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Triborough Bridge

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Title: Triborough Bridge  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Bronx Kill, Astoria, Queens, Select Bus Service, Edward Abraham Byrne
Collection: Bridges by Othmar Ammann, Bridges Completed in 1936, Bridges in Manhattan, Bridges in New York City, Bridges in Queens, New York, Bridges in the Bronx, Bridges on the Interstate Highway System, Historic American Engineering Record in New York, Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, Interstate 78, Randalls and Wards Islands, Road Bridges in New York, Robert F. Kennedy, Robert Moses Projects, Suspension Bridges in the United States, Toll Bridges in New York City, Tolled Sections of Interstate Highways, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Vertical Lift Bridges
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Triborough Bridge

Triborough Bridge
(Robert F. Kennedy Bridge)
Aerial view of the Queens-Wards Island span of the Triborough Bridge, over the East River; Queens is in the foreground
Carries 8 lanes of I-278
6 lanes of NY 900G
Crosses East River, Harlem River and Bronx Kill
Locale New York City, United States
Official name Robert F. Kennedy Bridge
Other name(s) Triborough Bridge, RFK Triborough Bridge, Triboro Bridge
Maintained by MTA Bridges and Tunnels
Design Suspension bridge, lift bridge, and truss bridge
Total length 2,780 feet (850 m) (Queens span)
770 feet (230 m) (Manhattan span)
1,600 feet (490 m) (Bronx span)
Width 98 feet (30 m) (Queens span)
Longest span 1,380 feet (420 m) (Queens span)
310 feet (94 m) (Manhattan span)
383 feet (117 m) (Bronx span)
Clearance above 14 feet 6 inches (4.42 m) (Queens / Bronx spans)
13 feet 10 inches (4.22 m) (Manhattan span)
Clearance below 143 feet (44 m) (Queens span)
135 feet (41 m) (Manhattan span when raised)
55 feet (17 m) (Bronx span)
Opened July 11, 1936 (1936-07-11)
Daily traffic 169,393 (Queens span, 2012)
90,956 (Manhattan span, 2012)[1]
78,437 (Bronx span, 2012)[1]
Toll As of March 22, 2015, $8.00 (cash); $5.54 (New York State E‑ZPass)
Triborough Bridge is located in New York City
Point where the three spans meet

The Triborough Bridge, known officially as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge since 2008, and sometimes referred to as the RFK Triborough Bridge, is a complex of four separate bridges[2] in New York City. The bridges connect the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx via Randalls and Wards Islands, which are joined by landfill.

The four bridges are

Also part of the complex is a "flying junction" (T-interchange) on Randall's Island, which sorts out traffic in a way that ensures that drivers pay a toll at only one bank of toll booths.[2]

The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the Triborough Bridge Project, which has been called the "biggest traffic machine ever built",[2] as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986.[3]

The bridge, which carries Interstate 278 and New York State Route 900G, is owned and operated by the MTA Bridges and Tunnels – the successor to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority – part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.


  • History 1
    • Recent events 1.1
  • Usage 2
    • Tolls 2.1
    • Public transportation 2.2
  • Statistics 3
    • East River suspension bridge (I-278) 3.1
    • Harlem River lift bridge (NY 900G) 3.2
    • Bronx Kill crossing (I-278) 3.3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Plans for connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx were first announced by Edward A. Byrne, chief engineer of the New York City Department of Plant and Structures, in 1916.[4] While such a bridge complex's construction had long been recommended by local officials, the project failed to receive funding until 1925, when the city appropriated money for surveys, test borings and structural plans.

