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US-1/US-9 Truck Passaic River Bridge

US-1/US-9 Truck Passaic River Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: October 20, 2013

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
US-1 and US-9 Truck Route Over Passaic River
Newark and Kearny: Essex County, New Jersey and Hudson County, New Jersey: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Through Truss, Movable: Vertical Lift (Tower Drive) and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1941 By Builder/Contractor: American Bridge Company of New York, New York and Engineer/Design: Ash, Howard, Needles, and Tammen of New York, New York
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
333.0 Feet (101.5 Meters)
Structure Length
2,005.0 Feet (611.1 Meters)
Roadway Width
51 Feet (15.54 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 17 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Historical Articles About This Bridge

This bridge is one of two similar vertical lift bridges on this stretch of highway. This bridge is quite a bit older however, and is therefore more historically significant. It recieved an award for its beauty from the American Institute of Steel Construction when it was completed. The vertical lift span appears to retain good historic integrity. However, the approach spans have been widened. Modern girders added to these spans to widen the roadway replicate the haunched shape of the original girders, but lack the riveted design. The riveted girders remain but are today somewhat concealed as a result.

Information and Findings From New Jersey's Historic Bridge Inventory


The steel vertical lift bridge supported on a concrete substructure has a Warren truss with verticals main lift span and haunched steel girder with floorbeams approach spans. The original metal railings remain on the span. One of the few highway vertical lift spans in the region, the bridge is technologically noteworthy because it is a long and well-preserved example of an important type. It is historically significant because of its association with an important early state highway.

Physical Description

The 18-span vertical lift bridge is composed of a steel Warren through truss with verticals and a polygonal top chord movable main span, and 17 girder with floor beams approach spans. The bridge measures 2005' long, and it carries a 52' wide barrier divided roadway. The lift span measures 332.5' long. The span provides 40' clearance over the waterway in the closed position, and 135' when fully lifted. The approach spans were rehabilitated 1990ca, and chain-link-fence was attached along portions of the approach. The original metal railing remains for most of its length, and the lift span appears unaltered.

The operation of the lift is controlled from the operator's house which is located about 10' above the sidewalk within the tower at the northwest corner of the lift span. A second control house, which is no longer used, is located in the southwest tower. The gate house and a storage house are located opposite the operator's houses on the east side of the span. The houses in the towers, the control panel, and machinery are all original. The motors that initiate the lift are in the machine houses that are located at the top of both towers. A total of twelve motors, four drive motors and two break motors at each corner of the towers, provide power to operate the bridge. The span is lifted at four points by means of chains that attach to either end of the lift girders. The chains are retracted by the gears, thus moving the span upward, and simultaneously allowing the counterweights, which are located beneath the machine houses, to move downward. The motors were designed to automatically adjust the power supplied in order to ensure the span remains level as it is lifted.

Historical and Technological Significance

The 1939 viaduct is technologically significant because it is a well preserved and large example of an important bridge type. It ranks as one of the longest spans of its type in the region. It is one of two highway vertical lift bridges in the county. The other one is NJ 280 over the Passaic River (0731161) between Newark and Harrison, and it was designed by Waddell and Hardesty in 1945. The bridge is historically noteworthy because it was designed by a prominent consulting engineer firm of Ash-Howard- Needles and Tammen that did much to both pioneer and promulgate the bridge type (Criterion C).

The bridge was built on a new alignment alongside the bridge that carried the Lincoln Highway. That span was removed after construction of this bridge was completed. The original approach roadway to the previous non-extant bridge remain and serve as secondary roads that terminate at either side of the Passaic River. The Lincoln Highway was developed as a result of nationwide support for an "improved" or rock cross country highway. The Lincoln Highway Association was formed in 1913 to lobby and support such a road, but the effort resulted in little in the way of new construction. In New Jersey the highway followed existing roads that were for the most part already improved (paved) through routes. The Lincoln Highway was the main road through the area before the completion of the Pulaski Skyway (1932), which is just south of the 1939 vertical lift bridge.

