Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: Staten Island's gateway to the east.Posted by Anthony Licciardello on Monday, October 24th, 2011 at 10:50am.
Staten Island's gateway to the east.
Ten years before the consolidation of New York in 1898, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had announced that the North Shore Railroad in Staten Island would have a railroad switch which would lead to a tunnel across the Narrows and into Brooklyn. Financial difficulties, however, prohibited the project from being put in motion. In 1910, another attempt at a crossing along the Narrows was considered—this time as a 260-foot-high bridge. The military dismissed this idea, as they believed the bridge would be a nuisance during wartime.
By 1913, another plan for a tunnel was proposed. After being accepted, the project was started in 1923. However, just like the first tunnel attempt, this project was discontinued due to financial constraints. In both Staten Island and Brooklyn, two large holes remain, known as “Hylan’s Holes” for the Mayor who had authorized the project in the first place. Three years later, a design for a bridge was submitted by David Steinman. Once again, the military rejected the idea.
In 1929, 1937 and 1941, the New York City Board of Transportation and the New York City Planning Department released their own proposals for a bridge over the Narrows. The Great Depression and World War II respectively prevented the bridges from maturing past paper. Two years after the war had ended in 1947, however, the Army Corps of Engineers approved a proposal for a 228-foot-high bridge. By August 13, 1959, after all the obstacles had been cleared, construction of the bridge began.
This bridge, which was planned to connect from Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island to Bay Ridge Brooklyn, was designed with an upper deck and a lower deck, the latter being used only when deemed to be necessary. On November 21, 1964, the upper deck opened to the public. The lower deck, which had been completed at the same time as the rest of the bridge, opened to traffic on June 28, 1969. From its opening until 1981, when the Humber Bridge in the United Kingdom was opened, this bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, the bridge is still the longest suspension bridge in the United States; however, it is the eighth longest in the world.
By 1965, the bridge was transporting roughly 48,000 vehicles a day. Over the years, however, this amount steadily increased. The bridge over the Narrows resulted in more people traveling on Staten Island’s Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing, as it connected to the Staten Island Expressway and the West Shore Expressway, respectively. Along with the increase in traffic, Staten Island’s population has steadily risen since the opening of the bridge.
In 1951, a name for the bridge was proposed by the Italian Historical Society of America. The society wanted the bridge to be named after Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first documented European navigator to sail through New York Bay and who is credited as having discovered Staten Island. Robert Moses, the chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, along with others, declined the proposal, claiming that the name was too long and that nobody knew who Verrazzano was. After years of failed attempts to name the bridge after the explorer, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce finally approved the name and in 1960, Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bill that had been presented to the New York State Assembly into law.
Many media announcers and newspapers had disregarded the full name of the bridge, which was The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; often, they would ignore the “Verrazano” part. Other times, the bridge would be called The Brooklyn-Staten Island Bridge. In recent years, however, the explorer has apparently been accepted, as most people refer to the bridge today as The Verrazano Bridge.
Up until the mid-1980s, tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge were collected on the westbound side, as well as on the eastbound side. In 1986, however, the tolls were removed for vehicles entering Brooklyn and raised for vehicles entering Staten Island, due to complaints from Staten Islanders of air pollution. On December 20, 2010, the tolls were raised yet again. This increase resulted in customers having to pay thirteen dollars if they are in a car or $5.50 if they are on a motorcycle. If the customer has an EZ-Pass, however, the fare is reduced to $9.60 for cars or $4.18 for motorcycles.
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