Spanning the ages: 75 years!

October 25, 2006 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

George Washington Bridge marks decades as vital city link

Happy Birthday, George! The George Washington Bridge turns 75 today, a major milestone for the majestic suspension span that towers over the Hudson, linking upper Manhattan and Fort Lee, N.J.

The Port Authority opened the bridge on Oct. 25, 1931 – a year that also saw the completion of the Empire State Building. “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem that year, too, and Chicago gangster Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The GWB quickly became part of pop culture. It was featured in the 1941 film “Ball of Fire,” starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. And the next year the bridge appeared in the children’s book “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge,” in which a nearby lighthouse on the river fears it will be rendered obsolete by its new, gigantic neighbor.

The Daily News last week was granted a rare tour of one of the towers, which have been subject to increased security since 9/11. It was one of those fall afternoons where the cityscape was shrouded in gray.

Hundreds of feet below the highest tier, traffic rushed over the span, but the sound was muted by the distance, bursts of rain and the falling of a cold rain.

A solitary sea gull flew over the Hudson River to the top of the Palisades below. The Circle Line appeared to be moving in slow motion down the river, where freight tankers stood seemingly frozen in time.

Originally a six-lane crossing, the George has grown. It’s the only 14-lane suspension bridge in the world. Last year more than 107 million cars and trucks crossed the span.

The PA has invested more than $1 billion in upgrades, repairs and maintenance of the GWB, including a recent paint job that required nearly 50,000 gallons of paint.

“The George Washington Bridge is celebrating a 75th birthday and it is looking better than ever,” PA Executive Director Kenneth Ringler said, adding that “the health of this great bridge is critical to the region’s transportation and economic needs.”

Pete Donohue

NY DAILY NEWS

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