The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (also referred to as the Verrazano Bridge and formerly the Narrows Bridge) is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn. It spans the Narrows, a body of water linking the relatively enclosed Upper New York Bay with Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The bridge carries thirteen lanes of Interstate 278 on two levels: 7 on the upper level and 6 on the lower level.
|Carries||13 lanes of I-278
(7 lanes on upper level: 6 fixed-direction, 1 reversible HOV lane;
6 lanes on lower level)
|Locale||New York City (Staten Island–Brooklyn), New York, U.S.|
|Other name(s)||Verrazano Narrows Bridge
|Maintained by||MTA Bridges and Tunnels|
|Total length||13,700 feet (4,176 m)|
|Width||103 feet (31 m)|
|Height||649.68 feet (198 m)|
|Longest span||4,260 feet (1,298 m)|
|Clearance above||15 feet (4.57 m) (upper level)
14.4 feet (4.39 m) (lower level)
|Clearance below||228 feet (69.5 m) at mean high water|
|Construction start||August 13, 1959|
|Opened||November 21, 1964
June 28, 1969 (lower level)
|Daily traffic||202,523 (2016)|
|Toll||As of March 19, 2017:
$11.52 (New York E-ZPass users outside Staten Island)
$5.50 (Staten Island residents)
$17.00 (all others; billed by mail)
The engineer David B. Steinman first proposed a bridge across the Narrows in 1927. Subsequent proposals of vehicular crossings across the Narrows were deferred over the next twenty years. A 1920s attempt to build a rail tunnel across the Narrows was aborted, as was another 1930s plan for vehicular tubes underneath the Narrows. Discussion of a tunnel resurfaced in the mid-1930s and early 1940s, but were again denied. In the late 1940s, urban planner Robert Moses championed a bridge across the Narrows as a way to connect Staten Island with the rest of the city. Various issues delayed the start of construction until 1959. The upper deck opened in November 21, 1964, followed by the lower deck in June 1969.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has a central span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m). It was the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1964 until it was surpassed by the Humber Bridge in the United Kingdom in 1981. The bridge has the 13th longest main span in the world, as well as the longest in the Americas.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is named for the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who in 1524 became the first documented European explorer to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River. Due to a mistake in naming, the bridge's name is spelled with only one "z", despite the explorer's name having two "z"s. The bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor. All ships arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey pass underneath the bridge and must therefore be built to accommodate the clearance under it.
A bridge across the Narrows had been proposed as early as 1927, when structural engineer David B. Steinman brought up the possibility of such a crossing. At the time, Staten Island was isolated from the rest of New York City, and its only direct connection to the other four boroughs was via the Staten Island Ferry to South Ferry in Manhattan, or 39th and 69th Streets in Brooklyn. In 1928, when the chambers of commerce in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and Staten Island announced that the Interboro Bridge Company had proposed the future construction of the "Liberty Bridge" to United States Department of War. The bridge's towers would be 800 feet (240 m) high and it would cost $60 million in 1928 dollars. In November 1929, engineers released plans for the 4,500-foot (1,400 m) Liberty Bridge spanning the Narrows, with 800-foot-tall towers. It was hoped that the new construction would spur development on Staten Island, along with the Outerbridge Crossing and the Bayonne Bridge, which were under construction at the time.
The Liberty Bridge would carry vehicles from Bay Ridge to an as-yet-undetermined location on Staten Island. On the Brooklyn side, the city planned to connect the Liberty Bridge to a "Crosstown Highway", spanning Brooklyn and Queens and connecting to the proposed Triborough Bridge in northwestern Queens. The city also envisioned a possible connection to the preexisting Manhattan Bridge, connecting Downtown Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan.
A prior attempt to link Brooklyn and Staten Island, using the Staten Island Tunnel, had commenced in 1923 but was canceled two years later. That tunnel would have extended subway service from Brooklyn to Staten Island. This proposal was also revived with the announcement of the Liberty Bridge. One of the alternative proposals had the subway tunnel going from St. George, Staten Island, to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, before continuing to Governors Island and then Lower Manhattan. Simultaneously, engineers proposed a set of vehicular tunnels from Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, to 97th Street, Brooklyn. The tubes were being planned in conjunction with the Triborough Tunnel (the modern-day Queens Midtown Tunnel), which would connect Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The city appropriated $5 million for the tunnels in July 1929, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad also pledged funding for the vehicular tunnels. Planning for the vehicular tubes started that month.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce simultaneously considered all three projects—the bridge, the vehicular tunnels, and the subway tunnel. Community groups on both sides of the Narrows disagreed on which projects should be built first, if at all. Residents of Bay Ridge opposed any plans involving a bridge because its construction would almost definitely require the demolition of part of the neighborhood. Boring work for the vehicular tunnels started in November 1930. The 11,000-foot (3,400 m) twin tunnels, projected to be completed by 1937, were to connect Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island with 86th Street in Brooklyn once they were completed. In January 1932, construction of these tunnels was put on hold indefinitely due to a lack of money. The construction work did not go beyond an examination of shoreline on the Brooklyn side.
