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Manhattan Bridge
View from Brooklyn
Carries 7 lanes of roadway, 4 tracks of the B D N Q trains of the New York City Subway, pedestrians, and bicycles
Crosses East River
Locale Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York City
Maintained by New York City Department of Transportation
Designer Leon Solomon Moisseiff[1]
Design Suspension bridge
Total length 6,855 ft (2,089 m)
Width 120 feet (37 m)[1]
Height 336 feet (102 m) (towers)[1]
Longest span 1,480 feet (451 m)[2]
Clearance below 135 feet (41 m)[1]
AADT 80,000
Constructed by Othniel Foster Nichols[1]
Beginning date of construction 1901[1]
Completion date 1912[1]
Opened 31 December 1909 (though not complete)[1]
Coordinates 40°42′26″N 73°59′27″W / 40.707222°N 73.9909°W / 40.707222; -73.9909 (Manhattan Bridge)Coordinates: 40°42′26″N 73°59′27″W / 40.707222°N 73.9909°W / 40.707222; -73.9909 (Manhattan Bridge)
Manhattan Bridge is located in New York City

The Manhattan Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the East River in New York City, connecting Lower Manhattan (at Canal Street) with Brooklyn (at Flatbush Avenue Extension) on Long Island. It was the last of the three suspension bridges built across the lower East River, following the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg bridges. The bridge was opened to traffic on December 31, 1909 and was designed by Leon Moisseiff,[1] who later designed the infamous original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that opened and collapsed in 1940. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level (split between two roadways). The lower level has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The upper level, originally used for streetcars, has two lanes in each direction, and the lower level is one-way and has three lanes in peak direction. It once carried New York State Route 27 and later was planned to carry Interstate 478. No tolls are charged for motor vehicles to use the Manhattan Bridge.

The original pedestrian walkway on the south side of the bridge was reopened after sixty years in June 2001. It was also used by bicycles until late summer 2004, when a dedicated bicycle path was opened on the north side of the bridge, and again in 2007 while the bike lane was used for truck access during repairs to the lower motor roadway.

  • Main span: 1,470 ft (448 m)
  • Length of suspension cables: 3224 ft (983 m)
  • Total length: 6,855 ft (2,089 m)

The neighborhood near the bridge on the Brooklyn side, once known as Fulton Landing has been gentrified and is called DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.


The bridge and I-478

The Manhattan Bridge under construction in March of 1909

As part of the construction of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, there were plans to make the Manhattan Bridge Interstate 178 but since this interstate would have led to a crosstown expressway and the existing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the FHWA said that the first digit should be even so I-478 was chosen.[3] However, with the cancellation of I-78 through New York City, the spur was dubbed useless.

Subway tracks

Cross section illustrating the bridge's lane layout

The four subway tracks on the bridge are used by the New York City Subway. On the Manhattan side, the south side tracks, used by N Q trains, connect to Canal Street on the BMT Broadway Line while the north side tracks, used by the B D trains, connect to the Chrystie Street Connection through Grand Street. On the Brooklyn side, the two pairs merge under Flatbush Avenue to a large junction with the BMT Fourth Avenue Line and BMT Brighton Line at DeKalb Avenue. For 18 years, between 1986 and 2004, one set of tracks was closed to repair structural damage.



One of four bronze plaques on the pedestrian walkways recording historical information about the building of the Manhattan Bridge.

When the bridge first opened, the tracks did not connect to any others. In 1912, the Manhattan Bridge Three Cent Line and Brooklyn and North River Railroad, two streetcar companies, began operations on those tracks until the BRT (later BMT, which also had two tracks each over the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges) trackage was connected to the bridge in 1915, and the trolleys were moved to the upper level roadways until 1929, when service was discontinued.[4]

The Brooklyn side of the tracks has not changed since subway service began on the bridge. It has always been fed by the four-track connection from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line. The Manhattan side has changed, however. When originally built, the two north tracks connected to the BMT Broadway Line (where the south tracks now connect), and the two south tracks curved south to join Chambers Street on the BMT Nassau Street Line along tracks now used for storage (and no longer connected to the bridge).

On November 26, 1931, a connection south of Chambers Street to the Montague Street Tunnel opened, adding two stations (Broad and Fulton Streets) and rerouted train service on the bridge's south side. Service on that side became relatively low afterwards as the only trains that normally crossed it were The Bankers' Special, which ran from either the Sea Beach and/or Fourth Avenue Line, crossed the Manhattan Bridge or Montague Street Tunnel into Manhattan, and then returned to Brooklyn via the opposite crossing.

Concurrent with the building of the Chrystie Street Connection (opened November 26, 1967) to connect to the north tracks, the south tracks were rerouted to the BMT Broadway Line connection, and the connecting tracks to the BMT Nassau Street Line were closed and subsequently removed. The connection opened two new stations (Grand Street and 57th Street-6th Avenue) and added express service on the IND Sixth Avenue Line. It also allowed the IND B and D trains to enter the BMT West End and Brighton Lines in southern Brooklyn, respectively. N (BMT Sea Beach Line) and Q (BMT Brighton Line) trains now use the south side of the bridge for service to Broadway.

Because tracks were on the outer part of the bridge, passing trains caused the bridge to tilt and sway. The wobble worsened as trains became longer and heavier. The New York City Department of Transportation failed to maintain the bridge properly, and the tracks finally were closed for repairs, blocking the paths of the trains that cross the bridge and reducing the number of trains passing between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The north tracks, which had been more heavily used, were closed first, from 1985 to 1988. The blockage split the B and D trains into two sections and rerouted the N via the Montague Street Tunnel.

