resolve the problem with the bridge partially closed.

Third Avenue Bridge, New York Third Avenue Bridge, New York City.

The American Institute of Steel Construction has an interesting image on its website that shows part of the bridge’s mechanical system, which is composed of huge cogwheels. Although this type of structure may seem very robust (and it really is), it’s still affected by heat, just like all solids, including metals.

After several hours of being immobilized, the New York City Police Department announced that the bridge had returned to its original position, allowing traffic to resume.

Monday’s events can serve as an example for the construction of future infrastructure. In a world affected by climate change, considering environmental factors in the design, maintenance, and construction of various works may be crucial.

Image | Acroterion (CC BY-SA 4.0) | New York City Fire Department| Jim Henderson

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