The Bayonne Bridge is a steel arch bridge that carries NY and NJ Routes 440 over the Kill Van Kull between Bayonne, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York City, New York.
In 1921, the Port of New York Authority was formed to oversee transportation in the Port of New York and New Jersey. 1 The first two bridges between New Jersey and Staten Island, the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing, opened in 1928. A third was planned between Bayonne and Staten Island across the Kill Van Kull. All three crossings were planned to complement traffic from a future fourth bridge or tunnel from Staten Island to Brooklyn.
A bridge was ultimately selected for the crossing of the Kill Van Kull, 2 and Othmar Ammann and Cass Gilbert were selected to design the new structure. Ammann, a master bridge builder and chief architect of the Port Authority, chose a steel arch design after rejecting cantilever and suspension designs for being too expensive and impractical given a requirement by the Port Authority that the structure must be able to accommodate the future addition of rapid transit tracks. 1 3
The proposal called for an arch 266 feet above the Kill Van Kull with a mid-span clearance above the water of 150 feet in order to make room for the United States Navy’s tallest ships at the time, 1 2 a roadbed 1,675 feet long without intermediary piers, 4 and approaches of 2,010 feet and 3,010 feet in Staten Island and Bayonne, respectively. 1 Ornamental granite sheathing over the steelwork was originally proposed but it was eliminated to lower the cost of the structure and because of material shortages because of the Great Depression. 5
Construction of the Bayonne Bridge began in 1928 6 and it was originally projected to be completed by early 1932 at the cost of $16 million. 5 7 During the superstructure’s erection, engineers utilized hydraulic jacks to support the two sides of the arch while the two pieces, consisting of prefabricated truss segments made up of high-strength alloy steel, were built toward the middle. 10 Afterward, prefabricated pieces of the roadway’s support structure were hung from cables connected to the arch. 1
The Bayonne Bridge was completed at the cost of $13 million 6 and opened on November 15, 1931, after a dedication ceremony was held the previous day. 1 8 The celebration was attended by David M. Dow, the Secretary for Australia in the United States, and the pair of golden shears used to cut the ribbon was sent to Australia for the ribbon-cutting of the Sydney Harbour Bridge four months later. 1 After the ceremony in Sydney, the scissor blades were separated and one was sent back to the Port Authority. 8 9
The new crossing was the longest steel arch bridge in the world, 7 11 12 barely surpassing the Sydney Harbour Bridge by 25 feet. 5 9 The American Institute for Steel Construction noted the Bayonne Bridge as the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in 1931. 1
The Bergen Point Ferry, the predecessor to the bridge, stayed in service until 1961. 3 13 A new toll plaza in Staten Island was constructed in 1964 and made into a one-way operation in 1970, with tolls collected for vehicles entering New York City. 1
The Bayonne Bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark at ceremonies attended by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Port Authority on November 15, 1985, the 54th anniversary of the bridge’s opening. 10
In the 2000s, the Port Authority began work on a project to allow larger container ships to use the Kill Van Kull 10 as the expansion of the Panama Canal allowed larger ships coming from Asia to reach the east coast. 14 The bridge was too low to allow for the taller ships to pass underneath to and from Newark Bay. Its clearance of between 151- to 156-feet above the water, depending on the tide, already meant that some contemporary ships had to fold down antenna masts, take on ballast, or wait for low tide to pass through. 10
In August 2009, the Port Authority began a planning analysis to determine how to remedy the solution as any further delay meant that significant shipping business could be lost to other ports. 15 It commissioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct the study and authorized up to $10 million for planning and engineering services to develop options. 16 The Corps evaluated three options for the bridge, including a no-build prospect. 17
The quickest option and the one ultimately chosen, was a $1.7 billion proposal to raise the bridge’s roadway to increase the vessel clearance by 40%, or 215 feet to handle the new ships. 17 Other options included building a new cable-stayed bridge at the cost of $2.15 billion and a tunnel at the cost of $2.2 billion to $3 billion. A vertical-lift span was considered but dismissed as impractical. 18
An environmental review, conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, was commissioned in tandem. 19 The study took four years and cost over $2 million. Despite its duration and cost, it was one of the Coast Guard’s quickest environmental reviews for a major project. 20 In March 2012, the Port Authority submitted a request to the federal government for an expedited environmental review process, 21 22 which was approved in July 2012. 23
On April 24, 2013, the Port Authority awarded a $743.3 million contract to a joint venture of Skanska Koch and Kiewit Infrastructure Company. 24 25 The massive project entailed building a new roadway above the existing roadway within the current arch structure. 26 It involved building support columns and adding prefabricated road segments using a gantry crane that rolled on top of the arch. 27 The gantry crane constructed one rope-supported section of the new roadway at a time, using a temporary beam to support the existing roadway while each rope was replaced. The existing roadway was then removed. 28 The new floor beams were attached to the arch’s ropes in order to support steel stringers that would hold up the new roadway. 27
The project also involved widening the roadway deck from 40 feet to 60 feet to provide wider travel lanes, shoulders, and a median barrier, 27 adding a bikeway with access ramps instead of stairs, 29 and provisions for the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line to Staten Island. 30
The rebuilt northbound roadway opened for one-lane of traffic on February 20, 2017, 28 31 32 33 at which point the toll booths were replaced with a fully automated and cashless electronic toll collection system, a first for the Port Authority. A rebuilt southbound roadway opened on February 11, 2019, 34 35 followed by the bike path on May 24. 36 37
- State: New Jersey, New York
- Route: NY Route 440, NJ Route 440
- Type: Steel Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 5,780 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,675 feet
- Deck Width: 85 feet
- Total Height: 266 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 14 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- Rastorfer, Darl. Bayonne Bridge: A Landmark by Land, Sea, and Air. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 2007.