In February 1933, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill authorizing the construction of a suspension bridge across the Narrows. With this approval, the Interboro Bridge Company hoped to start constructing the bridge by the end of the year, thereby creating jobs for 80,000 workers. Structural engineer Othmar H. Ammann, who was building the Triborough Bridge, Midtown Tunnel, and Golden Gate Bridge at the time, showed interest in designing the proposed Narrows bridge, which would be the world's longest bridge if it were built. However, in April 1934, the War Department announced its opposition to the bridge's construction, setting back plans for the Narrows Bridge. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not have a public position regarding the Narrows Bridge plan, other than a request that it be allowed to operate the future bridge. The War Department's opposition to the bridge plan was based on the fact that a bridge could create a blockage during wartime, a rationale it gave for opposing a Brooklyn-Battery Bridge connecting Red Hook, Brooklyn, with Lower Manhattan.
The city approved the construction of a rapid transit tunnel under the Narrows in December 1933. This tunnel was approved in conjunction with the proposed Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel connecting Red Hook with Lower Manhattan. Following the War Department's announcement that they would oppose the Narrows bridge, private interests began studying the feasibility of the tunnel.
In 1936, the plan for a Narrows crossing was brought up again when New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia gained authorization to petition Congress for a bridge across the Narrows. Under the new plan, the proposed bridge would charge tolls for motorists, and its $50 million cost would be paid off using federal bonds. LaGuardia preferred a tunnel instead, and so the next year he requested the New York City Tunnel Authority to review the feasibility of such a crossing. The New York City Planning Commission was amenable to constructing either a bridge or a tunnel across the Narrows, and in 1939, put forth a plan to expand New York City's highway system. In March of the same year, as a bill for the Battery Bridge was being passed, Staten Island state legislators added a last-minute amendment to the bill, providing for a Narrows bridge. The Narrows crossing was not included in the final version of the Planning Commission's plan, which was approved in 1941.
In 1943, the New York City Board of Estimate allocated $50,000 toward a feasibility study of the tunnel. By this time, Bay Ridge residents now opposed the tunnel plan as well, because they feared that the tunnel's construction would lower the quality of life in that neighborhood. After the war ended in 1945, the Planning Commission estimated that construction of the Narrows Tunnel would cost $73.5 million. However, by then, La Guardia had turned against the tunnel, saying that "it is not my time" to construct the tunnel.
The cancellation of plans for the Narrows tunnel brought a resurgence of proposals for a bridge across the Narrows. In September 1947, Robert Moses, the chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, announced that the city was going to ask the War Department for permission to build a bridge across the Narrows. Moses and Mayor William O'Dwyer both supported the Narrows Bridge plan, which was still being referred to as "Liberty Bridge". The city submitted its request in July 1948, and a commission composed of three United States Armed Forces branches was convened to solicit the public's opinions on the proposed span.
U.S. Representative Donald Lawrence O'Toole, whose constituency included Bay Ridge, opposed the proposal for the bridge because he believed it would damage the character of Bay Ridge, and because the bridge might block the Narrows in case of a war. He cited a poll showing that for every Bay Ridge resident who supported the bridge's construction, 33 more were opposed. The U.S. military approved the proposal in May 1949, over the vociferous opposition of Bay Ridge residents, on the condition that construction start within five years. By that time, plans for the 6,540-foot (1,990 m) span had been finalized, and the project only needed $78 million in financing in order to proceed. This financing was not set to be awarded until 1950, when the Battery Tunnel was completed. Preliminary plans showed the bridge as being 237 feet (72 m) above the mean high water level, enough for the 215-foot (66 m) RMS Queen Mary to pass under it.
Moses and acting Port Authority Chairman Bayard F. Pope were agreeable to letting either of their respective agencies construct and operate the proposed Narrows Bridge, as long as that agency could do so efficiently. In 1954, the two agencies started conducting a joint study on the logistics of building and constructing the bridge. Because of restrictions by the TBTA's bondholders, construction could not begin until at least 1957. Frederick H. Zurmuhlen, the Commissioner of Public Works, estimated that the Narrows Bridge would cost $200 million total. He encouraged the TBTA to start construction on the bridge as soon as possible in order to reduce congestion on East River crossings to the north. Staten Islanders viewed the project cautiously, since the Narrows Bridge would provide a connection to the rest of the city, but could also cause traffic congestion through the borough. Moses had only a positive view of the bridge's proposed effects on Staten Islanders, saying that it was vital for the borough's future.
