George Washington Bridge

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George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge from New Jersey-edit.jpg
The world's busiest motor vehicle bridge, looking east from Fort Lee, New Jersey toward Upper Manhattan in New York City
Other name(s) The GWB, The GW, The George, & The GW Bridge
Carries 14 lanes (8 upper deck, 6 lower deck) of
I-95 / US 1-9 (entire span) / US 46 (NJ side), pedestrians and bicycles
Crosses Hudson River
Locale Connecting Fort Lee in Bergen County, New Jersey and Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan in New York City, United States
Maintained by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Designer Othmar Ammann, Cass Gilbert
Design Double-decked suspension bridge
Material Steel
Total length 4,760 ft (1,450 m)[1]
Width 119 ft (36 m)[1]
Height 604 ft (184 m)[1]
Longest span 3,500 ft (1,067 m)[2]
Vertical clearance 14 ft (4.3 m) (upper level), 13.5 ft (4.1 m) (lower level)
Clearance below 212 ft (65 m) at mid-span[1]
Construction begin October 1927
Opened October 24, 1931; 82 years ago (1931-10-24) (upper level)
August 29, 1962; 51 years ago (1962-08-29) (lower level)
Toll Eastbound only. As of December 1, 2013; Cars ($13.00 for cash, $11.00 peak with E-ZPass, $9.00 off-peak with E-ZPass);
$5.00 when carpooling with 3 people or more (NY and NJ EZ-Pass cars only)
Daily traffic 276,150 (2011)[3]
Coordinates 40°51′06″N 73°57′09″W / 40.851589°N 73.952483°W / 40.851589; -73.952483 (George Washington Bridge)
George Washington Bridge is located in New York City
George Washington Bridge

The George Washington Bridge (known informally as the GW Bridge,[4] the GWB,[5] the GW,[6] or the George[7]) is a double-decked suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, connecting the Washington Heights neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City to Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey, in the United States. Interstate 95 (I-95) and U.S. Route 1/9 (US 1/9) cross the river via the bridge. The New Jersey Turnpike (part of I-95) and US 46, which lie entirely within New Jersey, end halfway across the bridge at the state border with New York. At its eastern terminus in New York City, the bridge connects with the Trans-Manhattan Expressway.

The bridge, an integral conduit within the New York metropolitan area, has an upper level carrying four lanes in each direction and a lower level with three lanes in each direction, for a total of 14 lanes of travel. The speed limit on the bridge is 45 mph (72 km/h), though congestion often slows traffic, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. The bridge's upper level carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic. As of 2013, the George Washington Bridge carries approximately 102 million vehicles per year, making it the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge,[8][9] according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state government agency that owns and operates several area bridges, tunnels, and airports.

History[edit]

Groundbreaking for the new bridge began in October 1927, a project of the Port of New York Authority.[10] Its chief engineer was Othmar Ammann, with Cass Gilbert as architect. When construction started, the estimated cost of the bridge was $75,000,000.[11] The bridge was dedicated on October 24, 1931, and opened to traffic the following day.[12][13] The bridge was initially named the "Hudson River Bridge."[14] The bridge is near the sites of Fort Washington (in New York) and Fort Lee (in New Jersey), which were fortified positions used by General Washington and his American forces in his unsuccessful attempt to deter the British occupation of New York City in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. Washington evacuated Manhattan by crossing between the two forts. In 1910 the Washington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a stone monument to the Battle of Fort Washington. The monument is located about 100 yards (91 m) northeast of the Little Red Lighthouse, up the hill towards the eastern bridge anchorage.[15]

When it opened in 1931, the bridge surpassed the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit for the longest main span in the world. At 3,500 feet (1,100 m), it nearly doubled the previous record of 1,850 feet (560 m). It held this title until the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.[2] The total length of the bridge is 4,760 feet (1,450 m).[1]

As originally built, the bridge offered six lanes of traffic, but in 1946, two additional lanes were provided on what is now the upper level.[10] A second, lower deck, which had been anticipated in Ammann's original plans, was approved by Lt. Col. Joseph R. McCammon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, opening to the public on August 29, 1962.[16] This lower level has been waggishly nicknamed "Martha".[17] The additional deck increased the capacity of the bridge by 75 percent, making the George Washington Bridge the world's only 14-lane suspension bridge, providing eight lanes on the upper level and six on the lower deck.

