Bayonne Bridge as seen from Staten Island
|Carries||4 lanes of NY 440/ Route 440|
|Crosses||Kill Van Kull|
|Locale||Staten Island, New York City and Bayonne, New Jersey|
|Maintained by||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|Design||Steel Arch bridge|
|Total length||5,780 feet (1,762 m)|
|Width||85 feet (26 m)|
|Longest span||1,675 feet (510.54 m)|
|Clearance above||14 feet|
|Clearance below||151 feet (46.03 m)|
|Opened||November 15, 1931|
|Daily traffic||19,420 (2010)|
|Toll||(southbound only) As of 6 December 2015[update]; Cars $15 for cash, $12.50 for Peak (E-ZPass), $10.50 for off-peak (E-ZPass)|
The Bayonne Bridge is an arch bridge spanning the Kill Van Kull connecting Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York City. It carries NY 440 and NJ 440. The supported roadway carries two lanes of motor traffic in each direction, as well as a walkway that is temporarily closed for reconstruction. The roadway deck could accommodate an expansion for either two traffic lanes or two light-rail lanes.
The Bayonne Bridge is the fifth-longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest in the world at the time of its completion. The bridge is also one of four connecting New Jersey with Staten Island; the other two roadway bridges are the Goethals Bridge in Elizabeth and Outerbridge Crossing in Perth Amboy, and the rail-only Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge, all of which traverse the Arthur Kill.
There is an ongoing project to raise the roadbed, providing increased clearance for shipping. As of October 2016, the new roadway spans the length of the bridge and a navigational clearance of 215 feet above mean high waters is expected to be achieved in late 2017, with project completion in mid-2019.
Construction and opening
The bridge was designed by master bridge-builder Othmar Ammann and the architect Cass Gilbert. It was built by the Port of New York Authority (now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) and opened on November 15, 1931, after dedication ceremonies were held the previous day. The bridge became a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1985. Ammann, the master bridge builder and chief architect of the Port Authority, chose the steel arch design after rejecting a cantilever and suspension design as expensive and impractical for the site, given a requirement by the Port Authority that the bridge must be able to accommodate the future addition of rapid transit tracks.
The eventual design of the bridge called for a graceful arch that soars 266 feet (69 m) above the Kill Van Kull and supports a road bed for 1,675 feet (511 m) without intermediary piers. The total length of the bridge is 5,780 feet (1,762 m) with a mid-span clearance above the water of 150 feet (46 m). The arch resembles a parabola, but is made up of 40 linear segments. The design of the steel arch is influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge designed by Ammann's mentor, Gustav Lindenthal. Gilbert had designed an ornamental granite sheathing over the steelwork as part of the original proposal, but as in the case of the George Washington Bridge, the stone sheathing was eliminated in order to lower the cost of the bridge, leaving the steel trusses exposed. It was the first bridge to employ the use of manganese steel for the main arch ribs and rivets.
Construction on the bridge began in 1928, and eventually cost $13 million. When it opened on November 15, 1931, it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world. It maintained that distinction after the 1932 opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, whose arch is much more massive but 24 feet shorter. The Bayonne Bridge's dedication ceremony was attended by David M. Dow, the Secretary for Australia in the United States, and the same pair of golden shears used to cut the ribbon was sent to Australia for the ribbon-cutting of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After the ceremony in Sydney, the scissor blades were separated and one was sent back to the Port Authority. The presence of the Bayonne Bridge ultimately led to the discontinuation of the Bergen Point Ferry.
The Port Authority has launched a five-year, $1.3 billion project to raise the roadbed within the existing arch to allow larger container ships to pass underneath. The expansion of the Panama Canal, which allows the passage of larger ships coming from Asia to reach the East Coast, was the impetus for the Port Authority's decision to raise the height of the bridge. At the moment, the span presents a difficult obstacle to large container ships passing under it on the way to and from Newark Bay. Its clearance of between 151 to 156 feet (46–48 m) above the Kill Van Kull depending on the tide means that some of today's ships, which can reach 175 feet (53 m) above the waterline, must fold down antenna masts, take on ballast or wait for low tide to pass through. The problem will become more serious now that the Panama Canal expansion project allows larger new-Panamax ships through the canal.