Location of the bridge in New York City
Art Deco saddle housing

Construction began on Black Friday in 1929, but soon the Triborough project's outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann, who had collapsed the original design's two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers, saving $10 million on the towers alone, was enlisted again to help guide the project, but the combination of Tammany Hall graft and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and the Great Depression which followed it, brought the project to a virtual halt.[5]

The project was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses, who created the Triborough Bridge Authority to fund, build and operate it. Moses was confronted by a situation where no one had planned any of the approaches to the structure, except for Queens Boulevard, progress on which was proceeding very slowly. Moses solved this problem in typical fashion by proposing new roads and parkways to feed into the bridge, which would connect it to the existing ones he had already built. The complex of roads included the Grand Central Parkway and Astoria Boulevard in Queens, an extension to the East River Drive (now the FDR Drive) in Manhattan, and Whitlock Avenue and Eastern Boulevard in the Bronx.[2]

While reformers embraced Moses' plans, state and city officials were overwhelmed by their scale, and slow to move to provide financing for the vast system.[5] Moses leveraged his leadership of the Authority – after he wrenched it away from Tammany – as well as the state and city positions he also held, to start the project up again. Eventually, funding would come from the state, the city, and from the Federal government under New Deal programs such as the Public Works Administration, but also from bonds, secured by tolls, issued by the Triborough Bridge Authority.[6][7]

The scale of the Triborough Bridge project, including its approaches, was such that hundreds of apartment building were demolished to make way for it. The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.[2] Robert Caro, the biographer of Moses, said about it:

Triborough was not a bridge so much as a traffic machine, the largest ever built. The amount of human energy expended in its construction gives some idea of its immensity: more than five thousand men would be working at the site, and these men would only be putting into place the materials furnished by the labor of many times five thousand men; before the Triborough Bridge was completed, its construction would have generated more than 31,000,000-man hours of work in 134 cities in twenty states.[2]

The completed structure was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936. The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression, more expensive than the Hoover Dam.[8]

Recent events

Motorists were first able to pay with E‑ZPass in lanes for automatic coin machines at the Randalls Island toll plazas on August 21, 1996.[9]

At some point in the past, a sign on the bridge informed travelers, "In event of attack, drive off bridge," New York Times columnist William Safire wrote in 2008. The "somewhat macabre sign", he wrote, must have "drawn a wry smile from millions of motorists."[10]

On November 19, 2008, the Triborough Bridge was officially renamed after Robert F. Kennedy at the request of the Kennedy family.[11] Forty years had passed since the New York United States Senator and former U.S. Attorney General had been assassinated during a 1968 presidential bid.[12][13][14] Many traffic and news reports have come to commonly refer to the bridge as the "RFK Triborough Bridge" to avoid confusion among residents long accustomed to its original name.[15][16]


The toll revenues from the Triborough Bridge pay for a portion of the public transit subsidy for the New York City Transit Authority and the commuter railroads.[17] The bridge carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day.

The bridge has sidewalks in all three legs where the TBTA officially requires bicyclists to walk their bicycles across[18] due to safety concerns.[19] However, the signs stating this requirement have been usually ignored by bicyclists,[20] while the New York City Government has recommended that the TBTA should reassess this kind of bicycling ban.[21] Stairs on the 2 km (1.2 mi) Queens leg impede handicapped access. The Queens stairway along the southern side was demolished at the beginning of the 21st century, thus isolating that walkway, but the ramp of the Wards Island end of the walkway along the northern side was improved in 2007. The two sidewalks of the Bronx span are connected to only one ramp at the Randalls Island end.


Since March 22, 2015, cash tolls on the bridge are $8.00 per car or $3.25 per motorcycle. E‑ZPass users with transponders issued by the New York E‑ZPass Customer Service Center pay $5.54 per car or $2.41 per motorcycle.[22]

Public transportation

The Triborough Bridge carries the M35, M60, X80 bus routes operated by MTA New York City Transit, and nine express bus routes operated by the MTA Bus Company: BxM1, BxM2, BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, BxM10, BxM11, BxM18.

