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The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278). It once carried New York State Route 27A and later Interstate 78.
The rapid transit tracks in the center of the bridge were initially used by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company elevated railroad. Today, the New York City Subway's J M Z trains use these tracks.
Two tracks on the south side carried streetcars from the Brooklyn side:
Williamsburg Bridge Local, 1904-1948
Nostrand Avenue Line, 1904-1923 and 1931-1948
Ralph Avenue Line, 1905-1908; Ralph and Rockaway Avenues Line, 1908-1923 and 1931-1948
Tompkins Avenue Line, 1906-1923 and 1931-1947
Reid Avenue Line, 1904-1923 and 1931-1937
Broadway Line, 1904-1923
Franklin Avenue Line, 1904-1923
Grand Street Line, 1904-1923
Sumner Avenue Line, 1904-1923
Wilson Avenue Line, 1904-1923
Bushwick Avenue Line, 1904-1921
Nostrand-Culver Line and Nostrand-Prospect Line, 1906-1919
Two north-side tracks carried Manhattan streetcars:
Grand Street Line, 1904-1932
Post Office Line, 1919-1932
Seventh Avenue-Brooklyn Line, 1911-1919
8th Street Crosstown Line, 1904-1911
14th Street-Williamsburg Bridge Line, 1904-1911
Fourth Avenue and Williamsburg Bridge Line, 1904-1911
In popular culture
East Bay rockers Black Cat Music, have a song titled "Williamsburg Bridge Song". The song "True Dreams of Wichitah", by Soul Coughing, includes the lyric "And you can stand on the arms of the Williamsburg Bridge crying 'Hey man, well this is Babylon'"
The area by the bridge was the location for Depeche Mode's 1990 single "Policy Of Truth". It was also used as cover art for their following song "World In My Eyes".
The Williamsburg Bridge appears in the movies Once Upon a Time in America, The Naked City (1948), Johnny Suede (1991), Scent of a Woman (1992), American Gangster (2007), Serpico (1973), the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die, The French Connection (1971), The Siege (1998) and The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie.
The bridge is mentioned several times in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) by Betty Smith. It is also referenced in the novels The Alienist (1994) by Caleb Carr and City of Bones, the first book of The Mortal Instruments. A scene in the book The Last Olympian takes place on the bridge.
During a sabbatical from performing, American jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins would go to the Williamsburg Bridge for practice sessions, in order to spare a neighboring expectant mother the noise.
The 1928 Edward Hopper painting "From Williamsburg Bridge" depicts a long-gone building as seen from the bridge's since remodeled walkway.
In reference to the area’s large Yiddish-speaking population, a sign on the Western approach to the bridge reads, "Leaving Brooklyn: Oy Vey!"
Construction on the Williamsburg Bridge, the second to cross this river, began in 1896, with Leffert L. Buck as chief engineer, Henry Hornbostel as architect and Holton D. Robinson as assistant engineer, and the bridge opened on December 19, 1903 at a cost of $24,200,000. At the time it was constructed, the Williamsburg Bridge set the record for the longest suspension bridge span on Earth. The record fell in 1924, when the Bear Mountain Bridge was completed.
It is an unconventional structure, as suspension bridges go; though the main span hangs from cables in the usual manner, the side spans leading to the approaches are cantilevered, drawing no support from the cables above. The main span of the bridge is 1,600 feet (490 m) long. The entire bridge is 7,308 feet (2,227 m) long between cable anchor terminals, and the deck is 118 feet (36 m) wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet (41 m) and each tower is 335 feet (102 m); these measurements taken from the river's surface at high water mark.
This bridge and the Manhattan Bridge are the only suspension bridges in New York City that still carry both automobile and rail traffic. In addition to this two-track rail line, connecting the New York City Subway's BMT Nassau Street Line and BMT Jamaica Line, there were once two sets of trolley tracks.
The Brooklyn landing is between Grand Street and Broadway, which both had ferries at the time. The five ferry routes operated from these landings withered and went out of business by 1908.
The Williamsburg Bridge has been under reconstruction since the 1980s, largely to repair damage caused by decades of deferred maintenance. The bridge was completely shut down to motor vehicle traffic and subway trains on April 12, 1988 after inspectors discovered severe corrosion in a floor beam. The cast iron stairway on the Manhattan side, and the steep ramp from Driggs Avenue on the Williamsburg side to the footwalks, were replaced to allow handicapped access in the 1990s.
A celebration was held on June 22, 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of the bridge and the area surrounding Continental Army Plaza was filled with musical performers, exhibits on the history of the bridge, and street vendors. Dignitaries marched across the bridge carrying the 45-star American flag used in a game of capture the flag played by workers after the placement of the final cable in June 1902. A truck-sized birthday cake was specially made for the event by Domino Sugar, which had a factory on the East River waterfront near the bridge.
The Williamsburg Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009.
No tolls are charged for motor vehicles to use the bridge.
Had the Lower Manhattan Expressway been built, the Williamsburg Bridge would have obtained the Interstate 78 designation.