Verrazzano Bridge

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows, the reach connecting the relatively protected upper bay with the larger lower bay.

The bridge is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first known European navigator to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River, while crossing The Narrows. It has a center span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m) and was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1964, until it was surpassed by the Humber Bridge in the United Kingdom in 1981. It now has the eighth longest center span in the world, and is the largest suspension bridge in the United States. Its massive towers can be seen throughout a good part of the New York metropolitan area, including from spots in all five boroughs of New York City.

The bridge furnishes a critical link in the local and regional highway system. It is the starting point of the New York City Marathon. The bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor; all cruise ships and most container ships arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey must pass underneath the bridge. Most ships must be built to accommodate the clearance under the bridge.

Among local residents, it is often referred to as simply the Verrazano Bridge or Verrazano-Narrows.

History

The bridge is owned by New York City and operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Interstate 278 passes over the bridge, connecting the Staten Island Expressway with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano, along with the other three major Staten Island bridges, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.

The bridge was the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Robert Moses, the New York State Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who had long desired the bridge as means of completing the expressway system which was itself largely the result of his efforts. The bridge was the last project designed by Chief Engineer Othmar Ammann, who had also designed most of the other major crossings of New York City, including the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, the Triborough Bridge, and the Throgs Neck Bridge. The plans to build the bridge caused considerable controversy in the neighborhood of Bay Ridge, because many families had settled in homes in the area where the bridge now stands and were forced to relocate.

Construction on the bridge began August 13, 1959, and the upper deck was opened on November 21, 1964 at a cost of $320 million. New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, which was attended by over 5,000 people. The lower deck opened on June 28, 1969. The bridge took over the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world (previously held by the Golden Gate Bridge) from 1964 until 1981, when it was eclipsed by the Humber Bridge in England.

Fort Lafayette was an island coastal fortification in New York Harbor, built next to Fort Hamilton at the southern tip of what is now Bay Ridge. It was destroyed as part of the bridge’s construction in 1960; the Brooklyn-side bridge pillars now occupy the fort’s former foundation site.

According to the United States Department of Transportation:

  • Each of the two towers contains 1,000,000 bolts and 3,000,000 rivets.
  • The diameter of each of the four suspension cables is 36 inches. Each cable is composed of 26,108 wires amounting to a total of 143,000 miles in length
  • Due to the height of the towers (693 ft) and their distance apart (4260 ft), the curvature of the earth’s surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge — the towers are 1+58 inches farther apart at their tops than at their bases.[3]
  • Due to thermal expansion/contraction of steel, the bridge roadway is 12 feet lower in summer than its winter elevation.

The bridge is more vulnerable to the elements than any other bridge in the city, because of its size and isolated location close to the open ocean. It is occasionally closed (either partially or entirely) during strong wind and snow storms.

The Queen Mary 2 had to revise its smokestack height in order for it to pass under the bridge, and still has barely 3 m (9.75 ft) of clearance.[4]

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~ by stufffromthelab on July 21, 2008.

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