Over the years, Queensboro Bridge may have been overshadowed by its more popular cousin located a few miles south – The Brooklyn Bridge, but its simply ridiculous to overlook this grand old cantilever masterpiece.
After all, if that other bridge on the East River (hint: Its starts with Brooklyn) was so important, then it, instead of the Queensboro, would have survived Bane’s wrath in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Right? Jokes apart, there are some pretty interesting titbits attached to the conception and construction of the 59th Street bridge.
1901 -Plans Set Into Motion
If the plans were drawn up in 1901, the first metaphorical brick was laid a year later when Gustav Lindenthal was appointed to serve as the Commissioner of Department of Bridges by then mayor Seth Low.
Lindenthal’s first task was to ascertain not if a bridge could be built, but rather the type of bridge that should be built. The demand of the time was a bridge that could accommodate a rail-line that would join the Long Island Railroad to the line at Harlem, and so it was met.
Cantilever, Double-Decker And Artsy
A cantilever bridge utilizes one point as an anchor to support another portion that spans beyond, and in case of the Queensboro bridge, it was two long spans from either bank of the East river, with the small island in the middle (Roosevelt Island) offering convenient land footings to reinforce the bridge.
Furthermore, Lindenthal imagined a double-decker bridge that would have two tiers, one for the general transport (trolley and vehicles) whereas the upper roadway would feature the connecting rail-line.
But more importantly, the bridge had to portray form with function. For this, a graceful structure with decorative spires were envisaged on the four towers. The Manhattan end sported two bronze torchieres to light up the space. Likewise, a Bridge Market and a series of beautifully tiled open-air vaults adorned the part of the bridge under the Manhattan end.
The Bridge Today
The Queensboro Bridge is the only cantilever bridge connecting boroughs of New York city among a group of suspension bridges from its era. Most of the original features have disappeared too. New approaches and ramps have thus been added. It sort of the resembles the bridges you’d find in the Outer Banks; extravagent in nature, but old in purpose.
The trolley and train tracks have been removed and in their place today stand four lanes of traffic bearing roads on the upper tier with the lower roadway featuring five lanes. In 2000, a permanent bike and pedestrian lane became the latest introduction to the Queensboro renovation drive.