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Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

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Senior partner Othmar Herrmann Ammann
Chief engineer Milton Brumer
Project engineers Herb Rothman, Frank L. Stahl
Design engineer Leopold H. Just
Engineer of construction John West Kinney


Staten Island – Brooklyn


Opening date November 21, 1964 (upper level)
June 28, 1969 (lower level)


Structural Expressionism, International Style II  


Design Double-decked Suspension bridge
Longest span 4,260 feet (1,298 m)




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The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows, the reach connecting the relatively protected upper bay with the larger lower bay.

The bridge is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first known European navigator to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River, while crossing The Narrows. It has a center span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m) and was the largest suspension bridge in the world from the time of its completion in 1964 until 1981. It now has the seventh longest center span in the world but still is the largest suspension bridge in the United States. Its massive towers can be seen throughout a good part of the New York metropolitan area, including from spots in all five boroughs of New York City.

The bridge furnishes a critical link in the local and regional highway system. It is widely known today as the starting point of the New York City Marathon. The bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor; all cruise ships and most container ships arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey must pass underneath the bridge. Most ships, when built, must be built to accommodate the clearance under the bridge. Among local residents it is often referred to as simply the "Verrazano."

The bridge is owned by New York City and operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Interstate 278 passes over the Bridge connecting the Staten Island Expressway with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano, along with the other three major Staten Island bridges, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.

The bridge was the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Robert Moses, the New York State Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who had long desired the bridge as means of completing the expressway system which was itself largely the result of his efforts. The bridge was designed by Chief Engineer Othmar Ammann, who had also designed most of the other major crossings of New York City, including the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, the Triborough Bridge and the Throgs Neck Bridge. It was his last project. The plans to build the bridge caused considerable controversy in the neighborhood of Bay Ridge, since many families had settled in homes in the area where the bridge now stands and were forced to relocate.

Construction on the bridge started on August 13, 1959 and the upper deck was opened on November 21, 1964 at a cost of over $320 million. New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, which was attended by over 5,000 people. The lower deck opened on June 28, 1969. The bridge took over the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world, previously held by the Golden Gate Bridge, from 1964 until 1981, when it was eclipsed by the Humber Bridge in England.

Fort Lafayette was an island coastal fortification in New York Harbor, built next to Fort Hamilton at the southern tip of what is now Bay Ridge. It was destroyed as part of the bridge's construction in 1960; the Brooklyn-side bridge pillars now occupy the fort's former foundation site.

According to the United States Department of Transportation:

Each of the two towers contains 1,000,000 bolts and 3,000,000 rivets.
The diameter of each of the four suspension cables is 36". Each cable is composed of 26,108 wires amounting to a total of 143,000 miles in length
Due to the height of the towers (690') and their distance apart (4260'), the curvature of the earth's surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge -- the towers are 1⅝ inches farther apart at their tops than at their bases.[3]
Due to thermal expansion/contraction of steel, the bridge roadway is 12' lower in summer than its winter elevation.
The bridge, because of its size and isolated location, close to the open ocean, is more vulnerable to the elements than any other bridge in the city. It has been closed, either partially or entirely, occasionally during strong wind and snow storms.

The Queen Mary 2 had to revise its smokestack height in order for it to pass under the bridge, and still has barely 3m (9.75ft) of clearance.[4]

September 11, 2001
On the morning of September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked and flown directly over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge en route to the World Trade Center. Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials had earlier expressed concern about the plane's proximity to the bridge and later closed the bridge's upper deck after the plane struck the South Tower. When details of the attack on the Pentagon emerged, the MTA shut down the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, along with most other traffic throughout the city. After the collapse of the North Tower, the MTA opened both an eastbound and westbound lane of the bridge to allow traffic to flow briefly before closing it again at 1 PM that day. It remained closed until the following morning at 9 AM.[citation needed]

Naming controversy
The naming of the bridge for Verrazzano was highly controversial at the time. It was first proposed in 1951 by the Italian Historical Society of America, when the bridge was in the planning stage. After the initial proposal was turned down by Moses, the Society undertook a public relations campaign to both re-establish the reputation of the largely-forgotten Verrazano and to promote the idea of naming the bridge for him. The promotional campaign was largely the effort of Society director John N. LaCorte, who in 1954 successfully lobbied Governor of New York W. Averell Harriman to proclaim April 17 (the anniversary of Verrazano's arrival in the harbor) as "Verrazano Day". Subsequent efforts by LaCorte resulted in similar proclamations by governors of states along the East Coast. After these successes, LaCorte approached the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority again, but was turned down a second time. The manager of the authority, backed by Moses, stated that the name was too long and that he had never heard of Verrazano.

The Society later succeeded in lobbying to get a bill introduced in the New York State Assembly that would name the bridge for the explorer. After the introduction of the bill, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce joined the Society in promoting the name. The bill was signed into law in 1960 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Although the controversy seemed settled, the naming issue rose again in the last year of construction after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A petition to name the bridge for Kennedy received thousands of signatures and threatened the naming for the explorer. In response, LaCorte contacted United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president's brother, who told LaCorte that he would make sure the bridge would not be named for his brother. (What had been known as Idlewild Airport, New York's major international airport, was named for him instead). Coincidentally, the bridge opened just one day before the first anniversary of John Kennedy's death.

Despite the success of LaCorte, the official name was widely ignored by local news outlets at the time of the dedication. Some radio announcers and newspapers omitted any reference to Verrazano, referring to the bridge as the "Narrows Bridge", or the "Brooklyn-Staten Island Bridge". The Society continued its lobbying efforts to promote the name in the following years until the name became firmly established.

Bridge usage
The one-way toll (paid westbound into Staten Island only) in cash is $9 per car or $4 per motorcycle. E-ZPass users get a discount of $1.00 per car.

There is a reduced toll of $4.80 (as of March 19, 2007) for Staten Island residents; there is also a significant carpool discount. From 1964 to 1986, the toll was collected in both directions, until Staten Island residents concerned about pollution from idling vehicles called for one way tolls. However, as of 2007, the eastbound toll booths are still in place, requiring drivers to slow down. While the high cost of the toll between Staten Island and Brooklyn has always been an issue for residents, some favor the toll because they see it as a way to curb population growth on Staten Island.

Sign on the bridge indicating the border between boroughs.The original plans of the bridge included a pedestrian and bicycle walkway. However, those plans were never realized. Recently, there has been demand by residents living on both ends of the bridge to allow pedestrian access. In October of 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to see what he could do to realize the long-awaited pedestrian and bicycle access.

^ Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (I-278). Retrieved on 2007-05-28.
^ 2005 NYSDOT Traffic Data Report: AADT Values for Select Toll Facilities. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
^ Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, accessed March 6, 2007
^ Cruise Ship Profile, accessed July 13, 2006