The Alexander Hamilton Bridge is a significant construction that has become an integral part of the New York transport infrastructure and citizens’ life in general. Learn more about this innovative bridge and its significance at bronx-future.com.
General information about the bridge
According to nytimes.com, today, the Alexander Hamilton Bridge is an eight-lane, arched, steel structure that enables around-the-clock traffic across the Harlem River, connecting the Bronx and Manhattan. What is more, it also connects 2 high-speed highways, which were built for urban mobility, Cross Bronx and Trans-Manhattan Expressway.
The length of the bridge is 2,375 feet (724 m). Each of its main spans is 555 feet (169 m) long. The bridge consists of several spiral ramps that connect not only the above-mentioned highways but also the Major Deegan Expressway and the Harlem River Drive Viaduct.
Why was it built?
When we get into traffic jams at the crossing of railroads or waterways, difficult intersections or entering a narrow street, we become very emotional and wonder why there is no additional and extremely needed passage, junction, crossing or bridge. For New York, which is divided into the island and continental parts, the connection of its urban areas is vital and urgent. Especially nowadays, when every resident of the city has a car (sometimes even two or three)
The number of cars on the streets of New York started to increase after World War II. In 1948, 924,000 cars drove over city bridges every day. In 1968, this amount increased to 1,911,800 and in 2011 to 2,648,300. It means that the number of car trips has tripled. City officials and experts in the urban environment and transportation foresaw this and realized the importance of speeding up the traffic within the city limits. Therefore, they planned the construction of several bridges, including those that would connect the Bronx and Manhattan. Alexander Hamilton Bridge became one of them.
Immediately after its opening, the traffic passing through it amounted to 125,000 vehicles. In the following years, the number of cars that crossed the Harlem River on the bridges rose to 2,058,600 cars per day. Then, in the 70s, there was a decrease in traffic. Apparently, that happened due to the oil crisis of 1973, when the Arab countries stopped oil supply to the states that fought against Syria and Egypt supporting Israel. Fuel prices rose in the United States during those years and, consequently, its consumption and the use of cars decreased.
The history of the bridge construction
This bridge was planned to be built back in the 1930s, immediately after the construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. Thus, cars that at that time passed through the above-mentioned bridge could also get to the Bronx, but in the absence of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, they had to look for other ways. That is why the construction of another bridge was so needed. According to Robert Moses’s idea, it also had to connect the Cross Bronx and the Trans-Manhattan Expressway. In addition, the new bridge with the six-lane lower-level roadway was supposed to reduce the traffic on the George Washington Bridge. The funds for the construction (90%) were allocated by the federal government. In total, $21 million was spent on that bridge, which was grandly opened on January 15, 1963.
Why is this bridge so important for the city?
- Transportation value. The Alexander Hamilton Bridge connects two major areas of the city, the Bronx and Manhattan and plays a key role in ensuring efficient traffic flow. When you learn more about it, you can get a better understanding of its construction, technological features and impact on the transport system of the region.
- Historical heritage. The Alexander Hamilton Bridge was named after the prominent politician and one of the founders of the United States of America, Alexander Hamilton. Having built and named the bridge after this figure, the government shows that it doesn’t forget outstanding Americans. Studying the history of the bridge helps recreate Hamilton’s legacy and reveals his contribution to the country’s politics and infrastructure development.
- Engineering achievements. The Alexander Hamilton Bridge is a technical marvel that uses modern engineering solutions to span a river or valley. A study of the bridge construction and its functioning can shed light on the applied engineering methods and technologies as well as determine its contribution to the development of infrastructure and bridge design.
- Impact on local communities. The bridge has a social impact, as it helps locals commute to their offices as well as educational, health care and other important facilities. As a result, it also contributes to the quality of New Yorkers’ life.
- Infrastructure development. A study of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge can also contribute to a better understanding of the construction process, planning and development of the infrastructure in large cities.
- Sustainability and environmental aspects. Analysis of these aspects can contribute to a better understanding and improve the environmental sustainability of infrastructure.
Reconstruction and related issues
The bridge has been never reconstructed since the start of its operation till 2009 when the renovation works started here for the first time and cost $400 million. The reconstruction included replacing the concrete coating as well as strengthening the steel beams and the arch. There were also plans to renovate the bridge support and its foundation and apply additional layers of paint to protect the bridge from bad weather conditions. Additionally, it was decided to refine the park areas underneath.
Actually, there were no major or serious problems with the bridge, so the reconstruction wasn’t large-scale, however, resulted in traffic jams and delays. New Yorkers who planned to cross the bridge on the eve of the reconstruction didn’t expect that it would cause them so much trouble. On Saturday, July 14, 2012, two yellow cranes placed concrete blocks on the bridge and, thus, reduced the number of traffic lanes to one instead of two. Some drivers knew about such a situation and avoided the George Washington Bridge and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge planning their route. Others simply hoped for the best. The start of reconstruction was announced on the radio and TV and corresponding road signs were placed too. As a result, informed drivers avoided the bridge and adjusted their routes, but, after a while, the traffic here increased again causing traffic jams.
The mayors of two New Jersey towns added problems during the reconstruction, having said that, most likely, they will stop traffic on some of their streets to avoid drivers, who will try to bypass the traffic jams using those towns. However, 45-year-old Carlos Rivas answered that he plans to continue using back roads in order to cross the Alexander Hamilton Bridge all the same.
In general, despite some inconveniences, the Alexander Hamilton Bridge has been fulfilling its purpose almost completely during the reconstruction. In 2014, the works were finished and the bridge was reopened for full traffic again.