Here it is… September 2020… and my wife Carolyn and I have just returned from our epic 3,500 mile journey through New England. Late summer and Fall wildflowers were everywhere and as tempted as I am to start a a description of our journey with a discourse on the omnipresent Goldenrod or equally captivating New England Aster, I can’t ignore the most awe inspiring man-made structure I ever encountered. I am not a total stranger to New York City and I have peered downward at hundreds of yellow taxis from the heights of the Empire State Building and craned my neck upwards gawking at the unending rows of lofty skyscrapers in Manhattan, but nothing prepared me for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge!
Traffic from New Jersey to Staten Island was bumper to bumper at 40 mph in all seven lanes and this was a Sunday! I later learned that 210,000 cars cross the bridge every single day and at $17 toll, that is a lot of money! The bridge was built in the early 60’s at a cost just under a half billion dollars and the recent addition of a second deck for opposite lane traffic added another 1.3 billion to the structure cost. We are not talking about a little bridge! Approaches total 4 miles in length and the largest span is just under a mile in length. The span is 100 feet wide – 230 feet above the ocean surface and the two cable supporting piers tower 700 feet into the sky. The designers had to consider the curvature of the earth in their design and the top center is several inches wider than the bottom center.
At the time of opening, the bridge had the longest suspension span in the world and has been topped only once by another monstrosity in London, England. Aircraft carriers and battleships clear the span easily and it is an unnerving sight to see huge ships below you as you systematically “fly” over the only deep approach to New York City harbors.
There is three times more steel in the bridge than in the Empire State Building and each pier has been sunk 150 feet into the bedrock. Over 80,000 workers built the bridge over a five year span and surprisingly only three worker deaths happened thanks to an extensive mesh netting extending the full length of the bridge. Hundreds of falcons make the spires their home and thousands of other birds splatter commuters daily from untold heights.
We could first see the bridge spires from about 15 miles away as we approached on the Garden State Parkway and from the high deck, it was easy to spot the Manhattan skyline. The bridge is now part of the Interstate highway system connecting New Jersey with New York and to reach Manhattan, you have to cross a much smaller bridge to Long Island and Brooklyn and then across the Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street. Manhattan can also be reached by proceeding northward and avoiding the Verrazano Narrows with several tunnel choices. Personally, I prefer the wide open rarified air of a suspension bridge to the claustrophobic tunnels.
Before entering New Jersey, we rode the Cape May Ferry across Delaware Bay and left Long Island on another ferry – the Cross Sound Ferry to New London, Connecticut, but that’s another story for tomorrow!
2 thoughts on “A Bridge for All Seasons”
Wow! I never knew that bridge was so huge!!!