In May 1954, the Army's permit for starting construction on the Narrows Bridge lapsed. The Army granted a two-year extension for the start of construction. In a measure passed in March 1955, the city gained control over the approval process for several tasks related to the Narrows bridge's construction, including land acquisition. A little more than a month later, New York Governor W. Averell Harriman signed a $600 million spending bill authorizing the construction of the Narrows Bridge; the construction of the Throgs Neck Bridge between Queens and the Bronx; and the addition of a second level to the George Washington Bridge between Manhattan and New Jersey. Later that year, it was announced that the Narrows Bridge would be part of an expansion to the Interstate Highway System. Although a study on the viability of adding transit service to the Narrows Bridge was commissioned in early 1956, Moses rejected the idea of adding subway tracks onto the new bridge, saying that it would be too costly. In April of that year, New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner signed a bill that allowed the Port Authority to build the Narrows Bridge and lease it to the TBTA, who would operate the bridge. The TBTA would buy the bridge from the Port Authority in 1967 as part of the agreement.
On the Brooklyn side, the Narrows Bridge was originally supposed to connect to the Circumferential (Belt) Parkway, but in early 1957, Harriman vetoed a bill that stipulated that the main approach connect to the Belt Parkway. By May 1957, an updated location for the Brooklyn anchorage had been agreed on. The anchorage was now to be located at Fort Lafayette, an island coastal fortification built next to Fort Hamilton at the southern tip of Bay Ridge. Moses also proposed expanding Brooklyn's Gowanus Expressway and extending it to the Narrows Bridge by way of Seventh Avenue, which would require cutting through the middle of Bay Ridge. This proposal drew opposition from the community, who wanted the approach to follow the Belt Parkway along the Brooklyn shore. These opponents said that the Seventh Avenue alignment would displace over 1,500 families. In February 1958, the New York State Legislature approved a bill to change the Brooklyn approaches back to Belt Parkway, which was almost identical to the bill Harriman had vetoed. However, the city approved the Seventh Avenue bridge approach in August 1958. The next month, Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. said that the city was committed to building a bridge across the Narrows, but was not committed to the construction of the Seventh Avenue approach. In response, Moses wrote to Wagner that any continuing delays would cause the bridge to be canceled. The bridge's cost had now risen to $320 million.
After holding a hearing for concerned Bay Ridge residents, the Board of Estimate affirmed the Narrows Bridge plan in October 1958, without any objections.:752 At the same time, it rejected plans for a tunnel under the Narrows, as well as a bridge or tunnel from Brooklyn directly to Jersey City, New Jersey. The Board was set to vote on the Seventh Avenue approach in mid-December, but the federal government stated that it would only agree to the bridge's construction if the Seventh Avenue approach had 12 lanes, with six on each level. The federal government was already paying for two highway improvements on both sides of the proposed bridge: the Clove Lakes Expressway on Staten Island, and the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn. On December 31 of that year, the Board of Estimate voted to approve plans for the Seventh Avenue approach, having delayed that vote several times.
The approval of the Seventh Avenue approach angered Bay Ridge residents since the construction of the approach would displace 7,500 people. This amount of opposition was not matched in Staten Island, even though more than twice as many people were being displaced there, because the Staten Island Ferry was the only way to get between the island and the rest of the city. On the contrary, the bridge's announcement was welcomed because it sparked a rise in real-estate prices on the island.:18–20 The State Legislature drafted a bill in an effort to change the approach's location to Belt Parkway. However, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the Belt Parkway bill, and in March 1959, the Board of Estimate officially condemned land along Seventh Avenue to make way for the Gowanus Expressway extension to the Narrows Bridge. The only tasks remaining before the start of construction were to finalize the design of the Narrows Bridge, and to speed up the construction schedule to meet a 1964 deadline. In April 1959, the bridge was officially renamed after the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano. This sparked a controversy because the proposed bridge's name only had one "z" while the explorer's name had two "z"s.
Surveying work for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge began in January 1959.:29 The official construction on the bridge began on August 14, 1959, with a groundbreaking ceremony on the Staten Island anchorage. Those in attendance included New Jersey Governor Meyner, New York City Mayor Wagner, and TBTA Chairman Moses. Although New York Governor Rockefeller had been invited to the event, neither he nor Assembly Speaker Joseph F. Carlino showed up.:30 In December 1959, the TBTA was put in charge of funding and building the bridge. To raise money for construction, Rockefeller signed a bill that would remove the 4% ceiling on the interest rates for the securities that the TBTA was selling to pay for the bridge. This ceiling would be lifted until June 1965. In essence, this meant that the TBTA could sell securities at much higher interest rates to raise the $320 million that was needed.
