Thursday, June 11, 2015
#434 Washington Bridge over the Harlem River
Washington Bridge over the Harlem River
June 11, 2015, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman
View on Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour Map at: unibridgetour.net
The Washington Bridge carries six lanes of traffic, as well as sidewalks on both sides, over the Harlem River in New York City between the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, connecting 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan to University Avenue in the Morris Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. Ramps at either end of the bridge connect to the Trans-Manhattan Expressway and the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The bridge is operated and maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation. It once carried U.S. Route 1, which now travels over the Alexander Hamilton Bridge.
The total length of the bridge, including approaches, is 2,375 feet (724 m). The parallel main spans of the steel arch bridge stretch 510 feet (160 m) over the Harlem River, providing 134 feet (41 m) of vertical clearance and 354 feet (108 m) of horizontal clearance. The tidal maximum (mean higher high water) is 4.9 ft (1.5 m) and extreme low water is -3.5 compared to mean lower low water.
This two-hinged arch bridge was designed by Charles C. Schneider and Wilhelm Hildenbrand, with modifications to the design made by the Union Bridge Company, William J. McAlpine, Theodore Cooper and DeLemos & Cordes, with Edward H. Kendall as consulting architect. The original design was pared down to bring the bridge's cost to $3 million. The bridge features steel-arch construction with two 510-foot-long (150m) main spans and masonry approaches. Construction began in 1886, and the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic on December 1, 1888. The plan had been to open the bridge to vehicular traffic on February 22, 1889 — Washington's Birthday and the centennial anniversary of the first Presidency — but the full opening was delayed until December 1889.
In 1913, a young architect named John Bruns is reported to have jumped from the Washington bridge and lived. He was quoted at his trial: "Why, Your Honor, it was a nerve test. Some friends had been taunting me on my lack of nerve because I had never married, and as we talked over the matter I made a bet that I would dive from the bridge."
After completion of the George Washington Bridge in 1931, traffic off the bridge into the Bronx traveled over the Washington Bridge. Starting in the 1940s, ramps were built to connect the western end of the bridge to the 178th Street and 179th Street Tunnels leading to the George Washington Bridge. This allowed traffic to and from New Jersey to bypass the congested local streets of Upper Manhattan.
The Alexander Hamilton Bridge was planned in the mid-1950s to provide a direct connection between Robert Moses's proposed Trans-Manhattan and Cross-Bronx Expressways and to accommodate the additional traffic resulting from the addition of the six-lane lower level to the George Washington Bridge. The completion of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in 1963 diverted much of the traffic away from the Washington Bridge.