On April 24, 2013, the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners awarded a contract to a joint venture of Skanska Koch and Kiewit Infrastructure Company. The work, begun in July 2013, will raise the road deck by 64 feet (19 m), create 12-foot wide lanes, including a bicycle and pedestrian lane, and install a median divider and shoulders. This would raise the bridge's clearance to 215 feet (66 m) by building a new roadway above the existing roadway within the current arch structure. A gantry crane rolling on top of the arch will construct one rope-supported section of the new roadway at a time, using a temporary beam to support the existing roadway while each rope is replaced. The existing roadway will then be removed. The Port Authority believes it is possible to build the new roadway without interrupting traffic flow between Staten Island and Bayonne. In July 2012 the Port Authority announced construction would begin in Summer 2013, to be completed by late 2016. In this timeline, removal of the existing roadway would be completed by late 2015, in time for the opening of the widened Panama Canal.
One of the challenges faced by the project is the tight confines of the construction area: residential homes lie less than 20 ft (6.1 m) from the work site. Another challenge is that the bridge will remain open to vehicle traffic throughout the construction (though the walkway was closed on August 5, 2013 for the duration of the project).
The Port Authority commissioned a study of the question by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, completed in 2009, and authorized up to $10 million for planning and engineering services to develop options to deal with the bridge's low clearance. The Army Corps of Engineers study looked at three options to deal with the height-challenged bridge. The quickest option they identified was a $1.32 billion project to jack up the bridge to increase its height by 40 percent, which could be accomplished by 2019 at the earliest. It will need a clearance of 215 feet (66 m) to handle the new ships. Another option is to build a new cable-stayed bridge, which would cost $2.15 billion and take until 2022. The most expensive option would be to get rid of the bridge altogether and replace it with a tunnel through which traffic would traverse under the Kill Van Kull. This option would take to 2024 to complete and cost $2.2 to $3 billion.
According to the Port Authority, the “Raise the Roadway” project will offer the region the following long-term benefits:
- Larger, more efficient ships calling on our ports will purify the air of neighborhoods surrounding the bridges.
- Wider lanes, shoulders and median dividers will make the bridge safer for drivers.
- A bikeway and walkway the entire length of the bridge will make traveling the bridge easier.
- Stairs will be replaced with access ramps.
- New piers, a new roadway deck and new approach roads will make the bridge last longer.
- The design allows for future mass transit service. The Port Authority says its designs for this program will not preclude adding mass transit in the future. Extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line to Staten Island over the bridge has been proposed. Final design plans do not include a mass transit component.
The Port Authority also projects that the project will support nearly 2800 jobs and $240 million in wages throughout the construction industry.
The Corps of Engineers estimated that raising the bridge would produce a $3.3 billion national benefit, noting that 12% of all US international containers pass under the bridge. Congressmen from both New York and New Jersey pressed the Port Authority to act quickly. In March 2012, the PANYNJ submitted a request to the federal government for an expedited environmental review process, which was approved in July 2012 even though some residents in Newark and Staten Island said they wanted the Coast Guard to conduct a full environmental review. Improvements at Port Jersey on the Upper New York Bay are also underway.
The pedestrian walkway, cantilevered from the western side of the roadway, was temporarily closed on August 5, 2013, for reconstruction. The walkway is scheduled to reopen in 2017.
In 1931, the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the Bayonne Bridge the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” prize. The Bayonne Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1985.
In 2003, the bridge carried about 20,000 vehicles per day.
In September 2007, MTA Regional Bus Operations began a limited-stop bus route (the S89) that crosses the bridge. The route's termini are the Hylan Boulevard bus terminal in Eltingville, Staten Island and the 34th Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Station in Bayonne. This is the first interstate bus service offered by the MTA.
Tolls are collected on vehicles traveling into Staten Island (there is no toll for vehicles traveling into New Jersey).
As of December 6, 2015[update], the cash tolls going from Bayonne to Staten Island are $15 for cars and motorcycles, up from $14; there is no toll for passenger vehicles going from Staten Island to Bayonne. E-ZPass users are charged $10.50 for cars, up from $9.75, and $9.50 for motorcycles, up from $8.75 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 $12.50 for cars and $11.50 for motorcycles, up from $11.75 and $10.75 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).
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