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!
For the duration of the 1940 World’s Fair, William Halstead in cooperation with the port authority, installed and put into operation on the George Washington Bridge. It was his own invention of a (FCC Part 15) low power am transmitter broadcasting on 550 AM (“the top of the dial” at that time) providing directions on which exits to take for desired destinations. These premier low powered AM broadcast, receivable only while on the bridge, proved very successful as a means of traffic control to handle the major influx of tourist flocking to the area to visit the worlds fair. The same method was later used at the Lincoln Tunnel and other locations, and later at the LAX airport as well as drive-in theaters.. Disney Land.. and elsewhere.. The method is even used today, but it all began and the George Washington Bridge in 1940
It was a kind of big deal, wonder why I rarely (if ever) see the story mentioned.
It probably never gets mentioned because it has been forgotten as everyone involved in the implementation of the broadcast and most of its driver beneficiaries are dead. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing the story.
I REMEMBER IN THE LATE 1950′ MY FATHER DROVE THE FAMILY UP THE NY SIDE NORTH TO THE BRIDGE. I DISTINCTLY REMEMBER A SIGN STATING THE CONSTRUCTION OF A LOWER LEVEL. I ALSO REMEMBER IT WAS TO BE CALLED “THE MARTA WASHINGTON BRIDGE” -(NOT JOKING) HAVEN’T SEEN THIS SINCE. GOTTA SAY IT MAY BE IN POOR TASTE…
Does anyone have any good pictures of the two tunnels that brought traffic from the Harlem River Drive under 178th and 179th streets to the bridge? I have a fascination with these tunnels because I can barely recall them from late fifties when they were destroyed to accommodate the “Trans-Manhattan Expressway” that would carry I-95 to the bridge.
why are the roads exiting the Lincoln Tunnel so bad all the way to 42nd St. I cringe at the wear and tear on the front end of my car, considering the high tolls to enter, the least the PA could do is make the exit a smooth ride, to ease the pain of the tolls. Cross the George Washington Bridge, OH! What a bumpy ride.
The Bridge is a magical sight at night from the Palisades Interstate Parkway looking across toward the Manhattan skyline. I grew up in the northeast corner of Bergen County. Sometimes on summer evenings a bunch of us would walk across the Bridge; it was a fun adventure and a wonder to see the mass of it close-up.
In the early 60’s, one icy evening leaving the City, there was a minor chain reaction accident in the middle of the bridge. Getting out of the car, it was very strange feeling the bridge sway, both because of its intentional construction and from a strong wind from the north.
I love the Bridge and its memories.
This is legalized thievery. That’s the cost of living in what’s called the greatest country in the world. Bu**S**t
THEN U SHOULD LOVE THE STORY ABOUT WHEN THEY PUT THE NEW COLLECTION BOOTHS IN FOR THE 1 WAY TOLL COLLECTION. A STORY APPEARED IN THE NEWSPAPER THAT SAID THEY “FOUND” AN EXTRA BOOTH. (29VS28) I REMEMBER LAUGHING, & THOUGHT THIS WAS THE “MOB” TOLL.
I MEAN (REALLY?) NOBODY NOTICED.
PS THE ONLY TIME I PERSONALLY SAW A GOVERNMENT REMOVING THE TOLL BOOTHS WAS THE KENTUCKY “BLUE GRASS PARKWAY” WEST OF LEXINGTON (+/-) IN THE 1990’S.
Pingback: Editorial: Contemplating the Rocky Mountain high « Capitol Report | New Mexico
I was in New York earlier this week and after all the tolls from bridges tunnels and turn pikes I couldn’t wait to get out. I felt like I was being robbed by the city.
When I came up to another bridge, I gritted my teeth wondering how much now.
I paid $13.00 to cross the George Washington bridge, $7.50 for another and $4.00 to go through a tunnel. (on a single axle car)
I guess I should be happy I wasn’t in a 18 wheeler. I would have to take out a loan or sign my truck over to the state of N.Y..
I grew up on the ny side of the bridge.
My dad would use the ferries to nj for a nickle instead of the fifty cent toll. It was for the rich when most middle-class folks made $40/week avg.
Factories have all left the city. Its wealth comes from the entertainment industry and finance. The factories have all been turned into condos with lots of rich people moving there with lots of money