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Photos: On this day – October 24,1931 – the George Washington Bridge is officially opened

Posted Oct 24, 2012

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On this day – October 24,1931 – the George Washington Bridge is officially opened. Groundbreaking for the new bridge began in October 1927, a project of the Port of New York Authority. Its chief engineer was Othmar Ammann, with Cass Gilbert as architect. When construction started the estimated cost of the bridge was $75,000,000. The bridge was dedicated on October 24, 1931, and opened to traffic the following day.

When it opened in 1931, the bridge surpassed the Ambassador Bridge for the longest main span in the world. At 3,500 feet (1,100 m), it nearly doubled the previous record of 1,850 feet (560 m). It held this title until the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. The total length of the bridge is 4,760 feet (1,450 m).

As originally built, the bridge offered six lanes of traffic, but in 1946, two additional lanes were provided on what is now the upper level. A second, lower deck, which had been anticipated in Ammann’s original plans, was approved by Lt Col Joseph R McCammon, US Army Corps of Engineers, opening to the public on August 29, 1962.This lower level has been waggishly nicknamed “Martha”. The additional deck increased the capacity of the bridge by 75 percent, making the George Washington Bridge the world’s only 14-lane suspension bridge, providing eight lanes on the upper level and six on the lower deck.

The original design for the towers of the bridge called for them to be encased in concrete and granite. However, because of cost considerations during the Great Depression and favorable aesthetic critiques of the bare steel towers, this was never done. The exposed steel towers, with their distinctive criss-crossed bracing, have become one of the bridge’s most identifiable characteristics.

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