The total length of bridge, including approaches, is 2,375 feet (724 m). The parallel main spans of the steel arch bridge stretch 555 feet (169 m) long over the Harlem River and provide 103 feet (31 m) of vertical clearance at the center and 366 feet (112 m) of horizontal clearance.
After completion of the George Washington Bridge in 1931, traffic off that bridge into the Bronx would travel over the Washington Bridge, which crosses the Harlem River just north of the present Alexander Hamilton Bridge. The Alexander Hamilton Bridge was planned in the mid-1950s to connect Robert Moses' proposed Trans-Manhattan and Cross-Bronx Expressways and to accommodate the additional traffic resulting from the addition of the six-lane lower level to the George Washington Bridge. With the Interstate designation, 90% of the $21 million in construction costs were covered by the federal government. The bridge design included a set of spiraling ramps (colloquially known as "The Corkscrew") to connect to and from the Major Deegan Expressway (completed in 1964) and a viaduct ramp connecting to the Harlem River Drive, both of which are over 100 feet (30 m) below the level of the Bridge, and access to Amsterdam Avenue.
The bridge recently underwent a full renovation which began in 2009 and continued through 2013. The construction estimate was $400 million. As of July 15, 2012, one of the eastbound lanes of the bridge had been closed to accommodate construction vehicles. While the traffic jams created from the construction were not been as bad as local officials had anticipated, inbound delays at the Hudson River crossings increased after the project began. The renovation of the bridge was the premise of The Weather Channel show Iron Men.