The jaw-dropping entryway to Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Park has arrived in the Capital Region and will begin the final leg of its transatlantic trek on Friday, July 5, Carver Companies announced today.

The Ralph Wilson Park Bridge will serve as the entrance to Ralph Wilson Park, a massive community-driven redevelopment project transforming a 100-plus-acre City of Buffalo waterfront park into a world-class recreational destination.

The Ralph Wilson Park Bridge departed from Italy last month in four large sections aboard the commercial-shipping vessel Aralia. It crossed through New York Harbor on June 22 and traveled up the Hudson River to the Port of Coeymans. Carver Companies, which owns and operates the maritime terminal south of Albany, then took possession of the bridge and successfully offloaded the sections onto two 195-foot-long barges.

With final preparations underway, the bridge is set to make its way along the full length of the Erie Canal.

The schedule calls for departure from Coeymans around sunrise on July 5, entry into the canal’s first set of locks in Waterford around 9 a.m., and delivery to Ralph Wilson Park on July 15.

Once assembled and installed, the 266-foot bridge will cross the I-190 highway and the CSX freight rail line, connecting the Lower West Side of Buffalo to the transformed park, which is scheduled to start opening in phases in 2026.

Ralph Wilson Bridge in NY Harbor

A historic, complex and rarely traversed commercial route

Carver Companies’ marine towing division will manage delivery along the Erie Canal.

Tug-and-barge transport along the entirety of the canal, once commonplace, has become a rare undertaking. The complex journey requires traversing 34 locks, which serve as elevators for boats.

A four-person crew will execute a “tandem tow” — one tug (CMT Otter) towing two hopper barges (CMT Kelly and CMT Hofmann) — for the majority of the 370-nautical-mile trip, executing single-tow maneuvers only when necessary to navigate tight turns on the route.

The crew expects to make numerous adjustments to the weight of both barges to compensate for clearance hazards, including several bridges with minimal overhead and portions of the canal with low average water depths.

“This project is a significant undertaking, utilizing a vital piece of American history to transport a modern marvel. It’s a testament to both innovation and tradition,” said Carver Laraway, President and CEO of Carver Companies and the Port of Coeymans. “We’re proud — and our crew is ready — to play a key part in ensuring safe passage of the Ralph Wilson Park Bridge to Buffalo.”

"The Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy is grateful for the dozens of partners who are stewarding the community’s transformative vision for the 100-plus-acre City of Buffalo waterfront park. We appreciate the important role the Carver Companies team is playing to ensure the Ralph Wilson Park Bridge travels safely on the Erie Canal to the shores of Ralph Wilson Park. It’s a historic moment for all our partners and we’re excited for the bridge’s arrival,” said Katie Campos, Executive Director of Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy.

A signature entryway to Ralph Wilson Park

The Ralph Wilson Park bridge design was chosen through a community-based design competition led by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute in early 2020. The community chose schlaich bergmann partner (sbp), known for its creative, stylish, sustainable design of long-span bridges and towers throughout the world. The bridge was then put out to bid, with the contract awarded to Cimolai, a manufacturer based in Italy with a newly established presence in Olean, N.Y.

Groups of architectural cut-outs are patterned across the vertical sides of the steel, allowing for the efficient flow of forces between the top and bottom chords of the arch. The pattern was developed as an interpretation of the craftsmanship and detailing associated with the historic architecture seen throughout Buffalo.

Construction of Ralph Wilson Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, began in July 2023. The bridge will be installed over the I-190 in October 2024, and the first sections of the park are expected to open in 2026.