The original design for the towers of the bridge called for them to be encased in concrete and granite. However, because of cost considerations during the Great Depression and favorable aesthetic critiques of the bare steel towers, this was never done. The exposed steel towers, with their distinctive criss-crossed bracing, have become one of the bridge's most identifiable characteristics. Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret) said of the unadorned steel structure:

"The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apron; the second tower is very far away; innumerable vertical cables, gleaming against the sky, are suspended from the magisterial curve which swings down and then up. The rose-colored towers of New York appear, a vision whose harshness is mitigated by distance." (When the Cathedrals were White[18])

USS Nautilus passes under the GW Bridge in 1956, when the bridge had only a single deck.

The George Washington Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers on October 24, 1981, the fiftieth anniversary of the bridge's dedication ceremony.[2]

Following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the Port Authority prohibited people from taking photographs on the premises of the bridge out of fear that terrorist groups might study any potential photographs in order to plot a terrorist attack on the bridge. Such prohibitions have since been lifted. As the enclosed lower level is more vulnerable to hazardous material (HAZMAT) incidents than the upper level, most HAZMATs have been prohibited there even before the September 11 attacks.[19] If weather allows, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, as well as on dates honoring those lost in the September 11 attacks, the bridge sports the largest free-flying American flag in the world; 90 feet (27 m) long and 60 feet (18 m) wide, the flag weighs 450 pounds (200 kg).[20][21]

In December 2011, the Port Authority announced plans to repair the bridge. For the first time, the vertical suspender cables will be replaced. The total bill for the repair is expected to exceed $1 billion, and will be paid through toll revenue.[22]

On August 5, 2013, an $82 million construction project began on the upper deck due to wear and tear cracks to the supporting structural steel from traffic, particularly heavy trucks. To complete construction by the end of the year, three of four lanes will be closed in one direction during nighttime hours. It is planned that 632 road deck panels will be replaced. The construction will alternate between eastbound and westbound lanes.[23]

From September 9-13, 2013, dedicated toll lanes for one of the Fort Lee entrances to the bridge's upper level were reduced from three to one without notification to local government officials and emergency responders on orders from aides and appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, causing a political controversy.[24] The closures caused massive traffic congestion, with major delays for school transportation and police and emergency service responses within Fort Lee. As of March 2014, the repercussions and controversy surrounding these actions continue to be under investigation by the Port Authority, federal prosecutors, and a New Jersey legislature committee.

Road connections[edit]

From the Upper West Side.

The George Washington Bridge carries I-95 and US 1/9 between New Jersey and New York. Coming from New Jersey, US 46 terminates at the state border in the middle of the bridge. I-80, US 9W, and New Jersey Route 4 also feed into the bridge but end before reaching it. The Palisades Interstate Parkway connects directly to the bridge's upper level (plans to give direct access to the lower level from the parkway have been postponed), and the New Jersey Turnpike connects to both levels of the bridge. The marginal roads and local streets above the highways are known as GWB Plaza.

On the New York side, the 12-lane Trans-Manhattan Expressway heads east across the narrow neck of upper Manhattan, from the bridge to the Harlem River, providing access from both decks to 178th Street, the Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverside Drive on the West Side of Manhattan, and to Amsterdam Avenue and the Harlem River Drive on the East Side. The Expressway connects directly with the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which spans the Harlem River as part of the Cross-Bronx Expressway (I-95), providing access to the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87). Heading towards New Jersey, local access to the bridge is available from 179th Street. There are also ramps connecting the bridge to the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal,[25] a commuter bus terminal with direct access to the New York City Subway at the 175th Street (A train) station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line.

