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Bridges and Tunnels’ Flagship Bridge Turns 77 in July

Getting ready to put in the roadbed at the Queens suspended span. 1935
Getting ready to put in the roadbed at the Queens suspended span. 1935

 

When the Triborough Bridge opened on July 11, 1936, it was among the most significant public works projects built during the Great Depression, providing jobs for 2,800 workers daily as the project neared completion.

 

Groundbreaking for the bridge took place on October 25, 1929, just four days before the stock market crash that ushered in the Depression. Originally designed to resemble the Manhattan Bridge, work on the municipal project came to an abrupt halt in 1932 with only some piers and parts of the anchorages in place.

 

The Triborough Bridge Authority (TBA) was created by the city in 1933 with the express purpose of getting the job started again, once federal funds were added. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed Robert Moses to the TBA, and one of Moses’ first acts was to “borrow” Othmar H. Ammann, designer of the George Washington Bridge, to redesign the Triborough Bridge in the Art Deco style of the era.

 

Opening day included a motorcade and celebration at Triborough Stadium on Randall’s Island, attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mayor La Guardia.

 

The Triborough Bridge was the link in the emerging parkway system in Long Island and a key factor in the development of the island‘s suburban communities. The bridge was renamed in honor of the late Robert F. Kennedy in August 2008 by then Gov. David Paterson. It is the first major public work dedicated to Robert Kennedy in New York State, where he served as a U.S. Senator from 1965-1968.

 

The Robert F. Kennedy Bridge is technically comprised of three bridges (the Harlem River Lift Span, the Bronx truss and the Queens suspended span), a viaduct and 14 miles of approach roads connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.

 

A huge traffic junction on Randall’s Island, where the three branches of the bridge intersect, links to the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, the FDR Drive in Manhattan and the Bruckner and Major Deegan Expressways in the Bronx.

 

The bridge is undergoing nearly $1 billion in capital improvement projects over the next 15 years. The largest portion, an estimated $700 million, will go towards reconstructing the bridge structures supporting the Manhattan and Bronx toll plazas.

 

Compacting suspended span bridge cables, July 1935
Compacting suspended span bridge cables, July 1935
Harlem River lift span in distance, view from 125th Street. October 1936.
Harlem River lift span in distance, view from 125th Street. October 1936.
Spinning the cable wires, May 15, 1935.
Spinning the cable wires, May 15, 1935.
Manhattan Toll Plaza, Opening Day, July 11, 1936. Photographer Richard Averill Smith.
Manhattan Toll Plaza, Opening Day, July 11, 1936. Photographer Richard Averill Smith.