The George Washington Bridge Was Going To Have Its Steel Towers Covered In Stone
The George Washington Bridge seen here during construction in 1930, was built from 1927 until 1931. Architect Cass Gilbert intended its towers to be sheathed in stone. Still visible on the towers are the hooks for which the stone was to be attached.
It was decided for practical reasons that the bridge towers did not need to be encased in stone. The Depression hit soon after construction started and the cost of procuring and installing the stone would have been prohibitive. The designers and builders reevaluated the whole look of the bridge and felt that there was a natural beauty in showing the function through the form of the exposed naked steel.
The bridge’s chief designer and engineer Othmar Ammann had incredible foresight. Though the bridge had only one level when originally constructed, the design he came up with allowed for the eventual addition of a lower level which was added in 1962. This increased the number of traffic lanes from eight to fourteen. Morning and evening rush hours can create delays of one hour or longer. Can you imagine what the delays would be like without the second deck?
12 other interesting facts about the George Washington Bridge:
1. When completed in 1931 the George Washington was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was eventually displaced as the longest bridge by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.
2. The bridge was completed eight months ahead of schedule and under budget.
3. To finance the bridge, the states of New York and New Jersey each advanced $5 million and $50 million in bonds were issued.
4. Tolls were set to pay off the bonds, which would mature serially starting in 1953. It was assumed after paying off the bond holders, the tolls would eventually be reduced or even eliminated. (Hah!)
5. The original toll for passenger automobiles was 50 cents each way. Motorcycles and bicycles were charged 25 cents, and trucks were charged up to one dollar depending upon their weight. A simple bus ride from one end of the bridge to the other cost a dime.
6. Pedestrians also originally paid a dime to cross the bridge. This was reduced to a nickel in 1934 and eliminated in 1940 at the urging of many people including Mayor LaGuardia and Robert Moses. The income generated by the pedestrian toll ($8,500 in 1939) barely covered the cost of collection.
7. The toll was originally collected for vehicles New York and New Jersey bound. On August 12, 1970 the tolls became one way only from New Jersey to New York.
8. The first toll increase occurred May 5, 1975 when the rate for vehicles was raised from $1.00 to $1.50 for a round trip.
9. A total of 107,000 miles of wire were used in the cables fabricated by John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, the company that also supplied the wire for the Brooklyn Bridge. The Roebling’s, John and his son Washington, designed and constructed the Brooklyn Bridge.
10. The 592 steel suspender ropes will be replaced over the next eight years. The anticipated cost of replacement is estimated at between $1 billion and $1.2 billion.
11. The operating expenses for the bridge in 1940 were $649,135. In 2011, the operating expenses of the bridge and its bus terminal were a whopping $117,428,000.
12. During a 29 year period from the time the bridge opened on October 25, 1931 until January 1, 1960, $243,063,400 were paid in tolls. In just a single year, 2005, the tolls produced revenue of $326,000,000!