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Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge Celebrates 40 Years

<div style="float:left;padding-right:15px;padding-bottom:30px;margin-right:15px;width:390px; font-size:.8em;"><img src="/sites/default/files/archive/imgs/CB2_1.jpg" /><br/><br/><em>Aerial view of the Cross Bay Parkway Bridge showing partially completed new structure on left next to the old bascule bridge, which was eventually demolished, on the right. Rockaway Peninsula is in the background. <br/>(Photo taken: July 1, 1969, by Skyviews, New York.)</em></div> <p>When New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller cut the ribbon to open the new Cross Bay Parkway Bridge on May 28, 1970, they were commemorating nearly 100 years of connections across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways.<br/><br/>But it was by no means the first structure in the area.</p><p>The first bridge to cross the Bay was a railroad trestle bridge built in 1880. As Rockaway filled with hotels and summer bungalows, Cross Bay Boulevard was constructed in 1925 with bascule bridges over Beach and North Channels. A bascule bridge, taken from the French word meaning see-saw, acts much the same as the playground favorite. It is a bridge that swings upward as a counterweight, either in the deck or in an overhead balance frame, keeps it balanced. </p><p>The four-lane Beach Channel Bridge became a bottleneck within just a few years of its opening. This is when the newly created New York City Parkway Authority implemented plans to improve approach roads and rebuild and widen the bridge. The redesign was part of the city's program to develop Jamaica Bay as a residential and recreational area, replacing an old plan that called for developing the area as an industrial port. </p><p>When the new low-level bascule bridge re-opened to traffic in 1939, Moses said the new bridge and a restored beach and boardwalk area in the Rockaways was evidence that "we were paying attention to the ecology and environment."</p><p>Over the next several decades, officials learned that a bascule bridge is expensive to maintain. By the 1960s, the span was being lifted for marine traffic thousands of times a year. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, now known as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, began planning an entirely new bridge with a higher clearance over water, which would allow tall vessels to pass beneath it without lifting.</p><p>Construction on the new six-lane, 3,000-foot long bridge began in August 1967 and opened to traffic on May 28, 1970. Originally called the Cross Bay Parkway Bridge, the span, which at its center point is 55-feet above mean high water, was re-named the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in 1974. </p><p>The bridge connects the Rockaway peninsula to the rest of Queens, the Belt Parkway and the Southern State Parkway. In 2009, it was used by 7.5 million vehicles.</p><p>Cross Bay Boulevard is located at the northern end of the bridge and runs through the Jamaica Bay marshes, the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge and the community of Broad Channel. The southern end of the bridge leads to the beaches, boardwalks and seaside communities of the Rockaway Peninsula.</p>