Sunday, June 16, 2024


Each of us, being born and standing on our feet, eventually realizes the importance of separate paths, sidewalks, street crossings for pedestrians or roads, lanes and bridges for cars. They make it possible to simplify and regulate the movement of the latter, and thus move faster to their destination. Among the above, bridges certainly play a major role. They can also be called aqueducts, viaducts, crossings and other words that allow us to understand the meaning of these engineering structures for humans throughout their existence. If we look back in history, we will find more than a dozen facts that show how armies stopped or wars ended due to the lack of a bridge. That is why bridges are important. They are necessary for transportation within the city. New York City decided to build the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge between Queens and the Bronx in the early twentieth century. “Bridges are not built to cross a river or a lake, but to connect people,” said Philip Jackson. His words only prove that bridges are not just engineering structures; they are symbols of unity and connection between people and cultures. Read more about the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge on

Thoughts on the bridge construction

According to nycroads, bridges are essential. Perhaps you think so too. Construction companies had similar thoughts at the beginning of the twentieth century, when they noticed that the Bronx was developing rapidly thanks to the subway. Therefore, there was a need for people and goods to move quickly to and from the borough. So they proposed building a bridge across the East River from Whitestone, Queens, to Old Ferry Point in the Bronx. This was in 1905. At that time, the areas of Malba and Beechhurst in Queens, as well as the areas of the modern Bronx, grew like mushrooms after the rain. However, there were protests by local residents from Queens, who were afraid of losing farmland on their part of the East River. As a result, ideas about the bridge had to be postponed.

The 30s and the return to the issue of bridge construction

Twenty years have passed. The Great Economic Depression was still going on in the United States. There was a lot of free labor, which the government used to build highways, bridges and other necessary infrastructure. In 1929, the Regional Planning Association (RPA) planned the construction of the bridge. According to the company, it would allow traveling around the city without crossing dense areas, pedestrian crossings and places where traffic often stands in traffic jams. This is about Queens. In particular, the bridge would provide a way to travel between Long Island and upstate New York and New England. The bridge would also facilitate traffic on the Triborough Bridge, as well as help get to La Guardia Airport and the World’s Fair, which was to open in the city in 1939–1940.

What the newspapers of the time wrote about it

New York media reported in 1933 that the government was planning to set up a private company or a state authority to build the bridge for $40,000,000. It was supposed to be 2 miles long and provide a connection between the Long Island Expressway system and Westchester.

Already in 1937, the cost of building a new bridge between Whitestone, Queens, and Old Ferry Point, Bronx, was clarified. This year, the cost decreased to $17,500,000. The funds were to be paid by the Triborough Bridge Authority and the city.

In 1938, the media again reported that the Triborough Bridge administration urged the city to resolve the land issue for a new bridge.

The beginning of construction

In 1937, the first progress in the construction began. At the same time, protests erupted from local residents who did not want the destruction of 17 houses in Malba. But the builders defended their decision and added that the bridge should be strong enough to allow for a railroad track. In fact, they stopped there. Due to the short construction time, the design of the building was fast. The design was created by Othmar Ammann, a bridge engineer.  

Completion of construction and opening of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge

The bridge was completed on a tight schedule on April 29, 1939, which was 6 months earlier than planned. It took 23 months to finish the construction. The cost amounted to 19.7 million dollars. In exchange for the right to collect tolls for crossing the bridge, the Triborough administration supplied the funds. It had 4 lanes and 2 pedestrian paths. Every day, 17 thousand cars crossed the bridge.

Right after construction, a problem was discovered on the bridge. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which had a similar design, collapsed. An investigation was conducted and it was determined that there were miscalculations in the design. During strong winds, the span swings from side to side. To solve this, 8 additional supports had to be installed. The engineers installed stiffening trusses and widened the bridge by 6 lanes, due to pedestrian walkways. Traffic on the bridge didn’t stop for even a moment. The new bridge structure was stronger, but its appearance deteriorated. It lost its lightness and simplicity of design. The reconstruction improved the situation with the bridge’s swaying but didn’t entirely solve it.

On November 12, 1968, the bridge swayed up and down by 10 inches. The administration had to stop traffic on the bridge. Drivers who were driving on it at the time abandoned their cars and ran to the shore on their own. Engineers recognized that this bridge oscillates more than other suspension bridges in the city. This is its advantage and disadvantage, because if the bridge didn’t oscillate, it would have broken. They also explained to the drivers that they felt the oscillation as they were standing, not driving. If they were driving, they wouldn’t have felt the sway.

Emergency incidents that occurred during construction

The construction of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge was a complex and dangerous process, with several incidents involving deaths, injuries and accidents. In particular, in 1939, when the bridge was still under construction, a circular saw used to cut metal girders fell from the bridge. One worker who was working nearby was fatally injured. In 1939, a crane accident occurred that injured 3 workers. In July of the same year, a heavy beam fell and traumatized several workers. Then, in 1940, one of the workers fell from the rock he was working under and died.

Curious about bridges

Regardless of how badly they are needed, someone will always appear somewhere to oppose the project. For example, in the early 1950s, Charles W. Bossert, a Brooklyn lumberjack, came up with the idea of creating a private corporation to build a bridge from the Bronx to Whitestone, Queens. This immediately provoked external criticism. Despite the fact that New York’s regional plan, prepared in 1918, included such a bridge for rapid transit, the idea of a bridge wholly owned by a private company was unacceptable to many. They started explaining to him that this would require a lot of permits. To begin with, a special charter had to be obtained from the New York State Legislature, as well as the approval of the New York City Board of Estimate and the War Department, the latter’s authorization being required for all structures.

So, the history of the construction and use of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge is interesting and instructive. Do you use this bridge while traveling around the city?

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