Saturday, July 10, 2010

Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge

I was a tourist today. I took your advice and on my summer Friday a co-worker & I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John Roebling who became the chief engineer. Unfortunately John Roebling died in 1869 - soon after the construction began. The bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883 after 10+ years to build and cost $15.5 million dollars (twice more than what was originally estimated).

I was not sure why tourists walk the Brooklyn Bridge - so I did a little research (no surprise there, I am nerdy) and found out at the time, that the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest bridge ever built - almost twice as long as the Menai Suspension Bridge (between Wales and Anglesey) which opened in 1826. Additionally, suspension bridges were also previously made of iron, but Roebling decided to use steel to make the bridge stronger. Additionally, J. Lloyd Haigh who sold the wire rope for the bridge construction was faulty - but still remains within the cables. Approximately 27 people died during the construction.

The bridge is 135 feet above the water (high enough for the large boat traffic), spans 5,989 feet (1.13 miles), and the towers rise 276.5 feet from the water. On opening day the toll was only 1 cent but then rose to 3 cents. That first day, 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed the bridge. Within that first month there was a lot of controversy over the bridge and many were worried the bridge would collapse (12 people died in a stampede) and fall into the water. To help but that rumor to rest, P.T. Barnum led a parade of 21 elephants over the bridge. Because of the use of the steel and the truss system which was 6 times stronger than it needed to be, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing, while other bridges built during this time have been replaced.

The Brooklyn Bridge is three lanes in each direction and has the bike/pedestrian lane raised, which turns into wood planks, which is kind of neat that you can see the water below. Getting on the bridge from the Manhattan side was really easy. It was so crowded on the walk to the first tower. We stopped a lot to take pictures - making the walk about 30-40 minutes. Once we passed the first tower, the crowds died down - as they probably walked back towards Manhattan. The view was beautiful; able to see New Jersey, Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, Brooklyn, a few other was relaxing.

Other Fun Facts:

  • Suspension cables - four 15 3/4' diameter wire ropes
  • 19 strands in each cable
  • 3,600 total miles worth of cable
  • 1520 suspenders
  • 400 diagonal stays
  • bridge weight 14,680 tons (not including caissons, towers or anchorages)
  • The first jumper was Robert Odlum on May 19, 1885
  • The first bungee jumpee was in June 1993
  • A bunker was discovered in 2006 from the Cold War which still had emergency supplies in it
  • In 2003, Lyman Faris was sentanced to 20 years in prison for supplying information to Al Qaeda to destroy the bridge by cutting through the support wires with blowtorches

After we reached the Brooklyn side, we took a short 1 mile-ish walk and then took the 5 train back to Grand Central. I was able to catch my everyday train.

A nice fun (and hot) day. Thanks to JW for keeping me company on this quest and now I can cross out one more item on my bucket list.

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