Day 84

It’s a retractile bridge!

March 23rd, 2012

Harnessing the power of the trapezoid, the retractile bridge design has been around for quite a while, although it's considered obsolete these days. (I made a rudimentary sketch to help explain how it works — see below.) In fact, there are only four such spans left in the US, including the Borden Avenue Bridge here (which, as I understand it, hasn't actually been opened since 2005). And, not to brag — or, rather, to very obviously brag, while at the same time realizing no one cares — I've walked all of them!

Oh, and I would be remiss not to point out the gargantuan FreshDirect billboard off in the distance. Let's revisit our first encounter with it — here and here.

In this schematic drawing, the movable portion of the bridge slides along the rails to make way for the passing boat. You can clearly see the rails and the movable bridge section in these aerial photos of the Borden Avenue Bridge.


  1. HenryR says:

    Thanks for for going the extra mile by adding the sketch, makes this ingenious and unusual mechanism plain as day.

  2. Nancy says:

    Just read about you in the NYT – quite an undertaking and will be fun to follow.

  3. Alan Jacobs says:

    Do you know the name of the branch of Newtown Creek that the Borden Ave. Bridge goes over. Googlemaps is rather lax in providing names of bodies of water, have you noticed?

    I also discovered this blog after reading the NYT article. I love what you’re doing.

  4. Alan Jacobs says:

    I got it. It’s Dutch Kills.

  5. Dorinda from Mentor, Oh. says:

    Go ahead and brag Matt!! I care to know that you’ve walked all of them. Where are they all at? I would imagine somewhere there in NYC so it will be fun to watch and see them come up in your photo’s.

    Thanks for the drawing on this kind of bridge. Just like HenryR stated-plain as day. I’ve never seen such a bridge like that. Pretty cool. Have any cars ever landed in the river because of this type of bridge?

    And that sign….what can one say….

  6. Michael Cairl says:

    There are only four retractile bridges in the country, and two are in NYC (the other is the Carroll Street Bridge across the Gowanus Canal). Hope to see you in Park Slope soon!

  7. Bobby says:

    Hey Matt, how does it feel to be collecting unemployment for 2 years! At least you can explain that the reason why you were dead weight for 2 years was because you were walking the streets while collecting your benefits.

    If you don’t succeed in life, you have no-one to blame but yourself. WHY does a chunk of my paycheck go to people like you?!! WHY!?!

    • Jason Eppink says:

      LOL at poor reading comprehension!

    • Matt Green says:

      Dear Bobby,

      Thank you for the thoughtful note. You will be pleased to know that I’ve never collected a cent of unemployment in all my days of being dead weight. I’d love to leech off your paycheck, but I’m just TOO LAZY to fill out all that paperwork. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really must get back to my endless hours of eating Cheetos on the couch.


      • Bobby says:

        You go do that. After you finish walking NYC, why don’t you go on and walk the rest of NJ, and then move on down to Georgia and walk the entire fvckin state?

        People like me will be doing some actual stuff that contributes to society, I don’t need to be a fame-whore. I am fine not smearing my smega all over history. It seems that you think the best shot for you is to get into some record-book for some irrelevant and useless accomplishment. Hey look, I am jerking off right now and posting a reply at the same time. I bet that’s the first time anyone in the world has done this at 9:17 EST on the a Sunday in March. Guiness Book of Records here I come!

        Haha, excuse me while I do something more meaningful and important with my time.

        • Dorinda from Mentor, Oh. says:

          Tiny mind, tiny man. You really must get out more Bobby. If you would read the whole blog from the start to present day you just might find yourself enlightened to a world out there beyond just you. Matt is an incredible person and has done more good than you are getting. And if you’d take the time to actually read before passing judgment Matt hasn’t done any of this to get into any record book. Matt walks for the shear enjoyment of walking. And Matt is one very talented man and has touched lives around the world like no other. Take the time “Bobby” to read. You just might learn something.

          • Eddy Robinson says:

            A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.
            M. Gandhi

            Walk on, Matt! You make the World a better place. Lunch is on me…take care Eddy Cgkitchen

          • Gigi says:

            Well said Dorinda!

            Welcome to the Hobo nation Bobby! I hope you continue to read on and read back on Matt’s walk across the US and NYC, and hopefully you’ll learn a lot of things that will make you contribute to society all the more.

            Keep on walking Matt, the whole Hobo nation is behind you!

  8. Carlee in Canada says:

    great job Matt …I like the diagram, and am still following you each morning while I have my breakfast :)

  9. tom says:

    I read an article about a possible kayak tour on newtown creek- grew up along that creek and remember the smell very well! what are there like 5 bridges that go over it? one of the biggest superfund cleanup sites in the world!

  10. Bill Willsie says:

    Way cool bridge. I love geometry! Carry on!

  11. kyle t says:

    hey matt!
    what you’re doing is so awesome! keep on keepin on!

    ps- i love the photos.

  12. Gigi says:

    Thanks for your drawing and the link as well. Great to know all the repairs and reconstruction needed has been done.

  13. Hi there,

    Amazing to know you have been on all four retractile bridges. Could you provide the name and location (GE/GM) of the two other bridges outside NY? With that information, I like to update my 2008 article:

    Naturally, I will give you due credit.. ;)
    Kind regards, Rudy.

    • Matt Green says:

      The other two retractile spans are actually both part of the Summer Street Bridge in Boston. Here’s a great aerial photo of the bridge. The two spans slide diagonally away from each other, opening a channel — perpendicular to the bridge in this case, because the spans are right trapezoids — for boats to pass through. This bridge also differs from the two NYC retractiles in that its rails are located out over the water, rather than on land adjacent to the bridge. It’s no longer operational as a retractile, but at least it’s still there to look at!

  14. Thanks a lot, Matt. ;)

    I see a lot have changed in Wikipedia as well.. I’ll edit my article one day accordingly, as you’ve seemed to clarify it more then Wiki did. Thanks for that! Keep up with your daily routine of browsing the streets of NY. Wish you all the luck in the world as well.

    Kind regards, Rudy.

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