The Triborough Bridge (sometimes spelt Triboro Bridge) is a complex of three separate bridges. Spanning the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill and the Hell Gate, the bridges connect the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx via Randall’s Island and Wards Island, which are joined by landfill. Often still referred to as the “Triboro”, it was officially named after Robert F. Kennedy in 2008.
The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the Triborough Bridge Project as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986.
The bridge carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day. It has sidewalks in all three legs where the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) officially requires bicyclists to walk their bicycles across due to safety concerns. However, the signs stating this requirement are usually ignored by bicyclists.
On November 19, 2008, on a request made by the Kennedy family, the Triborough Bridge was officially renamed after Robert F. Kennedy, who served New York as a senator in the 1960s. Many traffic and news reports commonly use the name “RFK Triborough Bridge”, likely to avoid confusion among residents.
On May 5, 2010, the NYPD closed the bridge and sent in the bomb squad to investigate a U-haul truck from which a man had reportedly fled. This investigation came days after a failed attempt at a car bombing in Times Square. A short time later, the NYPD deemed this incident non-threatening and reopened the bridge.
Although the plans for the bridge were announced as early as 1916, no funds were obtained for almost a decade. When the construction finally began, it had to cope with the effects of the Wall Street Crash. Twenty years after the first plans, the bridge was completed.
Plans for connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx were first announced by Edward A. Byrne, chief engineer of the New York City Department of Plant and Structures, in 1916. While its construction had long been recommended by local officials, the Triborough Bridge did not receive any funding until 1925, when the city appropriated funds for surveys, test borings and structural plans.
Construction had begun the day after the Black Thursday in 1929, and the Triborough project’s outlook began to look bleak. Using New Deal money, the project was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses and the bridge was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936. The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, greater than that of the Hoover Dam, and was one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression.
During the construction, the Swiss architect, Othmar Ammann, simplified the structure by collapsing the original two-deck roadway into one that required lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers. The concrete came from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.