Credit: creative commonsThe Robert James Waller story is a great love story that uses the covered bridges of Iowa as a backdrop. However, to experience some true magnificence and architectural wonder, one must turn to the eight suspension bridges that connect the various boroughs of New York City to themselves and the neighboring state of New Jersey.
Literally, millions of people cross these eight bridges every day. None is less than 45 years old and all are expected to provide even more decades of service. Each is iconic in its own right and together, they are notable a reminder of the steadfastness and grandeur of the capital of the world. The following shows their names, the year they opened and the annual traffic.
Credit: creative commonsGeorge Washington Bridge (1931) (280k)
Manhattan - New Jersey
The upper and lower levels of the GW, as it is known to locals, provide transit for over 100 million commuters annually making it the most traveled bridge in the world. In 1956, when the bridge officially opened, it only had one deck. The second, the “Martha,” was added in 1962. A wonder of technological achievement at the time of its opening, the bridge has also been applauded by architects from around the world including the Frenchman and great proponent of modern architecture, Le Corbusier.
The bridge serves as one of the focal points for all land deliveries to New York City as most hazardous materials are not allowed to enter through the various tunnels that also link the island to the mainland. It is an incredibly popular tourist stop as the history of the area goes all the back to the Revolutionary War period.
Credit: creative commonsThe Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (1964) (200k)
Brooklyn - Staten Island
Named for the Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first European since the Vikings to visits North America, the Verrazano-narrows Bridges bridge is another double decked architectural wonder. At the time of its completion in the early 1960s, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. In fact, the span of the bridge is so long that the curvature of the Earth had to be considered in its design. To account for this fact, the tops of the towers are almost two inches further apart than at the bottom. In addition, its towers are so high that they can be seen from every borough in the city.
Triboro (1936) (165k)
Manhattan - The Bronx - Queens
Though its official name if the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, most New Yorkers and, more importantly, no cabbies would recognize that name. Instead, the bridge is almost universally known as the Triboro. The bridge is unique in that its main span starts in one borough, Queens, and then forks to arrive in either Manhattan or the Bronx. The bridge was one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression and cost more to build than the Hoover Dam.
Credit: creative commonsWhitestone & Throgs Neck (1939 & 1961) (220k combined)
The Bronx - Queens
Although built 20 years apart, these two bridges, were part of a grand plan by noted architect Robert Moses. Moses had envisioned a series of elevated highways around and through the borough of Manhattan and connected to the boroughs through an array of bridges. These two were originally conceptualized as part of the plan but by the time the Throgs Neck was finally completed, Moses’ urban vision for the city had been abandoned. These days, the two bridges are major thoroughfares connecting Long Island as well as the major airports of NYC with the rest of the region.
Credit: creative commonsBrooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg (1883, 1903, 1909) (300k combined)
Manhattan - Brooklyn
These three bridges along with the Midtown Tunnel connect the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River. They are by far the oldest of the suspension brides in N.Y.C.. and combined provide the greatest influx of commuters to Manhattan. Unlike the other large commuter bridges that enter Manhatten, these three are free to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
All three bridges were testaments to architecture and engineering in their day. When opened in the late 19th century, the Brooklyn was longest suspension bridge in the world and utilized the latest and greatest in bridge building techniques. Similarly, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges fostered further engineering accomplishments as both were designed to carry passenger trains as well as cars. All three are seeming anachronisms as their entry and road ways are uniquely designed but their construction has stood the test of time and all are expected to last for another century or more.
The Queensboro or 59th Street Bridge (1909) (175k)
Queens - Manhattan
The Queensboro Bridge represented a departure from it sister bridges to the south as it was a cantilevered bridge and not a suspension one. It connects the middle of Manhattan Island to Long Island City in the borough of Queens.
Now named for “Hizzoner,” the former mayor Ed Koch, the bridge actually crosses over Roosevelt Island as well the east River. Pedestrian traffic ca rach the island via the associated tramway while vehicular traffic must cross one of the other East River bridges and approach the island from the east. The piers of the bridge on the Manhattan side are also home the renowned open air Bridge Market.
Credit: creative commonsThe Bayonne Bridge (1931) (20k)
Staten Island - New Jersey
One of the unheralded but still strikingly beautiful accesses to new York City is the Bayonne bridge that connects the state of New jersey with the city across the Kill Van Kull. This bridge is by most accounts one of least majestic of the bridges of New York City and yet is the fourth largest steel arch bridge in the world.
The Bayonne Bridge is also notable for the current renovation project that is planned for it. The bridge is an impediment to any ships wishing to enter the Port of Newark. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, larger container ships will be visiting this port but would be unable to pass under the current bridge. The civil engineers engaged to solve the problem have decided to build a rod bed above the existing one and then demolish the lower level. Bridge technology will take another leap forward on the majestic bridges of New York City.