This bridge is nationally significant as one of the most noteworthy steel arch bridges in the United States. It was completed at the same time as the Sydney Harbor Bridge, but since it was a couple feet longer than Sydney Harbor, the Bayonne Bridge claimed the title of longest arch span in the world, a record it held for decades until 1977 when the New River Bridge in West Virginia was completed.
This bridge ran into trouble when project to enlarge the Panama Canal took place. This project in turn will increase the size of container ships which pass through the canal, with many of these ships moving on to destinations like the ports in New Jersey which can only be accessed by passing under the Bayonne Bridge. These newer, larger ships (called New Panamax ships) will be so tall that they will not fit under the as-built Bayonne Bridge.
Since making money is the essential goal in life, no amount of historic significance or beauty in the Bayonne Bridge would make New Jersey turn away the billions of dollars that would be lost if the obstruction to the larger ships was not addressed. As such, normally, this scenario would be a death sentence for a historic bridge. However, a unique project was developed that raises the roadway and deck of the bridge to the height needed for the larger ships, but also retains a portion of the original historic bridge, specifically the record-breaking steel arch structure.
Given the clearance problem that this bridge faces, the "Raise the Roadway" project is about the best that could be hoped for. The project is far preferable to the alternative which would have been total demolition and replacement with a hideously ugly modern bridge, resulting in the destruction of a nationally significant arch structure. This project avoids this horrible fate. It will also retain the record-breaking portion of the bridge, which is the steel arch. However, the fact remains that this project will severely alter the bridge and result in the loss of absolutely every bit of the original bridge with the exception of the steel arch structure. All approach span superstructures (riveted plate girder and concrete t-beams) will be demolished and replaced with modern pre-cast box segments, which will look similar to modern freeway structures. All original concrete piers will be demolished and replaced. This project will also will vastly alter the visual appearance of the main span. In particular, the experience of driving over the bridge will be a lot less interesting, since the arch will only rise above the roadway for a short distance, and it won't rise so dramatically above the roadway.
In short, this project will have a devastating effect on the historic integrity of the bridge, but is still a lot better then demolishing and replacing the bridge.
Public information and transparency was very poor for this project. Absolutely no useful information was provided on the Port Authority website regarding the construction timeline. Here in the 21st Century, any time a bridge project of this scale is completed, a detailed, frequently updated construction timeline should be provided online. None of this was made available online. As a result, the sidewalk to this bridge was abruptly closed to pedestrians with no reasonable prior notice made. Additionally, construction work began without reasonable notice made online. As such, HistoricBridges.org had to make an emergency trip to photograph the bridge in October, and by this time was unable to walk on the sidewalk, and had photos obstructed by paint containment. Despite these problems, HistoricBridges.org was still able to gather a rather thorough photo-documentation of this bridge which is intended to convey the appearance and design of the bridge prior to alteration. Below is a photo of the bridge following completion of the project showing the raised deck.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):
Search For Additional Bridge Listings:
© Copyright 2003-2022, HistoricBridges.org. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer: HistoricBridges.org is a volunteer group of private citizens. HistoricBridges.org is NOT a government agency, does not represent or work with any governmental agencies, nor is it in any way associated with any government agency or any non-profit organization. While we strive for accuracy in our factual content, HistoricBridges.org offers no guarantee of accuracy. Information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Information could include technical inaccuracies or errors of omission. Opinions and commentary are the opinions of the respective HistoricBridges.org member who made them and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone else, including any outside photographers whose images may appear on the page in which the commentary appears. HistoricBridges.org does not bear any responsibility for any consequences resulting from the use of this or any other HistoricBridges.org information. Owners and users of bridges have the responsibility of correctly following all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, regardless of any HistoricBridges.org information.