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Queensboro Bridge

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Title: Queensboro Bridge  
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Subject: Long Island City, Queens, Roosevelt Island, Featured picture candidates/Ed koch edited.jpg, Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive
Collection: Bike Paths in New York, Bridges Completed in 1909, Bridges in Manhattan, Bridges in New York City, Bridges in Queens, New York, Bridges on the National Register of Historic Places in New York City, Cantilever Bridges, Double-Decker Bridges, East River, Henry Hornbostel Buildings, Historic American Engineering Record in New York, Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, Long Island City, Pedestrian Bridges in New York, Railroad Bridges in New York, Road Bridges in New York, Roads with a Reversible Lane, Roosevelt Island
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Queensboro Bridge

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
Carries 10 lanes (4 upper, 6 lower) of NY 25, and 1 lane for pedestrians/bicycles
Crosses East River
Locale New York City (ManhattanQueens)
Other name(s) Queensboro Bridge, 59th Street Bridge
Maintained by New York City Department of Transportation
Design Double-decked Cantilever bridge
Total length 3,724 ft 6 in (1,135.2 m)
Width 100 ft (30 m)
Longest span 1,182 ft (360 m) (west span)
984 ft (300 m) (east span)
630 ft (192 m) (center span)
Clearance above 12 ft (3.7 m) (upper level)
Clearance below 130 ft (40 m)
Architect Henry Hornbostel
Designer Gustav Lindenthal
Engineering design by Leffert L. Buck
Opened March 30, 1909 (1909-03-30)
Daily traffic 176,306 (2008)[1]
Toll Free
Queensboro Bridge
Location 59th Street
Manhattan, New York City
Built 1909
Architectural style Beaux-Arts; through cantilever truss
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 78001879[2]
Added to NRHP December 20, 1978
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is located in New York City
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
Location in New York City
Looking east from Manhattan toward Queens
Bridgemarket on Manhattan side
Constructing the upper level in 1907
During the Five Boro Bike Tour in 2008
The bridge at night, as seen from Roosevelt Island

The Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge – because its Manhattan end is located between 59th and 60th Streets – and officially titled the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, is a cantilever bridge over the East River in New York City that was completed in 1909. It connects the neighborhood of Long Island City in the borough of Queens with Manhattan, passing over Roosevelt Island. It carries New York State Route 25 and is the westernmost of the four East River spans that carry a route number: NY 25 terminates at the west (Manhattan) side of the bridge, which once carried NY 24 and NY 25A as well. The bridge is flanked on its northern side by the freestanding Roosevelt Island Tramway. The bridge was, for a long time, simply called the Queensboro Bridge, but in March 2011, the bridge was officially renamed in honor of former New York City mayor Ed Koch.[3]

No tolls are charged for motor vehicles to use the bridge. The Queensboro Bridge is the first entry point into Manhattan in the course of the New York City Marathon and the last exit point out of Manhattan in the Five Boro Bike Tour.


  • Description 1
  • History 2
    • Construction and early history 2.1
    • Recent history 2.2
  • Public transportation 3
    • Rail tracks 3.1
    • Buses 3.2
  • In popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Queensboro Bridge is a two-level double cantilever bridge. It has two cantilever spans, one over the channel on each side of Roosevelt Island. The bridge does not have suspended spans, so the cantilever arm from each side reaches to the midpoint of the span.[4] The lengths of its five spans and approaches are as follows:

  • Manhattan to Roosevelt Island span length (cantilever): 1,182 ft (360 m)
  • Roosevelt Island span length: 630 ft (190 m)
  • Roosevelt Island to Queens span length (cantilever): 984 ft (300 m)
  • Side span lengths: 469 and 459 ft (143 and 140 m)
  • Total length between anchorages: 3,724 ft (1,135 m)
  • Total length including approaches: 7,449 ft (2,270 m)

Until it was surpassed by the Quebec Bridge in 1917, the span between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island was the longest cantilever span in North America.[5]

The upper level of the bridge has four lanes of automobile traffic and provides a view of the bridge's cantilever truss structure and the New York skyline. The lower level has five vehicular lanes, the inner four for automobile traffic and the southern outer lane for automobile traffic as well, used exclusively for Queens-bound traffic. The North Outer Roadway was converted into a permanent pedestrian walk and bicycle path in September 2000.[6] The Manhattan approach to the bridge is supported on a series of Guastavino tile vaults which now form the elegant ceiling of the Food Emporium Bridge Market and the restaurant Guastavino's, located under the bridge. Originally, this open air promenade was known as Bridgemarket and was part of Hornbostel's attempt to make the bridge more hospitable in the city.[7]