The Swiss-born engineer Othmar Ammann was named as the senior partner for the project. Other notable figures involved chief engineer Milton Brumer; project engineers Herb Rothman and Frank L. Stahl; design engineer Leopold Just; Safety Engineer Alonzo Dickinson, and engineer of construction John West Kinney. Meanwhile, John "Hard Nose" Murphy supervised the span's and cables' construction.:52
Before starting actual work on the bridge, the TBTA destroyed the structures at the future locations of the anchorages. The agency acquired 36 acres (15 ha) of the 138 acres (56 ha) within Fort Hamilton, in return for paying for a $12 million renovation of the Army installation and giving up 10.8 acres (4.4 ha) of land in Dyker Beach Park. A 1,000-ton World War I monument on the Brooklyn side, within the path of the future Seventh Avenue approach, was placed atop rolling logs and shifted 370 feet (110 m). The right-of-way for the Seventh Avenue approach was also being cleared, and despite initial opposition to the clearing work, all of the residents within the approach's path eventually acquiesced to moving elsewhere.:24 To prevent contractors from delaying work on the expressways on either side of the bridge, Moses warned them of steep fines if the expressways were not completed by the time the bridge was finished.
An anchorage was built on each side of the Narrows, with each anchorage measuring 229 feet (70 m) long by 129 feet (39 m) wide, with sixty-six large holes for the cables.:54 Foundation work for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was well underway by 1960, as visitors were able to see the anchorages. Then, two caissons were sunk into the channel close to either shoreline. The Staten Island side's caisson was sunk 105 feet (32 m) into the water, and necessitated the dredging of 81,000 cubic yards (62,000 m3) of sand and assorted muck.:54 This caisson required 47,000 cubic yards (36,000 m3) of concrete, and in March 1961, it became the first of the two caissons to be sunk. The Brooklyn side's caisson required even more work, since it was 170 feet (52 m) deep, displaced 145,000 cubic yards (111,000 m3) of muck, and used 83,000 cubic yards (63,000 m3) of concrete.:54 A concrete workers' strike in mid-1961 threatened the timely completion of the Staten Island anchorage, which had only been partially filled with concrete. This strike lasted several months and affected many projects under the city. The process of constructing the anchorages and caissons took just over two years, and it was complete by the end of 1961.:54
Afterward, two separate companies constructed the modules that would make up the 693-foot-tall (211 m) suspension towers. The Staten Island tower was built by Bethlehem Steel, and the Brooklyn tower was built by the Harris Structural Company.:55 The first piece of the towers, a 300-foot piece of the tower on the Staten Island side, was lifted into place in October 1961, and this tower was topped out by September 1962. The Brooklyn tower started construction in April 1962. When the towers were fully erected, workers began the process of spinning the bridge's cables. The American Bridge Company was selected to construct the cables and deck.:53 The cable-spinning process began in March 1963 and took six months, since 142,520 miles (229,360 km) of bridge cables had to be strung 104,432 times around the bridge. The main cables were hung on both sides of the span, and then suspender cables were hung from the bridge's main cables.:58 The main cables were fully spun by August.
In late 1963, builders started receiving the rectangular pieces that would make up the roadway deck. The components for the sixty 40-ton slabs were first created in an assembly line in Jersey City. Then, these components were combined in a Bayonne steelworks 5 miles (8.0 km) from the bridge site, and after the pieces of each slab were assembled, they were floated to the Narrows via barge. Each piece measured 28 feet (8.5 m) high by approximately 115 feet (35 m) wide and long. These pieces of the deck were then hung from the suspender cables.:94–95 The first piece of the deck was lifted onto the bridge in October 1963. By early 1964, the span was nearly finished, and all that remained was to secure the various parts of the bridge.:133 By this point, plans for new development on Staten Island were well underway, and tourists had come to observe the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The bridge had been scheduled to open in 1965, but owing to the faster-than-anticipated rate of progress, the TBTA decided to open the bridge in November 1964. In preparation for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge's opening, the TBTA fully repainted the structure. The construction process of the bridge had employed an average of 1,200 workers a day for five years, excluding those who had worked on the approaches; around 10,000 individuals had worked on the bridge throughout that five-year period.:736
Three men died during the construction of the bridge.:91 The first fatality was 58-year-old Paul Bassett, who fell off the deck and struck a tower in August 1962. Irving Rubin, also 58 years old, died in July 1963 when he fell off of the bridge approach.:91 The third worker who died was 19-year-old Gerard McKee, who fell into the water in October 1963 after slipping off the catwalk.:91 After McKee's death, workers participated in a five-day strike in December 1963. The strike resulted in temporary safety nets being installed underneath the deck.:98 These nets had not been provided during the four years prior to the strike.
