View from Dumbo, Brooklyn in July 2017
|Carries||7 lanes of roadway,
4 tracks of the trains of the New York City Subway, and bicycles
|Locale||New York City (Manhattan-Brooklyn)|
|Maintained by||New York City Department of Transportation|
|ID number||2240028 (upper)
|Total length||6,855 ft (2,089 m)|
|Width||120 feet (37 m)|
|Height||336 ft (102 m) (towers)|
|Longest span||1,480 feet (451 m)|
|Clearance below||135 ft (41.1 m)|
|Designer||Leon Solomon Moisseiff|
|Constructed by||Othniel Foster Nichols|
|Opened||December 31, 1909|
|Daily traffic||70,341 (2008)|
|Toll||Free both ways|
The Manhattan Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the East River in New York City, connecting Lower Manhattan at Canal Street with Downtown Brooklyn at the Flatbush Avenue Extension. The main span is 1,470 ft (448 m) long, with the suspension cables being 3,224 ft (983 m) long. The bridge's total length is 6,855 ft (2,089 m). It is one of four toll-free bridges spanning the East River; the other three are the Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Bridges.
The bridge opened to traffic on December 31, 1909. It was designed by Leon Moisseiff, and is noted for its innovative design. As the first suspension bridge to employ Josef Melan's deflection theory for the stiffening of its deck, it is considered to be the forerunner of modern suspension bridges, and this design served as the model for many of the long-span suspension bridges built in the first half of the twentieth century. The Manhattan Bridge was also the first suspension bridge to utilize a Warren truss in its design.
The Manhattan Bridge was the last of the three suspension bridges built across the lower East River, following the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges. In the earliest plans, the Manhattan Bridge was to have been called "Bridge No. 3" because it was the third bridge to be built. The Manhattan Bridge's current name was given in 1902. The name was confirmed in 1904. The New York Times criticized the name as "meaningless" and that the Manhattan Bridge's name "would have geographical and historical significance if it were known as the Wallabout Bridge". This was a reference to Wallabout Bay, located near the proposed bridge's Brooklyn side. In 1905, the Times raised another objection, stating, "All bridges across the East River are Manhattan bridges. When there was only one, it was well enough to call it the Brooklyn Bridge, or the East River Bridge".
Construction on the bridge's towers had commenced by at least 1901. By 1903, three workers had died while working on the Brooklyn-side tower's caisson. A $10 million grant for the bridge's construction was granted in May 1904 with the expectation that work on the span would start later that year.
A plan for the suspension-bridge span was announced in 1903. Elevated and trolley routes would use the Manhattan Bridge, and there would be large balconies and enormous spaces within the towers' anchorages. However, the Municipal Art Commission raised objections to one of the bridge's plans, which delayed the start of construction for the span. Another set of plans was unveiled in June 1904 by New York City Bridge Commissioner Gustav Lindenthal, but the second plan was also rejected. The dispute revolved around whether eyebars or wire cables should be used in the new bridge. The MAC voted to use wire cables in the bridge in September 1904. Because of this dispute, the plans for Manhattan Bridge are sometimes mistakenly attributed to Lindenthal. Other delays arose over the proposed placement of the bridge's termini on either side.
The first temporary wire between the Manhattan Bridge's two towers was strung in June 1908. It was to be replaced later with permanent, thicker main cables, each 21 inches (53 cm) thick, on both sides of the bridge's deck. By this time, the construction cost had increased to $22 million. During the stringing of the anchorages, one of the cables on the Brooklyn side broke loose, injuring two people. The last of the suspender ropes supporting the main cables was strung in December of that year. The cables had been strung in four months, The construction of the bridge span required 30,000 tons of steel. Erection of the superstructure and steel fabrication were contracted to The Phoenix Bridge Company. The first girder for the new bridge was installed in February 1909. By April, the majority of the span had been fitted into place between the main cables.
The New York City Rapid Transit Commission recommended the construction of a subway line across the Manhattan Bridge in 1905. This line was approved in 1907. The New York City Public Service Commission requested permission to start constructing the subway tracks in March 1908. This plan was approved in May.
A group of 100 "leading citizens of Brooklyn" walked over the bridge on December 5, 1909, marking the unofficial completion of the bridge. The bridge was officially opened by outgoing Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. on December 31, 1909. Shortly after opening, a fire on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge damaged the structure.
An upper-deck roadway on the bridge was installed in 1922.
Floodlights and barbed-wire fences were installed at the bases of the bridge's anchorages in 1951, during the Cold War. The installations were fortified to protect against "possible sabotage attempts under wartime conditions". The anchorages themselves were sealed.
The subway trains crossing the Manhattan Bridge had a major impact on its condition (see § Trackage history), and the bridge started to tilt to one side based on how many trains used that side. This had supposedly been a problem since the tracks opened in 1917. In 1956, the bridge was renovated in order to rectify this tilt. However, by 1978, the Manhattan Bridge had deteriorated to such a point that the United States Congress voted to allocate money to repair the bridge, as well as several others in New York City. Minor repair work started in 1982. A discretionary grant for $50 million was allocated to these bridges' repairs in 1985. The first phase of repairs started that year. The bridge's condition was blamed on the imbalance in the number of trains crossing the bridge, as well as deferred maintenance during the New York City fiscal crisis of the 1970s.
