Daily Archives: December 5, 2014

Plans for the Great Western Gateway Bridge

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greatwesterngatewayplans.pngAll week we’ve been recounting the hearing of 1915 that laid the groundwork for the Great Western Gateway Bridge between Schenectady and Scotia . It didn’t actually open until 1925 (just barely — it was in December). But the plans for the bridge were approved long, long before, back in September of 1916, according to the Albany Evening Journal.


Great Western Gateway Plans Are Approved

They Are Those Submitted by John A. Bensel, With but Slight Modifications – Legislature to Act Now

William Barclay Parsons, representing State Engineer Frank M. Williams, and R.S. Buck representing the city of Schenectady, have approved in the main the plans prepared and submitted by John A. Bensel, former state engineer, for the Great Western Gateway bridge over the Mohawk river and Erie canal at Schenectady.

The plan calls for an ornate concrete structure nearly a mile in length from the foot of State street, Schenectady, to Mohawk avenue, Scotia, to replace the iron structure that crosses the river from Washington avenue, Schenectady, to Scotia. State Engineer Williams considers the report of the engineers as final and believes that the coming Legislature will appropriate the sum necessary to carry out the state’s part in the great undertaking. His department, he says, will shortly begin altering the present bridge to meet barge canal requirements pending the building of the contemplated new structure.

The report of the engineers, Parsons and Buck, is addressed to Superintendent W.W. Wotherspoon of the state department of public works which has on hand $500,000 for construction of the new Schenectady-Scotia bridge, State Engineer Williams, Mayor George R. Lunn and President John E. Gillette of Scotia village.

The engineers’ report goes into the details of construction and cost and concludes as follows:

“To sum up, we are in agreement on the essential features of the bridge project, in that (1) it will not cause adverse flood conditions; (2) it is practicable to secure reliable foundations without excessive costs, and (3) the type of bridge proposed is in conformity with good, modern practice, economical and well adapted to the purpose. We differ only as to certain details of construction, not essentially affecting the general proposition, and as to the probable cost which is largely dependent upon more or less indeterminate conditions.”


So, what took another nine years? Hard to say.

John Anderson Bensel wasn’t just anybody, by the way. In addition to serving as State Engineer from 1911-1914, he had been president of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1910, and before that the president of the New York City Board of Water Supply. He served as a major commanding the 125th battalion of engineers for the Army during World War I (which may be part of the answer to “what took another nine years”). His New Jersey mansion is now part of Morristown National Historic Park, so he’s got that going on.