The construction of the bridge was chronicled by the writer Gay Talese in his 1964 book The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. He also wrote several articles about the bridge's construction for the New York Times. The book also contains several drawings by Lili Réthi and photographs by Bruce Davidson.:Cover Page
Opening and later yearsEdit
The Staten Island approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the first part of the new project to be completed, and it opened in January 1964. The upper deck was opened on November 21, 1964, at a cost of $320 million in 1964 dollars, equivalent to $2,525 million in present dollars. Politicians at all levels of the government, from Brooklyn Borough President Abe Stark to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote speeches paying tribute to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The opening ceremony was attended by over 5,000 people, including 1,500 official guests. Several dignitaries, involving the mayor, the governor, and the borough presidents of Brooklyn and Staten Island, cut the gold ribbon. They then joined a motorcade to mark the official opening of the bridge. A 35-cent toll was charged to all motorists crossing the bridge. The Verrazano Bridge's opening was celebrated across Staten Island. Moses did not invite any of the 12,000 workers to the opening, so they boycotted the event and instead attended a mass in memory of the three workers who died during construction.
The opening was accompanied by the release of a commemorative postage stamp, which depicted a ship sailing underneath the new span. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) created a bus route across the bridge to connect Victory Boulevard in Staten Island with the Bay Ridge–95th Street subway station in Brooklyn. This bus service initially saw low patronage, with only 6,000 daily passengers using the route. Five days after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened, the ferry from Staten Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, stopped running, as it was now redundant to the new bridge.
Within the first two months of the bridge's opening, 1.86 million vehicles had used the new crossing, ten percent more than originally projected, and this netted the TBTA almost $1 million in toll revenue. The Goethals Bridge, which connected New Jersey to the Staten Island Expressway and the Verrazano Bridge, saw its daily average use increase by 75%, or approximately 300,000 trips total, compared to before the Narrows Bridge opened. The Holland Tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan, and the Staten Island Ferry from Staten Island to Manhattan, both saw decreased vehicle counts after the bridge opened. In summer 1965, Staten Island saw increased patronage at its beaches, facilitated by the opening of the new bridge. By the time of the bridge's first anniversary, 17 million motorists had crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, paying $9 million in tolls. The bridge had seen 34% more trips than planners had projected. Conversely, 5.5 million fewer passengers and 700,000 fewer vehicles rode the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan.
The Verrazano Bridge was the last project designed by Ammann, who had designed many of the other major crossings into and within New York City. He died in 1965, the year after the bridge opened. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was also the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Moses. The urban planner envisioned that the Verrazano and Throgs Neck Bridges would be the final major bridges in New York City for the time being, since they would complete the city's expressway system.
Although the bridge was constructed with only one 6-lane roadway, Ammann had made provisions for a second 6-lane deck below it, in the form of extra trusses. These trusses, which were used to strengthen the bridge, were a design alteration that was added to many bridges in the aftermath of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.:45 The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge became so popular among motorists that in March 1969, the TBTA decided to erect the lower deck at a cost of $22 million.:1130 The Verrazano Bridge had not been expected to carry enough traffic to necessitate a second deck until 1978, but traffic patterns over the previous five years had demonstrate the need for extra bridge capacity. By contrast, a lower deck on the George Washington Bridge, connecting New Jersey and Upper Manhattan, had not been built until thirty-one years after the bridge's 1931 opening. The new six-lane deck opened on June 28, 1969. Originally, the Verrazano Bridge's Brooklyn end was also supposed to connect to the planned Cross-Brooklyn Expressway, New York State Route 878, and JFK Airport, but the Cross-Brooklyn Expressway project was canceled in 1969.
On June 26, 1976, to celebrate the United States' 200th anniversary, workers placed a very large U.S. flag on the side of the Verrazano Bridge. The flag was described as having the area of "a football field and a half" and billed as the world's largest flag, and at the time, it was the largest U.S. flag ever made. The flag was supposed to withstand wind speeds of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), but it ripped apart three days later, when there was a wind speed of 16 miles per hour (26 km/h).
The TBTA's successor, MTA Bridges and Tunnels, stopped collecting tolls for Brooklyn-bound drivers in 1986, and doubled the toll for Staten Island-bound drivers. This was a result of a bill introduced by Guy V. Molinari, the U.S. Representative for Staten Island, as part of an initiative to reduce traffic that accumulated at the toll booth on Staten Island. The one-way toll was initially intended to be part of a six-month pilot program, but resulted in permanent changes to traffic flows on the Verrazano Bridge. The crossing saw more Brooklyn-bound traffic and less Staten Island-bound traffic as a result. This unidirectional collection is still in effect as of March 2017[update].
Beginning in 2008, all 262 of the mercury vapor fixtures in the bridge's necklace lighting were replaced with energy-efficient light-emitting diodes. This retrofit was completed in 2009, years before LED street lights were installed in the rest of the city.