The north tracks were reopened and the south tracks were closed simultaneously in December 1988, merging again the B and D trains and rerouting the Q to 6th Avenue. In September 1990, the south side was reopened to N train traffic, even though major repairs had yet to be made.[5] An 18-month delay of procurements prompted the New York City Transit Authority and politicians to put pressure on the New York City DOT to resume subway traffic, while engineers warned the bridge was still unsafe.[6] On December 27 of that year, state inspectors forced south side service to be halted and rerouted via the tunnel again after corroded support beams were found along with missing steel plates.[5] (Shortly after a memo stating opposition to N train restoration across the bridge, from the city's deputy commissioner for bridges, David Steinberger, to the Transportation commissioner, Lucius J. Riccio, was leaked to The New York Times, Steinberger and his administrative assistant, David Bronstein, were fired. Although the official reason for Steinberger's firing was a difference of managerial approaches, the dismissals were controversial due to their timing and Steinberger being seen as a whistleblower with Riccio brushing off his concerns.)[6][7][8][9] With reluctance from Lucius Riccio and Mayor David Dinkins, the New York City Council's Transportation committee held an inquiry into the decision to restore subway service on the Manhattan Bridge south side (as well as the safety of all New York City bridges), finding that the Transportation Department and the Transit Authority's lack of cooperative inspection was a major contributor for the deteriorating conditions.[10][11][12]

A projection for a reopening date was initially made for 1995.[13] The south side finally reopened on July 22, 2001, whereby the north side was again closed, returning the Q to Broadway, introducing the new W line (which ran on the West End Line) and cutting B and D service from Brooklyn. On February 22, 2004, the north side reopened, and all four tracks were in service simultaneously for the first time in 18 years. B and D trains returned to Brooklyn on opposite routes (B to the Brighton Line, and D to the West End Line), the N once again uses the bridge for travel, and the W no longer runs in Brooklyn. Also, the north tracks were closed during off-peak hours between May and November 1995, and the same for the south tracks in 2003.

To celebrate the bridge's centennial anniversary, a series of events and exhibits were organized by the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission in October 2009. These included a ceremonial parade across the Manhattan Bridge on the morning of October 4th and a fireworks display in the evening.[14] In 2009, the bridge was also designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.[15]

Manhattan Bridge in films

Full span
  • The Bridge is featured prominently in director Sergio Leone's gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America.
  • Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore drive across the bridge in Ghostbusters.
  • In The Cowboy Way, the two main cowboy characters chase a B train over the bridge to rescue a friend in grave danger.
  • The alien spacecraft that destroys New York in Independence Day makes its entrance over the Manhattan Bridge.
  • The bridge is featured prominently in director Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong. In the 1930s period a very steep, simple ramp was used by automobiles to access the Bridge, in contrast to today's integrated gradual ramp system into the surrounding roadways.
  • The bridge played a large role in the 1984 Steve Martin romantic comedy film The Lonely Guy, in which it is a popular spot for lonely guys to commit suicide, and the meeting place for Steve Martin and Judith Ivey.
  • In 1998, the film Deep Impact. When the giant wave (megatsunami) destroys the Brooklyn Bridge, you can see at the bottom of the frame the Manhattan Bridge.
  • The 2007 film I Am Legend shows the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges with their center spans destroyed. A flashback reveals they were hit by missiles to stop the exodus from a quarantined Manhattan.
  • The bridge is seen in the background of the movie Cloverfield as the monster attacks and destroys the Brooklyn Bridge. The character Hud later suggests to Rob that they try to leave Manhattan by the Manhattan Bridge.
  • In the 2009 film, The Taking of Pelham 123, the final showdown between the protagonist,(Denzel Washington) and the Antagonist, (John Travolta), occurs on the South Pedestrian deck of the Manhattan Bridge.

Manhattan Bridge in fiction

Construction of the Manhattan Bridge appears as a sub-plot in Jed Rubenfeld's 2006 novel The Interpretation of Murder.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Manhattan Bridge at Structurae
  2. ^ Jackson, Donald C. (1988). Great American Bridges and Dams. Wiley. p. 136. ISBN 0-471-14385-5. 
  3. ^ 3 digit interstates x78, accessed December 19, 2006
  4. ^ BMT 4th Avenue Subway, accessed December 19, 2006
  5. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis (1990-12-28). "Hazards Halt Manhattan Bridge Subway Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  6. ^ a b Sims, Calvin (1991-01-08). "New York Reopened Bridge Subway Line In Spite of Warnings". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  7. ^ Sims, Calvin (1991-01-11). "New York Dismisses Official Who Attacked Bridge Cuts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  8. ^ Sims, Calvin (1991-01-12). "2d Official In Bridge Unit Is Discharged". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  9. ^ Stanley, Alessandra; Sims, Calvin (1991-01-14). "Bridge Battle: Clashes and Flurry of Memos". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  10. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (1991-01-30). "Council Given Data It Sought, Deputy Mayor Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  11. ^ Sims, Calvin (1991-01-31). "Memos Not Released by Dinkins Are Said to Call Bridges Unsafe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  12. ^ Sims, Calvin (1991-03-01). "Bridge Troubles Are Linked To a Lack of Coordination". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  13. ^ "Update: Those Weeklong Repairs May Be Done by '95". The New York Times. 1992-05-17. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  14. ^ "Manhattan Bridge Centennial Celebration Events and Exhibits". NYC Bridge Centennial Commission. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  15. ^ "Manhattan Bridge". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 

External links


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