George Washington Bridge

Click here to order Six Bridges!
This bridge is featured in the above excellent book by David Rastorfer.

Photo by Dave Frieder


George Washington Bridge main page

Constructing the George Washington Bridge

George Washington Bridge photo page

Dave Frieder - Photographer of New York Bridges

News Articles:

$38.4 Million in New Approach Ramps             date: 12-18-1997


Economics and utility are not the engineer's only concerns.  He must temper his practicality with aesthetic sensitivity.  His structures should please the eye.  IN fact, an engineer designing a bridge is justified in making a more expensive design for beauty's sake alone.  After all, many people will have to look at the bridge for the rest of their lives.  Few of us appreciate eyesore, even if we should save a little money by building them.

- Othmar H. Ammann, 1958


The George Washington Bridge combines many advances in suspension bridge technology.  For example, flexible steel towers and a revolutionary cable-spinning process to lay the pair of 3-foot-diameter cables that make up the bridge deck.  The steelwork to the towers was designed to be covered with concrete and granite panels, but due to the natural beauty of the fabricated steel skeleton, the bridge authority decided not to cover it.  This decision not only saved money but also allowed the bridge to be opened approximately eight months early. 

The George Washington Bridge was built in just four years and was opened on Oct. 25, 1931.

Facts & Figures:
Opened to Traffic:
Upper Level
Lower Level

October 25, 1931
August 29, 1962
Bus Station opened January 17, 1963
Length of Bridge (between anchorages) 4,760 feet
Width of bridge 119 feet
Main Span (Suspended) 3500 feet
Width of roadway 90 feet
Height of tower above water 604 feet
Water clearance at mid-span 212 feet
Number of Toll Lanes:
Upper Level 12
Lower Level 12
Palisades Interstate Parkway 7
Cost of original structure $59,000,000
PA investment as of 12/31/97 $566,980,360

  The GWB was a huge undertaking, when built is doubled the span length  of any bridge built before it.  This was accomplished because the designer Othmar H. Ammann designed the bridge with a new theory at the time called deflection theory.  This allowed him to increase the span length due to less weight and greatly reduce the cost of the bridge.

Another interesting feature of the bridge was that Ammann built it with expansion in mind.  The bridge was expanded in 1942 (center of the deck was paved for two more lanes) and in 1962 (lower level added).

Ammann's plan for encasing the towers in stone was thwarted after the bridge was designed.  The bridge was meant to be encased in ornamental stone, if Ammann had known that it would not be he probably would have gone with one of his other designs (see the book Six Bridges).

To learn more about this bridge we recommend:

Six Bridges: The Legacy of Othmar H. Ammann
by Darl Rastorfer

An excellent book to learn about the bridge and the designer.

The Bridges of New York
by Sharon Reier

This book has a few errors in but is still excellent.  The history leading up to the building of the GWB is good.  Also has many good photo's of drawings and construction.

Engineers of Dreams:
by Henry Petroski

This book is the best book out there to learn about the American designers: Eads, Cooper, Lindenthal, Ammann, Steinman (the best!) and Realize. 

It tells a good story about the designers, their bridges and the history and politics behind it all!


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