In April 1986, workers temporarily closed the Manhattan-bound roadway on the upper level in order to repair the deck there. The north-side subway tracks, underneath the Manhattan-bound roadway, were also closed during this time. In December 1987, inspectors also shut one lane of the lower level due to a crack in the deck. The New York City Department of Transportation published a list of 17 structurally deficient bridges in the city. Among them was the Manhattan Bridge, which needed $166 million in repairs to fix "cable anchors and torsion of steel members as subways cross". Repairs on the northern side of the Manhattan Bridge were complete by the end of 1988, and the subway tracks on the north side were reopened. Simultaneous with the reopening of the north side, the south-side tracks were closed. In 1991, trucks were banned from the lower level because they were too heavy for the decaying bridge.
"Major" repair work on the southern side began in 1992. The Yonkers Construction Company was awarded a $97.8 million contract for the repair project in August 1992. City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman originally denied the contract to the company because of concerns about corruption, but she was overridden by Mayor David Dinkins, who wanted to complete repairs quickly. At the same time, the NYCDOT increased the frequency of maintenance inspections for the bridge, after inspectors found holes in beams that had been deemed structurally sound during previous inspections. The Brooklyn-bound roadway on the upper level was closed from 1993 to 1996 so that side of the bridge could be repaired. The bridge repairs were repeatedly delayed as the renovation process uncovered more serious structural problems underlying the bridge. The original plans had been to complete the renovations by 1995 for $150 million, but by 1996, the renovation was slated to be complete in 2003 at a cost of $452 million. By 2001, it was estimated that the total cost of the renovations had reached half a billion dollars, including $260 million for the south side and another $175 million for the north side. At the time, the NYCDOT had set a January 2004 deadline for the renovation.
The original pedestrian walkway on the south side of the bridge was reopened after forty years in June 2001. It was shared with bicycles until late summer 2004, when a dedicated bicycle path was opened on the north side of the bridge. The northern bridge bike path is notable for poor signage that leads to cyclist and pedestrian conflicts. By the time work on the bridge was completed in 2004, the final cost of the renovation totaled $800 million.
To celebrate the bridge's centennial anniversary, a series of events and exhibits were organized by the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission in October 2009. These included a ceremonial parade across the Manhattan Bridge on the morning of October 4 and a fireworks display in the evening. In 2009, the bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The bridge has four vehicle lanes on the upper level, split between two roadways carrying opposite directions of traffic. The lower level has three Manhattan-bound (formerly reversible) vehicle lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The bridge once carried New York State Route 27 and later was planned to carry Interstate 478.
Arch and colonnade
In 1910, after the bridge opened, the architectural firm Carrère and Hastings drew up preliminary plans for an elaborate grand entry to the bridge on the Manhattan side, as part of the "City Beautiful" movement. Construction began that year, and plans were finalized in 1912. It was described as a "complete, dignified and monumental ensemble, worthy of one of the principal gateways of a great modern city" in a New York Times article. The arch and colonnade were completed in 1915. The decoration includes pylons which were sculpted by Carl Augustus Heber and a frieze called "Buffalo Hunt" by Charles Rumsey.
The arch and colonnade were designated a New York City landmark on November 25, 1975. After many years of neglect and several attempts by traffic engineers to remove the structure, the arch and colonnade were repaired and restored in 2000.
Four subway tracks are located on the lower deck of the bridge, two on each side of the roadway. The two tracks on the south side are used by the Q train at all times and the N train at all times except late nights, when they use the Montague Street Tunnel. The tracks on the north side are used by the D train at all times and the B train on weekdays. On the Manhattan side, the south side tracks connect to Canal Street on the BMT Broadway Line while the north side tracks connect to the Chrystie Street Connection through Grand Street. On the Brooklyn side, the two pairs merge under Flatbush Avenue to a large junction with the BMT Fourth Avenue Line and BMT Brighton Line at DeKalb Avenue. For 18 years, between 1986 and 2004, one or the other set of tracks was closed to repair structural damage.
When the bridge first opened, the tracks did not connect to any others. In 1910, the Manhattan Bridge Three Cent Line, a streetcar company, began operations on those tracks. This was followed by the Brooklyn and North River Line in 1912. The trolley arrangement continued until the BRT (later BMT), which also had two tracks each over the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, trackage was connected to the bridge in 1915. The trolleys were moved to the upper-level roadways until 1929, when service was discontinued.
The feeder lines for the Brooklyn side of the tracks have not changed since subway service began on the bridge. It has always been fed by tracks from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line and the BMT Brighton Line; however, the junction between the lines was reconstructed in 1956, and Myrtle Avenue subway station, just near the foot of the bridge, was closed. On the Manhattan side, however, the two north tracks originally connected to the BMT Broadway Line (where the south tracks now connect) while the two south tracks curved south to join the BMT Nassau Street Line towards Chambers Street. This connection has been severed and the tracks are now used for storage.