The firm of Ash-Howard-Needles and Tammen, consulting engineers on the vertical lift bridge project, was one of the nation's leading designers of movable spans. The firm's principal members began their careers in the 1890s and 1900s under the tutelage of bridge engineer J. A. L. Waddell and his partner John Lyle Harrington, who together receive much of the credit for developing the modern vertical lift bridge technology in the United States. In 1914 Waddell and Harrington dissolved their partnership, and a new firm, Harrington, Howard, and Ash, was formed; in 1928 the partnership became Ash-Howard-Needles and Tammen. From 1914 to 1928 the firm designed more than 45 vertical lift bridges, 13 bascule bridges, and six rolling bascule bridges, including a series of 18 movable bridges across the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada. During the New Deal era of the 1930s, the firm became one of the leading recipients of Public Works Administration bridge projects, and was one of the most active designers of movable spans in New Jersey. In 1930 the firm completed work on the Burlington-Bristol vertical lift bridge across the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Their work also included the bascule bridges for the Ocean Highway in Cape May County (3900003-3900006), over six bascule bridges for the New Jersey State Highway Department, and three smaller vertical lift spans in southern New Jersey (1710152, 0806151, 0817151).

The bridge approaches were designed by the New Jersey State Highway Department Bridge Division under the direction of Morris Goodkind, a prominent bridge engineer. Morris Goodkind was Chief Bridge Engineer of the State Highway Department from 1925 to 1955. Many of the state highway bridges in use today were constructed during his tenure. He won many awards for his designs including an award from the American Institute of Steel Construction for the Oceanic Bridge over the Navesink River (1300S31), built in 1939-1940, as the most beautiful movable bridge built during that year in the country, and similar award for the Passaic River Bridge between Newark and Kearny, built in 1941, and the Absecon Boulevard Bridge in Atlantic City, built in 1946.

Boundary Description and Justification: The bridge is evaluated as individually significant for its technological distinction. The boundary is limited to the bridge itself including the moveable main span, the approach spans, and the substructure.

Discussion of Surrounding Area

The bridge carries US 1 and US-9 Truck, a 4-lane divided highway and sidewalks, over a major river and a 2-lane collector road in an industrial area dating from the turn-of-the-century to the present. The bridge spans the Passaic River between Hudson and Essex Counties just south of the Pulaski Skyway. It is located on the highway that serviced the area before the Skyway was completed. Trucks were excluded from the Skyway for safety reasons.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

Information and Findings From American Bridge Company

Discussion of Bridge

American Bridge fabricated and erected a 16 span, 1,916' (584m) crossing of the Passaic River including a 332'6" (101m) tower drive vertical lift main span. This roadway bridge is 64' (19.5m) wide, providing for four lanes of vehicular traffic and 2 by 6' wide pedestrian walkways. Each of the two main span towers are constructed of 2 by 4-column braced units over the sidewalks connected by portals over the roadway and with trusses and girders at the tops of the towers. The 1,350 ton lift span is operated by 64 plow ropes rolling on 4 by 15' diameter sheaves, 16 per sheave. The liftspan machinery is tower drive. Operation is by a 200hp electric motor in each tower, that turns a central herringbone gear reduction unit. This unit is connected through transverse shafting and through two spur-gear reduction units (one at each side of the tower) to operating pinions that engage racks bolted to the tower sheaves. The couplings adjacent to the side gear units are made adjustable by special drilling to permit one counterweight sheave to be rotated with respect to the other when necessary to make the two liftspan shoes at each end of the span seat simultaneously on the piers. This adjustment permits accuracy of seating within .01". In addition to the two 200hp electric motors, a pair of 100hp tie motors are used to synchronize the travel ends of the span. American Bridge fabricated and erected the bridge, and installed all operating machinery. The liftspan was erected on falsework adjacent to the bridge and floated in using tide power only.


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