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NCSEA Honors LaGuardia’s Pedestrian Bridge as One of Year’s Best Structural Engineering Projects

LaGuardia Airport Terminal B HOK

Designed by HOK as part of LaGuardia Airport’s new $5.1 billion Terminal B project in New York, Pedestrian Bridge B won a 2020 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award presented by the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA).

The NCSEA’s annual program highlights the best examples of structural engineering ingenuity throughout the world. Projects are judged on innovative design, engineering achievement and creativity. The awards presentation ceremony will take place during a virtual conference in November.

This is the third straight year HOK has won an Excellence in Structural Engineering Award. Previous winners included the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Halo Board (2018) and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Modernization (2019).

“Winning one of these awards is extremely difficult,” said Matt Breidenthal, PE, SE, engineering practice leader for HOK. “Winning three in a row puts us in elite company. We want to thank the NCSEA and congratulate the Skanska-Walsh joint venture and the entire LaGuardia Gateway Partners team.”

Pedestrian Bridge B, which opened to travelers this year, is one of two 450-foot-long bridge structures that span aircraft taxi lanes linking LaGuardia Airport’s new 850,000-sq.-ft. Arrivals and Departures Hall (headhouse) to two island concourses housing the gates. In addition to serving as an apt metaphor for New York City, this ‘island-and-bridges’ concept completely reorganized the original vision for how the new Terminal B should work.

The team used HOK STREAM, a proprietary parametric modeling and optimization tool, to rapidly assess the feasibility of dozens of geometric variations for the bridges. The optimal solution that emerged from this iterative process was for two vertical steel trusses that rise 65 feet into the air—high enough for aircraft to taxi underneath but low enough to preserve views from the air traffic control tower—and then seamlessly taper into the faceted roofs of Terminal B’s concourse and headhouse. HOK’s modeling showed that the design for the pedestrian bridges satisfied challenging depth constraints while surpassing vibration requirements.

With a look as sleek as the aircraft passing beneath it, Pedestrian Bridge B opened in 2020 as a novel solution to a longstanding taxiway challenge. Its form embodies elegance within demanding constraints, giving travelers the feeling that they’re part of the airport’s operations as they experience an inspirational new passage into New York. The second bridge will open in 2021.

The bridge solution allowed contractors to build the new terminal over the top of the existing structure, which shaved almost two years off the construction schedule and minimized the impact to ongoing airport operations. Even at the peak of construction, LaGuardia only had to shut down one of Terminal B’s 35 gates at a time. The simpler, faster construction phasing saved millions of dollars.

The serene, airy interior of Bridge B belies its 1,100 tons of steel supported by 100+ foot-long skin friction piles.

This scheme also allowed the new Terminal B to move 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway (GCP), recapturing 40 acres of landside real estate that allowed LaGuardia to expand and greatly improve its airside operations—a difficult achievement on a constrained site wedged between the highway, Flushing Bay and the East River. This reduces airport congestion and ground delays.

Truss side view

Collaboration Partners

“Credit goes to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for believing in the team’s dramatically different dual pedestrian bridge concept rather than going with the conventional pier-finger terminal design presented in the original master plan,” said Breidenthal.

Under a 35-year lease agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP) will design, build, manage and maintain Terminal B. LGP includes Vantage Airport Group, Skanska, Meridiam, and JLC Infrastructure for development and equity investment. Vantage Airport Group leads the redevelopment program and management of Terminal B, with Skanksa-Walsh as the design-build joint venture and HOK and WSP USA providing architecture and engineering.

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