The New River Gorge Bridge carries US 19 over the New River near Fayetteville, West Virginia. It is the largest arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the second highest crossing in the United States.
Between the 1960s and 1970s, Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) Corridor L was being completed as a four-lane expressway between Interstates 64 and 77 in Beckley and US Route 60 in Summersville, and as a two-lane expressway north to Interstate 79. The highway, to be designated as US Route 19, would allow traffic to move through the central portion of the state without having to go through Charleston and along much of the two-lane West Virginia Turnpike.
The first section of Corridor L was completed through Oak Hill in 1965, 5 followed by a section south to US Route 19 in Raleigh County in 1973 and from Lansing-Edmond Road in Lansing north to US Route 60 in 1974. Further sections north were completed in phases from 1973 to 1978. At the center—and a major impediment to Corridor L’s completion—was the New River gorge containing depths of up to 1,000 feet.
The Michael Baker Corporation was hired to design a bridge to cross the gorge. 3 A $33,984,000 1 construction contract was awarded to the American Bridge Division of US Steel was awarded on June 21, 1973. 6
Originally designed to be a painted arch span, US Steel opted to use its then-new Cor-ten weathering steel. 3 Cor-ten steel was a group of steel alloys that obviated the need for paint and would weather into a rust-like appearance after being exposed to the elements for several years. 2 The result was an immediate cost saving of $300,000 1 and additional savings of $1 million per each time the painted span would need refurbishment.
Construction of the New River Bridge began in 1974. 3 A four tower cable-guiding system was used to help position steel into their respective positions. 1
On October 22, 1977, 1 3 6 the New River Gorge Bridge, carrying US Route 19/Corridor L, opened to traffic. It replaced US Route 19’s crossing of the New River at Prince (today’s WV Route 41) and took through traffic away from WV Route 16 (formerly US Route 21) and the narrow and sometimes one-lane WV County Route 82 alignment via the Fayette Station Bridge.
On November 8, 1980, the first Bridge Day was held when two parachutists jumped from a plane onto the New River Gorge Bridge deck. 1 Five parachutists then jumped from the bridge itself down into the Gorge. In 1984, 300 BASE jumpers participated in Bridge Day, with thousands walking across the 3,000-foot span. The event continued to grow, being interrupted for one year after the September 11, 2001 incidents, and now includes the Bridge Day High Line and Down Under Tour.
- State: West Virginia
- Route: US Route 19
- Type: Steel Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 3,030 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,700 feet
- Deck Width: 69.5 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 876 feet
- Cruikshank, Morgan Ryan. “The New River Gorge Bridge.” March 15, 2007 Article.
- “Weathering Steel.” Mittal Steel. March 15, 2007 Article.
- Koors, Rich. “NEW RIVER GORGE BRIDGE.” March 15, 2007 Article.
- Prince, Adam. “It’s That Bridge They Bungee Jump Off…” Gribblenation, January 22, 2002. March 15, 2007 Article.
- Release Date Report. West Virginia Department of Transportation. August 2003.
- New River Gorge Bridge. Washington, D.C.: Historic American Engineering Record, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. Article.