009-TRIBOROUGH%20BRIDGE-14.jpg (24296 bytes) New York Architecture Images-New York Bridges

Triborough Bridge

  Contemporary black and white images on this page copyright Dave Frieder ( ). Special thanks to Dave Frieder for permission to use images.


Othmar Ammann


Connects Astoria Queens with Randalls Island




Structural Expressionism
  Harlem River Lift Span
  Bronx Crossing Span
  East River Suspension Span


steel and concrete


Suspension Bridge


Type Suspension   Year Opened 1936
# of Decks 1   # of lanes/tracks 8
Total Length 1380 ft   Main Span Length 2780 ft
Highway/RR I-278   Misc Connects Astoria Queens with Randalls Island
Toll $3.50 all directions EZPass  
Comments Part of a 3 bridge system connecting Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. See the Harlem River Bridges for the other two.
  Above image Dave Frieder (special thanks!).
  Dave Frieder Gallery. Copyright Dave Frieder ( )


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The Triborough Bridge is a complex of three bridges connecting the New York City boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, using what were two islands, Ward's Island and Randall's Island as intermediate rights-of-way between the water crossings. These two islands have been consolidated by landfill.

The bridges span the Hell Gate (a tidal channel of the East River), Harlem River, and Bronx Kill. Construction had begun on Black Friday in 1929, and the Triborough project's outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann's assistance was enlisted to help simplify the structure. Ammann had collapsed the original two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers. These cost-saving revisions saved $10 million on the towers alone. Using New Deal money, the project was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses and the bridge was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936. Its cost was greater than that of the Hoover Dam.

The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the casings for pouring the concrete a whole forest in Oregon was cut down.[2]

The bridge is owned by the City of New York and operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), an affiliate agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York).

On January 9, 2008, New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer announced his proposal to rename the bridge the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge, in honor of the former New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The toll revenues from the Triborough Bridge and the other bridges operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) were and are enormous, amounting to USD$933.1 million in 2002. The money from the bridge pays for a portion of the public transit subsidy for the New York City Transit Authority and the commuter railroads. The bridge carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day.

The bridge has sidewalks in all three legs. The TBTA officially requires bicyclists to walk their bicycles across, but the signs stating this unpopular requirement are usually ignored by bicyclists citing the very long distance of the bridge. Stairs on the 2 km (1.3 mile) Queens leg impede handicapped access. The Queens stairway along the southern side was demolished at the beginning of the 21st century, thus isolating that walkway, but the ramp of the Wards Island end of the walkway along the northern side was improved in 2007. The two sidewalks of the Bronx span are connected to only one ramp at the Randalls Island end.

As of June 25, 2007, the crossing charge for a two-axle passenger vehicle is $4.50 charged between any two boroughs or from any borough to Randall's Island, with a $0.50 discount for E-ZPass users. The crossing charge for a motorcycle is $2.00 charged in each direction, with a $0.25 discount for E-ZPass users. The return trip from Randall's Island to any borough is free.
The Triborough Bridge, the authority's flagship facility, opened in 1936. It is actually three bridges, a viaduct, and 14 miles of approach roads connecting Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.

The Manhattan branch is the Harlem River Lift Bridge, which links the Harlem River Drive, the FDR Drive, and 125th Street, Harlem's commercial and cultural center. The Bronx Crossing leads motorists to points north via the Bruckner and Deegan expressways and, more locally, to the neighborhoods of the South Bronx and the Port Morris Industrial Area. The longest span of the Triborough Bridge, the East River Suspension Bridge to Queens, connects with the Grand Central Parkway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and to Astoria's residential areas, restaurants, and shops.

The bridge's three branches meet on Randall's Island, where an interchange and two toll plazas sort out traffic flowing in 12 directions and provide access to the island itself. Adjacent to the Manhattan toll plaza is the Robert Moses Administration Building, the TBTA's headquarters.

Randall's Island is largely city parkland; that includes Downing Stadium, softball fields, tennis courts, picnic areas, and some city facilities. In 1951, the TBTA constructed and gave to the city a pedestrian bridge between 103rd Street in Manhattan and Wards Island, providing another access by foot to Randall's Island and Wards Island.

NOT ONE BRIDGE, BUT MANY: The Triborough Bridge is not simply a single span, but rather is a complex comprised of three long-span bridges, a number of smaller bridges and viaducts, fourteen miles of approach highways and parkways, parks and recreational facilities, and administrative offices for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. To appreciate the magnitude of the project, it can only be viewed in its entirety from above.

Plans for connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx were first announced by Edward A. Byrne, chief engineer of the New York City Department of Plant and Structures, in 1916. While its construction had been long recommended by local officials, the Triborough Bridge did not receive any funding until 1925, when the city appropriated funds for surveys, test borings and structural plans.

By that time, alternative plans had surfaced from Gustav Lindenthal, who did not want to spoil the view of his nearby Hell Gate Bridge. Instead of constructing what he called a "suspension bridge of cheap pole and washline architecture," Lindenthal suggested adding a second deck to his Hell Gate railroad bridge to carry five lanes of automobile traffic. The alternative plan also called for two spurs: one to East 102nd Street to provide direct access to Central Park, and another at East 116th Street. While he did not immediately call for a spur at East 125th Street - he believed that the area was already too congested - one was planned for construction at a later date.

PICKING UP WHERE THE STOCK MARKET CRASH LEFT OFF: On October 25, 1929, Mayor Jimmy Walker broke ground on the Triborough Bridge. This date later proved significant, as it was just one day after the "Black Thursday" that helped trigger the Great Depression. The initial $5.4 million allocated by New York City for construction of the new bridge - most of which went to condemnation awards and counsel fees - had already been spent before the Ward's Island piers had been built.

With its coffers depleted by the ensuing Depression, the city abandoned work on the bridge early in 1930. That summer, President Herbert Hoover created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). At the suggestion of Mayor Walker, Senator Robert Wagner applied for a $37 million to construct the Triborough Bridge. However, Joseph McKee, a fiscal conservative who took over as acting mayor when Walker left under a cloud of investigation, blocked the RFC application because he considered it a confession of municipal bankruptcy.

Work on the Triborough Bridge was at a standstill through 1932, when New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses persuaded Governor Al Smith to resume its construction. Moses sought a way for Bronx and Westchester residents to reach his Long Island parks without driving through Manhattan streets. He planned to construct new approaches - the Grand Central Parkway, the East River Drive, the Major Deegan Expressway and Southern (Bruckner) Boulevard - to the bridge from all three boroughs. When he asked the original project's chief engineer where the approaches were to be built, he was surprised to hear that no such plans had been developed.

At that time, Moses was busy constructing parkways throughout the rest of New York City and Long Island. In the belief that the Triborough Bridge was essential to maintain a unified parkway system, Moses sought permission to control the independent agency charged with construction of the bridge.

In 1933, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Moses as the chairman of the Triborough Bridge Authority. President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted the new authority a $37 million loan, making the bridge the first project in New York City to earn approval from the new Federal-level Public Works Administration (PWA). Seeking a clear break from the Tammany Hall corruption of the past, LaGuardia said the following to the press:

We are going to build a bridge instead of patronage. We are going to pile up stone and steel instead of expenses. We are going to build a bridge of steel, and spell steel "s-t-e-e-l" instead of "s-t-e-a-l." The people of the City of New York are going to pay for that bridge, and they are going to pay for it in tolls after its completion.

Before construction on the Triborough Bridge resumed, Moses employed the services of famed bridge designer Othmar Ammann. At that time, Ammann had held the position of chief engineer at the Port of New York Authority for seven years.