The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

marching things

with 2 comments

Infrastructure geekery today.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The center of the Williamsburg Bridge span offers a clearance to river going vessels of about 135 feet.

A building story is conventionally calculated as being around 10-12 feet, so that makes the Williamsburg Bridge tall enough to fit a roughly 11-12 story building under the apogee of its arc, water towers notwithstanding. That gives us a bit of an idea about the sort and size of maritime vessels which used the mercantile river during the late 19th and early 20th century. Remember that engineers always work around restrictions, and inadvertently create standards when they do.

from wikipedia

Construction on the bridge, the second to cross this river, began in 1896, with Leffert L. Buck as chief engineer, Henry Hornbostel as architect and Holton D. Robinson as assistant engineer, and the bridge opened on December 19, 1903 at a cost of $24,200,000

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A 75,000 ton pile of steel, we call it Queensboro, and this deck is around 130 feet over the water. When it went up in 1909, there were still concerns about navigability for warships and other large ocean going vessels moving between the Navy Yard in Williamsburg and Long Island Sound (via Hells Gate). This has never been the front door for NY Harbor though, most mariners prefer the shallow but safer route which carries them through Gerritsen Bay and the Narrows, which we call the Ambrose Channel, to Jamaica Bay and the open ocean.

from wikipedia

Serious proposals for a bridge linking Manhattan to Long Island City were first made as early as 1838 and attempts to finance such a bridge were made by a private company beginning in 1867. Its efforts never came to fruition and the company went bankrupt in the 1890s. Successful plans finally came about in 1903 under the city’s new Department of Bridges, led by Gustav Lindenthal (who was appointed to the new position of Commissioner of Bridges in 1902), in collaboration with Leffert L. Buck and Henry Hornbostel, designers of the Williamsburg Bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

149 feet over the water, Manhattan Bridge offers a significant amount of clearance to shipping, nearly 20 feet more than its northern brethren. Admittedly, this has always been a busier part of the river than that spanned by Queensboro and Williamsburg, but I’ve always wondered why East River Bridge 2 (MB) was built higher than 3 (WB) and 4 (QB). I’m sure the answer is pedantic, and will likely be depressing.

from wikipedia

The bridge was opened to traffic on December 31, 1909 and was designed by Leon Moisseiff, who later designed the infamous original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that opened and collapsed in 1940. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level (split between two roadways). The lower level has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The upper level, originally used for streetcars, has two lanes in each direction, and the lower level is one-way and has three lanes in peak direction. It once carried New York State Route 27 and later was planned to carry Interstate 478. No tolls are charged for motor vehicles to use the Manhattan Bridge.

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2 Responses

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  1. Unfortunately engineering is a series of compromises with money being a serious consideration. Usually what is designed and built is to a minimum of what is needed and what is feasible with the current technology. Considering the logarithmic growth of technology in the early 20th century made foreseeing how these bridges would be used and what loads they would be carrying, the engineers of the time really did some fine work building such heavily used structures lasting over a century.

    Cav

    February 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm

  2. Wicked shot!

    Rob Moses Photography

    February 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm


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