Emergency services to the George Washington Bridge are provided by the Tunnel & Bridge Agents of the Port Authority of NY and NJ. The Tunnel & Bridge Agents maintain various apparatus such as a fire trucks, rescue trucks, wreckers for serious incidents, such as fires, vehicle extrications, Haz-Mat incidents and many other emergencies. Emergency Medical Services are also provided by the Agents. The Fort Lee Ambulance Corps maintains three ambulances to cover the Borough of Fort Lee, US 46, I-95, and the George Washington Bridge.

Tolls[edit]

The underside of the lower deck of the bridge, looking west from Manhattan
Full view of the GW Bridge from the New York side of the Hudson River.

As of December 1, 2013, the cash tolls going from New Jersey to New York are $13 for both cars and motorcycles. E-ZPass users are charged $9.00 for cars and $8.00 for motorcycles during off-peak hours (outside of 6–10 a.m. and 4–8 p.m. on the weekdays; and outside of 11 a.m.–9 p.m. on the weekends) and $11.00 for cars and $10.00 for motorcycles during peak hours (6–10 a.m. and 4–8 p.m. on the weekdays; and 11 a.m.–9 p.m. on the weekends). Trucks are charged cash tolls of $17 per axle, with significantly discounted peak, off-peak, and overnight (Sunday - Thursday 10 p.m.-6 a.m.) E-ZPass tolls. A special discounted carpool toll ($5.00) is available at all times for cars with three or more passengers using NY or NJ E-ZPass only, who proceed through a staffed toll lane (provided they have previously opted-in to the free "Carpool Plan"). There is an off-peak toll of $5.50 for qualified low-emission passenger vehicles, which have received a Green E-ZPass based on registering for the Port Authority Green Pass Discount Plan. The toll is charged only one way (eastbound), which is how all Hudson River crossings to Manhattan are tolled.[26]

In 2006, the George Washington Bridge took in approximately $1 million per day when tolls for cars were $6 cash, $5 E-ZPass peak hours, and $4 E-ZPass off-peak hours.[27]

The bridge has a total of 29 toll lanes, 12 in the upper level toll plaza, 10 in the lower level toll plaza, and seven in the Palisades Interstate Parkway toll plaza. The toll plazas on the lower level and Palisades Parkway are not staffed during the overnight hours and accept only E-ZPass transactions during this period.[1][28]

Pedestrians and cyclists cross for free on the sidewalk. Though there are sidewalks on each side of the bridge, cyclists and pedestrians can use only the south side. The bridge offers spectacular views of the Hudson River, the Manhattan skyline, and the New Jersey Palisades. Pedestrians had to pay tolls of 10 cents shortly after the bridge opened, but non-motorized traffic is no longer tolled.[29]

Under George Washington Bridge's Manhattan-side (east) pillar

In January 2007, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a deal with GEICO, the auto insurance giant, that included the posting of a large billboard on top of the toll plaza that said "GEICO Drive Safely," and GEICO signs on the tollbooths and approach roads, some of which would feature the insurer's signature gecko. The arrangement would have provided the agency with $3.2 million over two years.[30] A week later, however, the Port Authority canceled the contract with GEICO after criticism that the signs would mar the landmarked bridge, that the Port Authority had failed to negotiate a good price for the deal and that the placement of the signs might violate Fort Lee's regulations.[31]

Non-motorized access[edit]