In the 1920s, New York's Transit Commission considered extending the BMT Astoria Line along the same route the Triborough now follows. The proposal would have created a crosstown subway line along 125th Street.[23]

The East River suspension bridge
The Harlem River lift bridge
Bronx Kill crossing


East River suspension bridge (I-278)

  • Span crosses the East River at the Hell Gate between Queens and Wards Island
  • Connects to Grand Central Parkway and Brooklyn–Queens Expressway
  • Length of main span: 1,380 feet (421 m)
  • Length of each side span: 700 feet (213 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 2,780 feet (847 m)
  • Width of bridge: 98 feet (30 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 8 lanes
  • Height of towers above mean high water: 315 feet (96 m)
  • Clearance at center above mean high water: 143 feet (44 m)
  • Number of sidewalks: 1

Harlem River lift bridge (NY 900G)

  • Span crosses the Harlem River between Manhattan and Randalls Islands
  • Connects to Harlem River Drive, FDR Drive, and 125th Street
  • Length of main lift-truss span: 310 feet (94 m)
  • Length of each side truss span: 230 feet (70 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 770 feet (235 m)
  • Height of towers: 210 feet (64 m)
  • Clearance of lift span above mean high water: 55 feet (17 m)
  • Clearance of lift span in raised position: 135 feet (41 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 6 lanes
  • Number of sidewalks: 2 (1 on each side)

Bronx Kill crossing (I-278)

  • Span crosses the Bronx Kill between The Bronx and Randalls Island
  • Connects to Major Deegan Expressway and Bruckner Expressway
  • Length of main truss span: 383 feet (117 m)
  • Length of approach truss span: 1,217 feet (371 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 1,600 feet (488 m)
  • Clearance of truss span above mean high water: 55 feet (17 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 8 lanes
  • Number of sidewalks: 2 (1 on each side)

See also



  1. ^ a b "2012 New York City Bridge Traffic Volumes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Caro (1974), pp.386-95
  3. ^ "Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Triboro Plaza". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Caro (1974), pp.340-44
  6. ^ Caro (1974), p.345
  7. ^ The bonds not only helped to finance the project, but also assured that the Authority would be self-perpetuating and immune from legislative oversight, as the Authority's contractual obligations to the bond-holders were paramount and could not, according to the Authority's legal theory, be altered by legislative action. Caro (1974), pp.1119-22
  8. ^ Roberts, Sam (July 11, 2006). "Reappraising a Landmark Bridge, and the Visionary Behind It". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ Purdy, Matthew (August 22, 1996). "Drivers Give Passing Grade To E-Z Pass In Major Test". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Gershman, Jacob (January 8, 2008). "Enduring Wish May Come True in RFK Bridge". The New York Sun. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Triborough Bridge may be renamed for Robert F. Kennedy". Daily News (New York). Associated Press. January 8, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  13. ^ "Triborough Bridge Renamed Robert F. Kennedy Bridge" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. November 21, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  14. ^  
  15. ^ de Kretser, Leela (May 6, 2010). "U-Haul Abandoned on R.F.K.-Triborough Bridge". DNAinfo. Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  16. ^ Schlussel, Debbie (May 6, 2010). "Testing the System... Again: RFK Triborough Bridge U-Haul an Obvious Dry Run". Retrieved December 5, 2011. 
  17. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (February 13, 1994). "F.Y.I.". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Rules and Regulations Governing the Use of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Facilities" (PDF). MTA Bridges & Tunnels. October 1, 2003. Section 1022.1(e). Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "MTA Bike & Ride". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ "New York City Bicycle Master Plan" (PDF). New York City Department of City Planning. May 1997. p. 16. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  21. ^ "New York City Bicycle Master Plan" (PDF). New York City Department of City Planning. May 1997. p. 57. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Toll Information". MTA Bridges & Tunnels. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  23. ^ "New subways: proposed additions to rapid transit system to cost $218,000,000 ..." MOA website (University of Michigan)



External links

  • MTA RFK Bridge site
  • Triborough Bridge historic overview at
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-301, "Triborough Bridge, Passing through Queens, Manhattan & the Bronx, Queens, Queens County, NY", 28 photos, 3 photo caption pages
  • Triborough Bridge at Structurae
  • Triborough Bridge Harlem River Lift Span at Structurae
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