On November 26, 1931, a connection south of Chambers Street to the Montague Street Tunnel opened, adding two stations (Fulton Streets and Broad) and rerouted train service on the bridge's south side. Service on that side became relatively low afterward as the only trains that normally crossed it were The Bankers’ Special, which ran from either the Sea Beach and/or Fourth Avenue Line, crossed the Manhattan Bridge or Montague Street Tunnel into Manhattan, and then returned to Brooklyn via the opposite crossing.
Since the tracks are on the outer part of the bridge, passing trains caused the structure to tilt and sway. The wobble worsened as train cars became longer and heavier. Eventually, when one train moved over the bridge one side would be three feet lower than the other side, severely damaging the structure. In 1956, a repair program was begun at a cost of $30 million. Trains still crossed the bridge, but many times one of the tracks had to be closed with both routes using a single-track, which further restricted the number and size of the trains crossing.
Concurrent with the building of the Chrystie Street Connection (opened November 26, 1967) to connect to the north tracks, the south tracks were rerouted to the BMT Broadway Line connection, and the connecting tracks to the BMT Nassau Street Line were severed. The connection, and its related projects, opened two new stations (Grand Street and, in July 1968, 57th Street – Sixth Avenue) and added express service on the IND Sixth Avenue Line. The IND's B and D trains were routed via the north side of the bridge, while the N and Q routes were moved to the south side of the bridge for service to Broadway. At the time, the B train continued to Brooklyn using the BMT West End Line, while the D and Q trains used the Brighton Line and the N used the BMT Sea Beach Line
Even after the 1956 repairs, the New York City Department of Transportation failed to maintain the bridge properly, and a major repair program began in the 1980s (see also § Later history). Changes to subway service patterns started in 1983. Because of the large scope of these repairs, there was limited train access to the bridge, reducing the number of trains that could cross the span. The north tracks, which had been more heavily used, were closed first in April 1986. This split B and D service into two sections: trains from the Bronx and upper Manhattan terminated at 34th Street – Herald Square, thus suspending express service on Sixth Avenue, while trains from Brooklyn were rerouted to the BMT Broadway Line express via the south side of the bridge. The N was rerouted via the Montague Street Tunnel.
The north tracks were reopened and the south tracks were closed simultaneously in December 1988, merging the B and D services, rerouting the Q train to Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Broadway Line express service was suspended while Sixth Avenue express service was restored. After an 18-month delay for procuring contracts, the New York City Transit Authority and politicians pressured the DOT to resume N train service on the bridge's south side on September 30, 1990, despite warnings from engineers that the structure was unsafe and major repairs still had to be made. On December 27, state inspectors forced south side service to be rerouted via the tunnel again after discovery of corroded support beams and missing steel plates. The city's deputy commissioner for bridges and his administrative assistant were fired after this incident. Following the controversial decision to do so, the New York City Council's Transportation committee held an inquiry into the decision to restore subway service on the Manhattan Bridge's south side, as well as an inquiry into the safety of all New York City bridges. They found that the Transportation Department and Transit Authority's lack of cooperative inspection were a major contributor for the deteriorating conditions.
A projection for a reopening date was initially made for 1995. That year, the north side was closed during off-peak hours for six months, rerouting the Q to Broadway and cutting D service from Brooklyn and B service from Manhattan. The south side finally reopened on July 22, 2001, whereby the north side was again closed, returning the Q to the express tracks on the Broadway Line; introducing the new W train to run on the West End Line; and discontinuing B and D service in Brooklyn. The south side was closed on weekends from April to November 2003, and the Q was rerouted via the Montague Street Tunnel. On February 22, 2004, the north side reopened, and all four tracks were in service simultaneously for the first time in 18 years. B and D trains returned to Brooklyn, but switched routes in that borough (the B on the Brighton Line and D on the Fourth Avenue and West End Lines). Additionally, the N train once again used the bridge for travel and the W no longer ran in Brooklyn.
Between August 2, 2013, and September 14, 2014, weekend R trains and late-night N trains also used the south tracks due to the Montague Street Tunnel being closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs.
Proposed I-478 designation
As part of the construction of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, there were plans to make the Manhattan Bridge I-178, but since this interstate would have led to a crosstown expressway and the existing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the FHWA stated that the first digit should be even, so the designation I-478 was chosen. However, with the cancellation of I-78 through New York City, the spur neither qualified to be part of the Interstate Highway System nor connected to any existing highways (though ramps directly from I-278 (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) are accessible on the Brooklyn side).
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- National Register of Historic Places listings in Queens County, New York
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- Manhattan Bridge at Structurae
- Jackson, Donald C. (1988). Great American Bridges and Dams. Wiley. p. 136. ISBN 0-471-14385-5.
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- nycsubway.org—The New York Transit Authority in the 1980s
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- Manhattan Bridge Service Changes - The New York Times
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