The George Washington Bridge is popular among sightseers and commuters traveling by foot, bicycle, or roller skates. The South sidewalk (accessible by a long, steep ramp on the Manhattan side of the bridge) is shared by cyclists and pedestrians, with a level surface from end to end. The entrance in Manhattan is at 178th Street, just west of Cabrini Boulevard which also has access to the Hudson River Greenway north of the bridge. The sidewalk is accessible on the New Jersey side from Hudson Terrace, where a gate open in daytime and evening allows pedestrians and bikes to pass. Also on Hudson Terrace, less than one hundred yards north of the bike/ped entrance, walkers will find the start of the Long Path hiking trail, which leads after a short walk to some spectacular views of the bridge, and continues north towards Albany, New York. The George Washington Bridge carries New York State Bicycle Route 9, a bike route that runs from New York City north to Rouses Point.[32]

The Port Authority closed the North Sidewalk at all times in 2008.[33] Though offering direct access into Palisades Interstate Park, the North sidewalk requires stairway climbs and descents on both sides, always an inconvenience and obstacle to handicapped people, and a risk in poor weather conditions.

Transportation Alternatives, a New York City advocacy group, has proposed an enhanced River Road connector in Fort Lee, which would create safer pedestrian and bicycle access to the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side of the bridge.[34]

Alternate routes[edit]

Aerial view of GWB from Manhattan
The GW Bridge from Riverside Drive

The George Washington Bridge is notorious for traffic jams during rush hour, as are the highways connected to it, including the Cross Bronx Expressway to the east, the Harlem River Drive and West Side Highway to the south, and the western approaches to the toll plaza in New Jersey (specifically I-95 and the Palisades Parkway).[citation needed]

Within the New York metropolitan area, the Tappan Zee Bridge (Interstates 87/287 and New York State Thruway) is an alternate route that avoids the city proper.[citation needed]

For longer-range traffic, such as traffic between New England (and points north/east) and Pennsylvania (and points south/west), Interstate 84 which crosses the Hudson on the Newburgh–Beacon Bridge is often used as an alternative rather than either the GWB or the Tappan Zee Bridge, as it avoids the New York metropolitan area entirely.[citation needed]

Suicides[edit]

The George Washington Bridge is among the most frequently chosen sites in the New York City metropolitan area for committing suicide.[35] In the record-breaking year of 2012, 18 people threw themselves off the bridge to their deaths, with 43 suicide attempts overall.[36]

In 1994, a caller into The Howard Stern Show was on the bridge threatening to commit suicide, but Stern managed to talk him out of it.[37]

In media[edit]

As a famous New York landmark, the bridge is often seen in many movies set in New York, mostly in establishing shots. The bridge is featured, along with the nearby Little Red Lighthouse, in Hildegarde Swift's 1942 children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

The bridge is also featured in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose, Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco, and in an episode of Jerry Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee featuring Louis CK.

The bridge is featured in the video game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

On Sesame Street, Ernie often sang the words "George Washington Bridge" to the tune of Sobre las Olas ("The Loveliest Night of the Year").

