When it opened in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world with its total length at 7,308 feet (2,227 m). In the 1980’s, it was closed to all traffic for almost 2 months for emergency repairs of extensive damages caused by corrosion. There was a debate whether to close it permanently.
Here are the facts you ought to know:
– Construction started: November 7, 1896
– Opened to traffic: December 19, 1903
– Length of main span: 1,600 feet (490 m)
– Length of side spans: 300 feet each
– Length, anchorage to anchorage: 2,200 feet
– Total length of bridge and approaches: 7,308 feet (2,227 m)
– Number of traffic lanes: 8 lanes
– Number of subway tracks: 2 tracks
– Height of towers above mean high water: 310 feet
– Clearance at center above mean high water: 135 feet (41 m)
– Number of cables: 4 cables
– Length of each of four cables: 2,985 feet
– Diameter of each cable: 18 inches
– Total length of wires: 17,500 miles
– Weight of cables and suspenders: 4,344 tons
– Structural material: Steel
– Tower material: Steel
The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
In 1802, the investor Richard Woodhull purchased 13 acres of land in north Brooklyn and named the area Williamsburgh (later changed to Williamsburg), after Colonel Jonathan Williams, who surveyed the land. Williams was an American businessman, military figure, politician, writer, engineer and a grand nephew to Ben Franklin.
The 1,600-foot-long main suspension span for the Williamsburg Bridge exceeded the previous record-holder, the Brooklyn Bridge, by four and one-half feet.
The 310-foot-tall towers, the first all-steel towers to be employed for a suspension bridge, support four main cables, which are carried on saddles atop the towers. Each of the 4,344-ton main cables, which measure 18 inches in diameter, is comprised of 37 strands of 208 wires.
The Williamsburg Bridge is one of the major crossings of the East River, carrying approximately 140,000 motorists, 92,000 transit riders, 600 bikers and 500 pedestrians between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and serving some of the busiest arteries in New York City.
The cost of the proposed bridge was originally estimated at $7 million, less than the $15 million cost of the Brooklyn Bridge. The final cost of the bridge and its approaches was $24.2 million, more than three times the original cost estimate.
This bridge and the Manhattan Bridge are the only suspension bridges in New York City that still carry both automobile and rail traffic.
For a brief period, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) ran passenger service along an elevated extension across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.
As early as 1964, the bridge had fallen in such a state of disrepair that rust rained down on pedestrians. The only fresh paint was the graffiti scrawled in by vandals. During the 1970’s, the pedestrian walkways were closed after a maintenance worker was mugged while doing his job.
By the 1980’s, the precarious situation on the Williamsburg Bridge became critical. In April 1988, after a thorough inspection revealed corrosion in the cables, beams and steel supports, the Williamsburg Bridge was shut to all vehicular and train traffic for nearly two months.
After engineers performed emergency construction on the bridge and reopened it to traffic, a panel of design experts convened to determine if the Williamsburg Bridge should be replaced, or if it should be rehabilitated.
In 1991, the NYCDOT began a 15-year, $1 billion reconstruction of the bridge. The project included an overhaul of the bridge’s four main cables, steel towers, stiffening trusses, and roadways.
Williamsburg Bridge appeared in movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man, American Gangster, The French Connection, Johnny Suede, Live and Let Die, The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie, The Naked City, Once Upon a Time in America, Scent of a Woman, Serpico, and The Siege. It’s referenced in novels The Alienist, City of Bones, The Last Olympian, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins loved to practice on the bridge, and named an album, The Bridge, in its honor.
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