- “Would Benefit Jersey – C.R. Parliman Advocates Kill van Kull Tunnel Plan.” New York Times, 9 Feb. 1930.
- “Bayonne Bridge, Staten Island to New Jersey – Forgotten New York.” Forgotten New York, 18 Nov. 2012.
- Anderson, Steve. “Bayonne Bridge – Historic Overview.” NYCRoads.
- Ogorodnikov, Vitali. “Bayonne Bridge Reconstruction: Raising the Road on America’s Largest Suspended Arch Bridge.” New York YIMBY, 22 Apr. 2016.
- Gottlieb, Melinda. “Advance historic page from September 19, 1928: Ground-breaking for Bayonne Bridge construction.” SILive.com, 4 Mar. 2019.
- Bonanos, Christopher. “The Father of Modern Bridges.” American Heritage of Invention & Technology, 1992, pp. 8–20.
- “New Bayonne Span Opens Next Sunday.” New York Times, 8 Nov. 1931.
- Ascher, Kate. “Going Up! A Bridge Makes Way for Bigger Ships.” New York Times, 21 Mar. 2014.
- “Bayonne Bridge.” American Society of Civil Engineers.
- “World’s Longest Arch Span in Kill Van Kull Bridge.” Popular Mechanics, Sept. 1930, p. 471.
- “Bayonne Span Wins Award for Beauty.” New York Times, 10 Jun. 1931, p. 14.
- Strunsky, Steve. “Officials plan to raise roadbed of Bayonne Bridge without stopping traffic.” NJ Advance Media, 26 Jan. 2011.
- “The Bayonne Bridge Becomes a Historic Landmark, Officially.” New York Times, 16 Nov. 1985.
- Heffernan, Tim. “A Bridge Too Low.” The Atlantic, Apr. 2015.
- “Sires pressures U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fix Bayonne Bridge problem.” Jersey Journal, 28 Sept. 2009.
- “Port Authority Board Approves $10 Million Planning Authorization to Tackle Bayonne Bridge Navigation Issues.” Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 13 Aug. 2009.
- Tirschwell, Peter. “Bayonne Bridge Replacement Gains Favor.” The Journal of Commerce, 23 Apr. 2009.
- “Bayonne Bridge Air Draft Analysis: Prepared for The Port Commerce Department, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sept. 2009.
- “Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program Final Environmental Assessment.” United States Coast Guard, May 2013.
- Roberts, Sam. “Long Review of Bayonne Bridge Project Is Assailed.” New York Times, 2 Jan. 2014.
- Strunsky, Steve, “Port Authority officials ask Obama administration to raise roadbed of Bayonne Bridge.” Star-Ledger, 26 Mar. 2012.
- Leach, Peter T. “NY-NJ Port Authority Submits Bayonne Bridge Plan for Fast US Review.” Journal of Commerce, 26 Mar. 2012.
- Dominowski, Michael W. “Staten Island dream of a train to New Jersey may be derailed again.” Staten Island Advance, 16 Jun. 2013.
- “Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program.” Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
- Tirschwell, Peter. “Bayonne Bridge Replacement Gains Favor.” Journal of Commerce, 23 Apr. 2009.
- “About the Navigational Clearance Project.” Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
- Barone, Vincent. “Bayonne Bridge work makes life miserable for area residents.” SI Live, 6 Jul. 2015.
- “Panama Canal project causes concern around eastern ports.” WNYW TV, 2013 Feb. 25.
- “Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Project: Frequently Asked Questions.” Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
- “Bayonne Bridge’s Elevated Roadway Unveiled.” NBC New York, 15 Nov. 2016.
- Villanova, Patrick. “Bayonne Bridge’s new elevated roadway set to open.” Jersey Journal, 17 Feb. 2017.
- Keag, Susan Lunny. “‘It was thrilling’: Bayonne Bridge’s new elevated roadway opens.” silive.com, 20 Feb. 2017.
- “Project milestones.” Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
- Knudson, Annalise. “Crossing the higher, wider Bayonne Bridge after years of construction.” silive.com, 11 Feb. 2019.
- “New roadway set to open on elevated Bayonne Bridge.” ABC7 New York, 9 Feb. 2019.
- “Pedestrian and cycling path on Bayonne Bridge now open.” Hudson Reporter, 24 May 2019.