Benjamin Franklin Bridge
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge — known informally as the Ben Franklin Bridge and originally named the Delaware River Bridge — is a suspension bridge across the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey. Owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority, it is one of four primary vehicular bridges between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, along with the Betsy Ross, Walt Whitman, and Tacony-Palmyra Bridges.
The chief engineer of the bridge was Polish-born Ralph Modjeski, its design engineer was Leon Moisseiff, and the supervising architect was Paul Philippe Cret. At its completion on July 1, 1926, its 1,750-foot (533-meter) span gave it the world's longest suspension bridge span, a distinction it would hold until the opening of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929.
Prior to bridge construction, Philadelphia and Camden were connected by ferry service only. Plans for a bridge crossing the Delaware River began in the 1800s. An 1818 plan involved making use of a then-existent Smith/Windmill Island in the river, but it wasn’t until the 1910s that efforts for a bridge took hold. The Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission (now the DRPA) was created in 1919. Work on the bridge began in 1922, and it was opened to traffic on July 1, 1926, three days ahead of the originally targeted opening on the nation’s 150th anniversary. At the peak of construction 1300 people worked on the bridge, and 15 died during its construction.
The bridge originally included six vehicular lanes and two streetcar tracks on the main deck, with provision for a rapid transit track in each direction outboard of the deck's stiffening trusses, which rise above the deck rather than lie beneath it. The tracks were built to the nonstandard broad gauge of the Public Service Company of New Jersey's Camden streetcar system; the design called for the streetcars to cross the bridge from Camden to Philadelphia, enter an underground terminal beneath the bridge's west entrance plaza, and return to Camden via the opposite track. Streetcar stations were also built in the bridge's anchorages. None of the streetcar facilities were ever placed in service, as Public Service ran no cars across the bridge from its opening until the company abandoned its Camden streetcar system in 1932; after that, the tracks were removed and the space converted to vehicular lanes.
The outer pair of rapid transit tracks went into service in 1936 with the opening of the Bridge Line subway connecting Broadway and City Hall in Camden with 8th and Market streets in Philadelphia; the Bridge Line, extended to 16th and Locust in 1952, began carrying PATCO trains in 1969. Today, it carries the PATCO Speedline, which descends into tunnels on both sides of the bridge.
The seven vehicular lanes are divided by a concrete "zipper" barrier, which can be mechanically moved to configure the lanes for traffic volume or construction. Red and green signals mounted on overhead gantries indicate which lanes are open or closed to traffic in each direction. The lights indicate closures for construction, accidents or breakdown as well as traffic separation. Generally, during the morning rush hour, there are four lanes open westbound and three eastbound, with the situation reversed during the evening rush hour. Before the zipper barrier was installed in 2000-2001, one lane of the bridge was kept closed at peak times to reduce the risk of head-on collisions as there was no physical barrier separating east and westbound traffic.
- A $5.00 one-way toll is charged entering Pennsylvania for passenger vehicles (less than 7,000 lb (3,200 kg) gross vehicle weight).
- Trucks, commercial vehicles, mobile homes, and recreation vehicles (weighing at least 7,000 lb (3,200 kg). gross vehicle weight), pay $7.50 per axle.
- Seniors aged 65 and over can use a ticket program to pay $2.50 per trip (not integrated with E-ZPass).
Pedestrian walkways run along both sides of the bridge, elevated over and separated from the vehicular lanes; of these, only one is open at a time. The DRPA temporarily closed the walkways to the public the day after the 7 July 2005 London bombings, citing security concerns. The DRPA also closes the walkway after snowfall, or if the weather forecast includes a chance of snowfall, and closed it in late August 2011 during Hurricane Irene and in late October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy.
In popular culture
- A 2006 production of the musical Godspell at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, directed by Ryan Oczkowski, was set under the Franklin Bridge, with Jesus' followers portrayed as living in a shack there.
- The bridge is one of the landmarks seen in the opening credits of the television series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- The bridge can be seen in a trailer for the 2013 film World War Z.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Benjamin Franklin Bridge.|
- Ben Franklin Bridge Photo Portfolio
- Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Historical overview, by Steve Anderson.
- Benjamin Franklin Bridge at Structurae
- Delaware River Port Authority Official Website
- PATCO Official Website
- Speedliner Newspaper Website