Today in History: Opening Day of the World's Busiest Bridge

Today in History: Opening Day of the World's Busiest Bridge

M.C. Millman

After years of planning and building, the famous George Washington Bridge opened on October 25, 1931. 

Planners and engineers had been contemplating the best way to connect New York City and New Jersey for over 100 years. Washington Heights NYC recounts that six companies offered eighteen different designs for the bridge between 1866 and 1927, and five different locations were considered for its construction. 

Finally, in 1923, Othmar Ammann, a Swiss architect and engineer, proposed a plan that was selected to become what is now the George Washington Bridge. 

Construction began in October 1927 with the building of the two towers. The engineering of this massive project is impressive, as described by Port Authority NY NJ, with the bridge composed of four main single-strand cables, three feet in diameter, each consisting of 434 individual wires. The four main cables were carried back and forth over the Hudson River 61 times and strung over the top of each of the towers. 

The next step involved hanging steel suspenders from the main cables to support the roadway. The suspension bridge was considered an architectural wonder, spanning 4,760 feet. It was two times longer than any previous suspension bridge at the time. 

According to Washington Heights NYC, the initial cost for the bridge was estimated at $60 million. It was completed in four years, eight months ahead of schedule, saving $1 million. 

The two center lanes of the bridge were left unpaved until 1946, increasing the bridge's capacity by one-third. The lower level of the bridge and all six lanes were completed on August 29, 1962. The new addition cost $183 million and took four years to complete. This addition increased the bridge's capacity by 75% and made it the world's first 14-lane suspension bridge. 

According to the World Record Academy, the George Washington Bridge carries approximately 106 million vehicles annually, making it the World's Busiest Motor Vehicle Bridge.

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