In 2014, the city began a $1.5 billion reconstruction project on the bridge. At the time, it was expected to take up to 25 years. The first phase, which cost $235 million and lasted until 2017, included replacing ramps, removing the divider on the upper deck, and adding a seventh lane on the upper deck, which was to be used as a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. The parts for this deck were ordered from China because the parts that the MTA required were no longer manufactured in the United States.
After the upper deck was replaced, parts of the lower deck are to be replaced, but this necessitates the closure of the lower deck during construction. Hence, the MTA opted to replace the upper deck first to add more capacity. The Brooklyn ramps to the bridge are also being rebuilt. The upper level's new HOV lane opened in July 2017. Simultaneously, the MTA dismantled the Staten Island-bound toll booths to speed up westbound traffic. This work was done in advance of the reconstruction of tracks around Penn Station, which severely limited rail service into that station and created more vehicular traffic at crossings to Manhattan. Eventually, the Verrazano Bridge might also contain a bicycle and pedestrian path.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is owned by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority bondholders who paid for the bridge at its construction. It is operated by the TBTA's successor, MTA Bridges and Tunnels, which is an affiliate agency of the MTA. The bridge carries Interstate 278, which continues onto the Staten Island Expressway to the west and the Gowanus Expressway to the northeast. The Verrazano, in combination with the Goethals Bridge and the Staten Island Expressway, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.
Each of the two towers contains 1 million bolts and 3 million rivets. The diameters of each of the four main suspension cables is 36 inches (914 mm). Each main cable is composed of 26,108 wires amounting to a total of 142,520 miles (229,364 km) in length. Because of the height of the towers (693 ft or 211 m) and their distance apart (4,260 ft or 1,298 m), the curvature of the Earth's surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge—the towers are 1 5⁄8 inches (41.275 mm) farther apart at their tops than at their bases; they are not parallel to each other.:752 The bridge's two towers are the tallest structures in New York City outside of Manhattan.
At the time of opening, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a center span of 4,260 feet (1,300 m), surpassing the length of the Golden Gate Bridge's center span by 60 feet (18 m).:5 In 1981, it was surpassed by the Humber Bridge in England, which has a center span of 4,626 feet (1,410 m).
Because of thermal expansion of the steel cables, the bridge roadway is 12 feet (3.66 m) lower in summer than in winter. The bridge is affected by weather more than any other bridge in the city because of its size and isolated location close to the open ocean; it is occasionally closed, either partially or entirely, during strong wind and snow storms.
The Narrows is the only entry point for cruise ships and container ships that dock in New York City. As a result, they must be built to accommodate the clearance under the bridge. At mean high water, that clearance is 228 feet (69 m). The RMS Queen Mary 2, one such vessel built to Verrazano-Narrows Bridge specifications, was designed with a flatter funnel to pass under the bridge, and has 13 feet (3.96 m) of clearance under the bridge during high tide.
Numerous birds nest or roost on the bridge, most notably breeding peregrine falcons. The falcons nest at the top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge's towers, as well as on the Throgs Neck and Marine Parkway Bridges. As the falcons are endangered, the city places bands on each bird and examines the birds' nesting sites each year. The falcons were discovered on the top of the Verrazano Bridge in 1983, though they had been breeding there for several years prior.
During the planning stages, the bridge was originally named simply the "Narrows Bridge". The co-naming of the bridge for Verrazzano (with two "z"s) was controversial. It was first proposed in 1951 by the Italian Historical Society of America, when the bridge was in the planning stage. After Robert Moses turned down the initial proposal, the society undertook a public relations campaign to re-establish Verrazzano's largely forgotten reputation and to promote the idea of naming the bridge for him. The society's director, John N. LaCorte, successfully lobbied several governors of states along the U.S.'s East Coast to proclaim April 17, the anniversary of Verrazzano's arrival in the harbor, as Verrazzano Day. LaCorte then approached the TBTA again, but was turned down a second time. The manager of the authority, backed by Moses, said the name was too long and that he had never heard of Verrazzano.
The Italian Historical 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. In April 1958, Governor W. Averell Harriman announced that he would propose naming the Narrows Bridge after Verrazzano in honor of the explorer's voyage to the New York Harbor in 1524. His successor, Nelson Rockefeller put his support behind the one-"z" "Verrazano" name in April 1959, saying that it was the Americans' standard way of spelling the explorer's name. Although the "Verrazano" name was not finalized yet, the New York Times noted that the Staten Island Ferry boat carrying dignitaries to the bridge's August 1959 groundbreaking ceremony was named the "Verrazzano". The Times further stated that former Governor Harriman and Mayor Wagner had respectively proposed a "Verrazzano Bridge" and proclaimed a "Verrazzano Day". The Staten Island Chamber of Commerce opposed the Verrazano name altogether, saying that the proper name of the bridge should be "Staten Island Bridge" because there was also a "Brooklyn Bridge", a "Manhattan Bridge", a "Queens Bridge", and a "Bronx Bridge". The Italian Historical Society was reportedly perplexed about the opposition to the "Verrazano" name. In response to the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce's opposition, the TBTA offered to add a hyphen between "Verrazano" and "Narrows".
