Commentary on transportation in Connecticut and the Northeast by JIM CAMERON, for 19 years a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.
Jim is also the founder of a new advocacy effort: www.CommuterActionGroup.org
Disclaimer: his comments are only his own. All contents of this blog are (c) Cameron Communications Inc
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January 20, 2014
The George Washington Bridge
read a lot about the George Washington Bridge in recent weeks. And the scandal over who ordered closure of
approach lanes from Ft. Lee NJ only underscores how crucial this bridge is to
the entire region. All of which got me
thinking about the GWB and its history.
The Bridge that never was...
the George Washington Bridge was not the first bridge design to cross the
Hudson River. As early as 1885 there were discussions of building a suspension bridge
to bring the Pennsylvania Railroad into Manhattan at about 23rd
St. A later design in the 1920’s foresaw
deck, 16-lane-wide roadway (with 12 tracks for railroad trains on the lower
level) at 57th
it was in 1927 that work began on the George Washington Bridge much farther
uptown at 179th Street. The $75 million
single-level bridge carrying six lanes of traffic opened in 1931 and was widened
by two lanes in 1946.
the bridge was going to be called The
Bi-State Bridge, The Bridge of Prosperity or The Gate of Paradise
(really!), but it was a campaign by school kids that ended up honoring our
original designers had planned for the future and in 1961 the lower level,
six-lane “Martha Washington” bridge opened to traffic, increasing total capacity
we usually approach the bridge from the east or west, it’s hard to appreciate
its enormity until you’re right on the structure. But from any angle it’s a beautiful bridge,
showing its bare criss-cross girders and bracing which was originally to have
been clad in concrete and granite.
GWB is recognized by civil engineers and architects alike as one of the most
beautiful in the world.
its first year of operation the bridge carried five million vehicles. Last year it carried 102 million. On opening day the toll was 50 cents each
way. Today the one-way toll for autos (only
collected eastbound) ranges from $9 (EZ Pass off-peak) to $13 (cash). But pedestrians can still walk across for
the sidewalk is open).
walkways, while affording a wonderful view of the city, also have a dark side
as the GWB was scene of a record 18 suicides (and 43 attempts) in 2012.
GWB Bus Terminal
an average weekday 17,000 bus passengers rely on the GWB’s own bus terminal
built atop the Trans-Manhattan Expressway (not the Cross Bronx!) on the
Manhattan side. There they can catch the
A train or the Seventh Avenue IRT. The
bus station is undergoing a $180 million renovation.
bridge itself is a living thing. It creaks
and groans, moves and sways and it needs constant maintenance. In 2011 the Port Authority announced an
billion project to replace the bridge’s 529 vertical suspender wire
ropes. In addition, lanes on the upper
level are being closed (at night) to replace steel plates on the road surface.
of which means more jobs and, eventually, higher tolls.