In the 1976 film Network, the character Max Schumacher tells a joke twice to his friend Howard Beale and other characters. The punchline of the joke is when the young Schumacher in the joke gets into a cab wearing a raincoat over his pajamas and tells the cabbie to take him to the middle of the bridge, the concerned cabbie tells him: 'Don't do it buddy. You're young. You've got your whole life ahead of you,' referencing the bridge's reputation for suicide.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Facts & Info - George Washington Bridge". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "George Washington Bridge". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  3. ^ AADT Values for Select Toll Facilities. 2011 NYSDOT Traffic Data Report
  4. ^ Rose, Lacey (March 2, 2006). "Inside the Booth". Forbes. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2008. "Like the PATH trains, which also connect New York to New Jersey, the G.W. Bridge is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a public agency that employees 7,000 workers and has annual revenues of $2.9 billion." 
  5. ^ Toolen, Tom (September 27, 1995). "Bridges Keep Photographer in Suspense". The Record. Retrieved January 15, 2008. "Frieder calls the GWB 'the most beautiful suspension bridge in the world...'" 
  6. ^ Jones, Charisse (October 20, 2006). "Upkeep Costs Rise as USA's Bridges Age". USA Today. Retrieved January 15, 2008. "The George Washington Bridge — locals call it 'the GW' — is one of a collection of dazzling spans that link New York's five boroughs or the city and New Jersey." 
  7. ^ Poetry in Steel pp. 51, 56, 59
  8. ^ "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - George Washington Bridge". The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ Bod Woodruff, Lana Zak, and Stephanie Wash (November 20, 2012). "GW Bridge Painters: Dangerous Job on Top of the World's Busiest Bridge". ABC News. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "History - George Washington Bridge". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Speeding the Hudson Bridge". Popular Science. November 1929. p. 49. Retrieved October 19, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Two Governors Open Great Hudson Bridge As Throngs Look On". The New York Times. October 25, 1931. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  13. ^ "56,312 Cars Cross Bridge on First Day". The New York Times. October 26, 1931. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  14. ^ Maeder, Jay (February 17, 2011). "Name That Bridge, 1931 Edition". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  15. ^ Renner, James (January 1998). "DAR Monument". Washington Heights & Inwood Online. Retrieved March 13, 2010. 
  16. ^ Ingraham, Joseph C. (August 30, 1962). "Lower Deck of George Washington Bridge Is Opened". The New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  17. ^ Poetry in Steel pp. 81-82
  18. ^ Jeanneret-Gris, Charles-Édouard (1937). Quand les cathédrales étaient blanches [When the Cathedrals were White] (in French). 
  19. ^ "Transportation Regulations at Tunnel and Bridge Facilities". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  20. ^ "George Washington Bridge Interesting Facts". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved May 28, 2007. 
  21. ^ "World's Largest Free-Flying American Flag to Fly at George Washington Bridge in Honor of 9/11 Victims" (Press release). Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. September 8, 2006. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  22. ^ Haughney, Christine (December 8, 2011). "Now 80, George Washington Bridge Will Undergo Repairs". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  23. ^ Clark, Roger (August 2, 2013). "Repairs On George Washington Bridge To Begin Monday". NY1. Retrieved August 3, 2013. 
  24. ^ Baxter, Christopher. "UPDATED: Timeline of Port Authority's George Washington Bridge controversy". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  25. ^ Google Inc. "GW Bridge ramps to GW Bridge Bus Terminal". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. https://maps.google.com/maps?q=loc:40.848889,-73.938333&hl=en&ll=40.849455,-73.940333&spn=0.003161,0.008256&t=h&z=18. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  26. ^ "The Port Authority of NY & NJ - 2012 to 2015 Toll Rate Table (for Bridges & Tunnels)" (PDF). Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 
  27. ^ "George Washington". New York Architecture. Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Tolls - Bridges & Tunnels". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  29. ^ "George Washington Bridge 80th Anniversary". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved October 30, 2013. 
  30. ^ Belson, Ken (January 4, 2007). "With Ad Deal, Insurer Wades Into Bridge Traffic". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  31. ^ Belson, Ken (January 9, 2007). "Agency Cancels Insurer’s Ads for George Washington Bridge". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  32. ^ "State Bicycle Route 9 Maps - Southern Section". New York State Department of Transportation. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Pedestrian & Bicycle Information - George Washington Bridge". Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved February 27, 2010.  The north sidewalk is closed around-the-clock.
  34. ^ "Support Grows in NJ for GW Bridge to "River Road" Connector Path". Transportation Alternatives Magazine (Transportation Alternatives): 15. Summer 2003. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  35. ^ Zabriskie, Phil. "The Mysteries of the Suicide Tourist". New York Magazine. New York Media LLC. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  36. ^ Messing, Philip (January 14, 2013). "Sad GWB suicide record". New York Post. Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  37. ^ Shock Jock Howard Stern Stops Caller's Suicide Leap : Media: Man phoned in threat from edge of bridge. Radio personality says he decided to 'keep this man laughing' until authorities could arrive.. Los Angeles Times (December 8, 1994). Retrieved on July 23, 2013.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]