Rockefeller signed the "Verrazano" name into law in March 1960, which officially changed the name of the Narrows Bridge to "Verrazano-Narrows Bridge". The naming issue did not encounter any more controversy until 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This prompted a series of suggestions to rename structures, monuments, and agencies across the United States after the late president. A petition to rename the Verrazano Bridge for Kennedy received thousands of signatures. In response, LaCorte contacted the president's brother, United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who told LaCorte that he would assure that the bridge would keep the "Verrazano" name. Ultimately, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge kept its name, while Idlewild Airport in Queens was renamed after Kennedy.
In part due to discrimination against Italian-Americans, the bridge's official name was widely ignored by local news outlets at the time of the dedication. Some radio announcers and newspapers omitted any reference to Verrazzano, 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. Another ethnic slur for bridge was its nickname as the "Guinea Gangplank", referring to the Italian-Americans who subsequently moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island.:33
In June 2016, St. Francis College student Robert Nash started a petition to correctly spell Giovanni da Verrazzano's name on the bridge. The petition has gained support from politicians including Senator Martin Golden and Senator Andrew Lanza. The petition has also been supported by actors and celebrities Robert DeNiro, Tony Gemignani, and Joe D'Onofrio. The results of the petition are ongoing. In December 2016, Senators Golden and Lanza sent letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, in which they recommended that the bridge's name be spelled correctly. An MTA spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the letter.
As of March 19, 2017, drivers pay the one-way toll (paid westbound into Staten Island only) $17.00 per car or $7.00 per motorcycle. E-ZPass users with transponders issued by the New York E ZPass Customer Service Center pay $11.52 per car or $5.00 per motorcycle; a five-axle truck pays $92, or $56.80 with NY E-ZPass. There is a Staten Island Resident Program that provides a discounted rate of $5.50 to registered residents of Staten Island using E-ZPass. Holders of transponders issued elsewhere get no discount. All E-ZPass users with transponders not issued by the New York E-ZPass Customer Service Center are required to pay the Toll-by-mail rates. The $17 tolls for passenger cars, imposed in 2017, were higher than for most other tolled crossings in the U.S. Tolls for trucks ranged up to $132, or $79.52 with E-ZPass depending on the number of axles. As of 2017[update], the tolls from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge grossed the MTA $417 million per year, and about 85% of bridge motorists use the discounted toll rate.
An urban legend has it that tolls were to be abolished once the bridge's construction bonds were paid off, but this has been debunked by the Staten Island Advance. Originally, all drivers paid the same standard toll to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, regardless of whether they were Staten Island residents. They were the only residents of New York City who had to pay a toll in order to enter their home borough, since all four of Staten Island's vehicular crossings collected tolls. This put Staten Island motorists at a financial disadvantage compared to drivers who lived in other boroughs. A bill to reduce the tolls for Staten Islanders was introduced in the New York City Council in 1975. Governor Mario Cuomo signed another law to give Staten Island residents discounted tolls in 1983, after years of petitioning and opposition from his two predecessors.
From its opening until 1986, the toll was collected in both directions. In 1985, U.S. Representative Guy V. Molinari co-sponsored a bill that would require the MTA to collect the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge's toll in the Staten Island-bound direction only. This came after Staten Island residents had complained about pollution from idling vehicles. In December of that year, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibited the MTA from collecting tolls from Brooklyn-bound vehicles, under penalty of a loss of highway funding. Accordingly, in March 1986, the MTA started a pilot program where it charged a $3.50 toll for Staten Island-bound vehicles rather than charging a $1.75 toll in both directions. The pilot program was extended to six months, but it was controversial due to the dubious benefits involved. The new toll plan not only caused a drop in revenues, but also caused congestion in Manhattan and Brooklyn and air pollution in Manhattan. Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, which connected to the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey, saw the most severe congestion, as drivers would go through New Jersey and use the Bayonne Bridge to pay a cheaper toll to enter Staten Island. Fatal accidents involving pedestrians in Lower Manhattan also increased greatly as a result. In 1987, the MTA supported removing the one-way toll because it reduced MTA revenues by $7 million a year. At that point, Cuomo proposed reinstating an eastbound toll for trucks. In 1990, it was noted that about 455,000 more eastbound vehicles per year were using the bridge's eastbound lanes compared to before the toll reconfiguration, but that this was heavily outweighed by the 1.5 million fewer westbound vehicles per year. Residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn wanted the tolls changed so that either eastbound vehicles only, or both directions, would be tolled.
