The George Washington Bridge: Suspension Sandwich

By: Dylan Rodgers

Over 600 feet tall and lit up like Vegas at night, the George Washington Bridge stands as a marvel to modern engineering. It spans a distance of 4,760 ft. across the Hudson River and connects Washington Heights in Harlem, NY to Fort Lee, New Jersey. The length is not what makes this bridge remarkable.  The George Washington Bridge is built like an Oreo with two layers for the creamy vehicular filling to drive on. In fact, the added capacity of a second level makes this the only 14 lane suspension bridge in existence, and it's all thanks to Othmar H. Ammann.

Ammann designed and oversaw construction of 6 of the 11 bridges that connect NYC to the rest of the contiguous United States. Originally the George Washington Bridge was planned as a six lane wire-suspension bridge. The idea of a suspension-style bridge was used as early as the 15th century near Tibet and Bhutan.  With the addition of heavy-duty, steel cables the suspension bridge has become the most cost-efficient and versatile style of bridge, something that the George Washington Bridge considering the substantial changes it has undergone and easily taken in stride.

In 1946, two lanes were added to the top level. By 1962, the bottom level was opened to traffic, an addition that increased the bridge's capacity by 75 percent. It is amazing that the traffic weight and pressure can nearly double and not only be handled, but be dealt with constantly for 49 years is another feat entirely.

The George Washington Bridge was deemed a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1981.

As Harlem Week (Month) comes to a close and with you running all around town visiting every key historical site I've posted, I wanted to feature one that is easily overlooked from a purely functional standpoint. The George Washington Bridge though 604 feet tall, lit as if it is an aspiring airport, and entirely one of a kind almost seems to just blend into the road in our day-to-day routine. The next time you cross that bridge, take some time to really let it all sink in. Crossing it could easily become one of the more inspiring times of your day.

Photo: Hialean