Bronx-Whitestone Bridge: Celebrating 74 Years
The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, a vital link in the city’s transportation network and a key element in the development of suburban Long Island, opened 74 years ago on April 29, 1939.
Built in just 23 months, master builder Robert Moses timed the bridge’s opening to be a day before the start of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens. The theme of the fair was “Building the World of Tomorrow.” The bridge was as modern as any of the fair’s exhibits.
At the bridge’s opening ceremony, held near its Bronx plaza, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia described its towers as symbols of efficiency in municipal government and the democratic way of life. Triborough Bridge Authority Chairman Moses also spoke, calling it “architecturally the finest suspension bridge of them all, without comparison in cleanliness and simplicity of design, in lightness and the absence of pretentious ornamentation.”
Othmar Hermann Ammann was the Bronx-Whitestone’s chief engineer and Allston Dana was its engineer of design. These two were also responsible for the TBA’s design of the Triborough Bridge and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s George Washington Bridge.
Each of its towers was erected in 18 days and it took just 41 days to construct the bridge’s two cables from 14,800 miles of pencil-thin wire. In 1939, its 2,300-foot main suspension span was the fourth longest in the world, surpassed in length only by the Golden Gate and Transbay Bridges in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge.
The Bronx-Whitestone quickly became an integral part in the city’s emerging highway system. The Triborough Bridge, now called the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, was the first major bridge in New York City built exclusively for the automobile.
The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge also played a key role in the development of Long Island by providing a route to travel directly between Long Island and the mainland without having to pass through Manhattan or central Queens.
In its first full year of operation, 6.3 million vehicles crossed the bridge; in 2012 it was used by 39.5 million vehicles.