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History of Throgs Neck Bridge In NY

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Throgs Neck Bridge is one of the many that helps keep traffic in New York City manageable, or at least as manageable as it can be. In this lesson, we'll explore the history and design of this bridge, and see where it fits in New York's transportation development.

The Throgs Neck Bridge

How much does a G cost? Yes, the letter G. How much does it cost? If you're ever involved in urban planning, this may be a question you have to ask. Apparently, master planner Robert Moses decided that the letter G was just a bit too expensive. Moses was the planner in charge of the Throgs Neck Bridge in New York City, and which connects the Bay Terrace neighborhood to Queens to the Throggs Neck Neighborhood in the Bronx. However, to save money on signs, Moses dropped one of the G's from the bridge's name (Throggs to Throgs). That's one less letter that has to be painted onto every road sign. It may seem trite, but that's urban planning. Every G counts.

The Throgs Neck Bridge
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History

In 1939, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge was completed, connecting the New York boroughs of Queens and the Bronx. The bridge was useful and well received, but quickly became crowded. As early as 1945, New York transportation tsar Robert Moses was already considering adding another bridge to relieve congestion. His ideal location was the Throggs Neck neighborhoods of the Bronx, just about two miles away from the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. As a side note (and because we know you've been wondering), the name Throggs Neck refers back to an old colonial Dutch settlement there. ''Neck'' was the term for the skinny end of the peninsula, and Throgg was a reference to the settlement founder, Rev. John Throggmorton.

In 1955, Moses formally began planning a Throgs Neck Bridge. By this point, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge was handling over 30 million vehicles per year, well above its capacity. But who would design the bridge? Moses went with veteran bridge-maker Othmar Ammann, the man previously commissioned to design the George Washington, Triborough, and even Bronx-Whitestone bridges of New York.

Design and Construction

By the 1950s, Ammann was amongst the most respected bridge designers and engineers in the world. However, by the 1950s he was also feeling pretty cautious about bridge design. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington (state, not district) collapsed. It was a terrible disaster, and Ammann had been appointed to the federal commission to investigate why the bridge failed. The Throgs Neck Bridge would be the first long-span bridge he designed since working on the commission, and the public was still nervous about bridge safety, so his design ended up being pretty conservative.

The structure was designed as a conservative suspension bridge
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What Othmar Ammann came up with was a basic suspension bridge, similar to most of the other ones connecting the boroughs of New York City. The deck would be supported by wires, suspended from two large cables attached to mighty towers. There was one thing, however, that would make this bridge's design especially unique from the Bronx-Whitestone. The Throgs Neck Bridge essentially ran from shoreline to shoreline, giving it no natural elevation over the sea. Ships couldn't pass under it, so Ammann had to design and build elevated approaches to the bridge, ramps that elevated the main deck of the bridge to an appropriate height of 142 feet above the water.

The approaches to the bridge progressively elevate it from nearly sea level to 142 above the water
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From the beginning, the site of the bridge was opposed by people in both neighborhoods. As often happens with these sorts of projects, construction meant having to relocate many people. In the past, those people were sometimes simply evicted with no compensation. In this case, about 420 homes were actually picked up and moved to a new location. Not everyone was happy about it, but no one was left homeless as a result of the project.

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