World's Busiest Span Turns 80

The George Washington Bridge connects Manhattan with New Jersey. When the original six-lane span opened to traffic Oct. 25, 1931, it was six months ahead of schedule and under the original $60 million budget.

The George Washington Bridge, called the world's busiest by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which maintains it, has been in use for 80 years and is still going strong. The port authority says 102 million vehicles used the bridge's two levels during 2010.

The original bridge carried six traffic lanes over the Hudson River on a single level. It opened to traffic Oct. 25, 1931, six months ahead of schedule and completed for less than its original $60 million construction budget, according to the port authority's online history pages. Lanes were added in 1946 and a second deck was installed in 1962, making it the world's first 14-lane suspension bridge.

The architect was Othmar Ammann, a Swiss-born architect and engineer who proposed the design in 1923, according to the online pages. Ammann became the port authority's chief engineer and began construction in October 1927 after the Sept. 21, 1927, groundbreaking, which is shown in a slideshow photo.

The site describes the design as "an engineering tour de force, with an extraordinary 3,500-foot center span suspended between two 570-foot steel towers, and the strength to carry two levels of roadway or rail. The physical construction of the bridge is itself a marvel of engineering. The four main cables are each composed of a single strand carried back and forth across the river 61 times. Each strand-itself a bundle of 434 individual wires-wraps around a strand shoe in the anchorage before looping back toward the opposite shore."

The port authority said it "routinely invests millions" to repair and maintain the bridge, which is part of the marketing effort for the 2014 Super Bowl in New York and serves numerous charitable functions, including walks and bicycle events.

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