Despite not collecting tolls in the eastbound direction since 1986, the MTA did not do anything with the unused booths for a quarter-century. In 2010, eight of the eleven Brooklyn-bound toll booths were removed as part of the first phase of a project to improve traffic flow at the toll plaza. Two years later, the last of the eastbound tollbooths was removed. To this day, tolls are still collected only in the Staten Island-bound direction, and congestion within Lower Manhattan persists due to the bridge's one-way westbound toll.
Open-road cashless tolling began on July 8, 2017. The westbound tollbooths were also dismantled, and drivers were no longer able to pay cash at the bridge. Instead, there are cameras mounted onto new overhead gantries near where the booths were located. Drivers without E-ZPass will have a picture of their license plate taken, and the toll will be mailed to them. For E-ZPass users, sensors will detect their transponders wirelessly.
In 2015, an average of 202,523 vehicles used the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge daily in both directions. As of 2015[update], the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge carries more traffic than the Outerbridge Crossing, the Bayonne Bridge, and the Goethals Bridge. These three bridges, which connect Staten Island with New Jersey, were used by a combined 168,984 vehicles in both directions.
In 2011, Transportation for America rated the bridge as New York's most dangerous, because of the combination of deterioration and the amount of people who cross it per day. The MTA responded that the bridge, which was the state's newest large bridge and its longest, was structurally sound, and that the bridge had passed its most recent inspection. The MTA attributed Transportation for America's results to a "misinterpretation of inspection records".
Signs at both ends of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge forbid photography and video taping while on the bridge. These signs were installed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when the MTA started taking away film from individuals who were caught filming MTA crossings. However, the ban had been in place long before the attacks in order to prevent people from taking close-up pictures of the bridge.
Three local bus routes operated by MTA Regional Bus Operations use the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: the S53 local route, the S79 Select Bus Service route, and the S93 limited-stop route. The bridge also carries 17 express bus routes that connect Staten Island with Manhattan and are also operated by New York City Transit. They are the X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X7, X8, X9, X10, X11, X12, X14, X15, X17, X19, X31, and X42.
Pedestrian and bicycle restrictionEdit
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was not built with a pedestrian walkway, due to concerns over cost, as well as an effort to prevent possible suicide jumps. Non-motorized transportation is limited to using the bridge during the New York City Marathon and Five Boro Bike Tour. In 1976, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was designated as the starting point of the New York City Marathon. The 1976 marathon was the first year in the marathon's six-year history that the New York City Marathon course went outside Manhattan. Since then, the marathon has started at the Verrazano Bridge's Staten island end every year. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is not open to pedestrians or bikers outside of the marathon and the bike tour.
The lack of a walkway did not stop suicides completely, since by 1975, four people had died after jumping off the bridge. The number of suicides has increased over time, despite efforts at deterrence. A sign that says "Life Is Worth Living" is located on the Staten Island approach. In 2008, the MTA also installed six suicide hotlines on the bridge.
There have been calls for a walkway or bike lane on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge since its opening, when several people protested over the lack of bike lanes at the bridge's opening ceremony. In 1977, as a temporary solution, the city modified three buses to fit 12 bikes and 20 passengers each, then operated these buses on a new "S7 Verrazano Bridge" route. In 1993, the New York City Department of City Planning called for a footpath across the bridge as part of their Greenway Plan for New York City. The next year, the city sought a $100,000 federal grant to fund a feasibility study into a Verrazano Bridge pedestrian and bike path. In 1997, the DCP released its study, which found that two footpaths running between the suspender ropes along the upper level, separated for pedestrian and cyclist use, would cost a minimum of $26.5 million. The MTA at the time expressed concern about the "safety and liability inherent in any strategy that introduces pedestrian and bicycle access" to the bridge.
Local residents on both side of the bridge started advocating for the construction of a walkway or bikeway on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 2002. Dave Lutz, the director of the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition nonprofit, stated that after the September 11 attacks, Staten Islanders walked home along the bridge's roadway. Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to look into the possibility in October 2003.
The Harbor Ring Committee was formed in 2011 to advocate for the completion of the Harbor Ring route, which would create a 50-mile (80 km) around New York Harbor, including a footpath across the Verrazano. In spring 2013 the committee began an online petition that generated more than 2,500 signatures, as well as an organizational sign-on letter with the support of 16 regional and local advocacy and planning organizations. That year, the MTA announced that it would include conduct a three-year feasibility study for installing a pathway on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The MTA considered plans for a bike lane in 2015, during the reconstruction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.|
- Official website
- Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on bridge-info.org
- Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at Structurae
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-303, "Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Spanning Narrows between Fort Hamilton (Brooklyn) & Staten Island, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY", 35 photos, 3 photo caption pages