Construction and early history

Bridge circa 1908

Serious proposals for a bridge linking Manhattan to Long Island City were first made as early as 1838 and attempts to finance such a bridge were made by a private company beginning in 1867. Its efforts never came to fruition and the company went bankrupt in the 1890s. Successful plans finally came about in 1903 under the city's new Department of Bridges, led by Gustav Lindenthal (who was appointed to the new position of Commissioner of Bridges in 1902), in collaboration with Leffert L. Buck and Henry Hornbostel, designers of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Construction soon began, but it would take until 1909 for the bridge to be completed due to delays from the collapse of an incomplete span during a windstorm and from labor unrest (including an attempt to dynamite one span). The bridge opened to the public on March 30, 1909,[8] having cost about $18 million and 50 lives. A ceremonial grand opening was held on June 12, 1909.[9] It was then known as the Blackwell's Island Bridge, from an earlier name for Roosevelt Island.[10]

In 1930, an elevator was built on the bridge to transport cars and passengers to what was then called Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island.[11][12] Then, in 1955, the Welfare Island Bridge from Queens opened, allowing automobile and truck access to the island and the only non-aquatic means in and out of the island; the vehicular elevator to Queensboro Bridge then closed,[11] but wasn't demolished until 1970.[12] However, as late as August 1973, a separate passenger elevator ran during the work week from near the Queens end of the bridge to Welfare Island via the Welfare Island Elevator Storehouse, which was described at the time as "clean but gloomy".[13][14]

The bridge's upper level originally contained two pedestrian walks and two elevated railway tracks (which connected a spur of the IRT Second Avenue Elevated Line to the Queensboro Plaza elevated station) and the lower deck four motor traffic lanes, and what is now the "outer roadway" and pedestrian walk were two trolley lanes. A trolley connected passengers from Queens and Manhattan to a stop in the middle of the bridge, where passengers could take an elevator or the stairs down to Roosevelt Island.[15] The trolley operated from the bridge's opening until April 7, 1957.[16] The railway was removed in the late 1930s and early 1940s as well as the 2nd Avenue Elevated Line. The trolley lanes and mid-bridge station, as well as the stairs, were removed in the 1950s, and for the next few decades the bridge carried 11 lanes of automobile traffic.

The bridge as seen from the 56th floor of the Citigroup Center

Recent history

After years of decay and corrosion, an extensive renovation of the bridge began in 1987 and completed in 2012, having cost over $300 million.

In March 2009, the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission sponsored events marking the centennial of the bridge's opening.[17] The bridge was also designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers during the year of its centennial anniversary.[5]

In December 2010, the city announced that the bridge would be renamed in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch from the Queensboro Bridge to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.[18] The renaming decision was unpopular among Queens residents and business leaders, and many locals continue to refer to the bridge by its older name.[19][20] New York City Council member Peter Vallone, Jr. from Queens vowed to remove Koch's name from the bridge. “Never in a million years would they think to rename the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridges,” said Vallone. “But for some reason, it was OK to slap Queens around."[21]

Public transportation

Rail tracks

In addition to the two elevated railway tracks, the bridge also had four streetcar tracks. The following Queens lines operated over the bridge:

One Manhattan line operated over the bridge, the Third Avenue Railway's 42nd Street Crosstown Line from 1910 to 1950.


The bridge carries the Q32 local bus route operated by MTA New York City Transit and the Q60 and Q101 local bus routes operated by the MTA Bus Company. The bridge also carries 20 express bus routes in the eastbound direction only. (These bus routes use the Queens-Midtown Tunnel for westbound travel.) They are the MTA Bus Company's QM1, QM2, QM3, QM4, QM5, QM6, QM7, QM8, QM10, QM12, QM15, QM16, QM17, QM18, QM20, QM21, and QM24, and New York City Transit's X63, X64 and X68.

In popular culture


  • In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway traverse the bridge on their way from Long Island to Manhattan. "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge," Nick says, "is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world".[10]
  • In E.B. White's novel Charlotte's Web, Charlotte tells Wilbur that the bridge took eight years to build, while she could have built a web in a night.
  • In the climax of Truman Capote's novel Summer Crossing, the main character commits suicide and murders three passengers by crashing her car into the Queensboro Bridge.




Video games

  • The bridge was destroyed in the video game Crysis 2 when a facility on Roosevelt Island exploded, causing the bridge to violently collapse.
  • The bridge appears in the game Driver: Parallel Lines and is able to be traveled on foot or by car. During the mission "Kidnap" the player must blow up a billboard on the Manhattan side to block traffic.
  • The bridge is part of the Nintendo DS game C.O.P.: The Recruit.

See also



  1. ^ "New York City Bridge Traffic Volumes 2008" (PDF). New York City Department of Transportation. March 2010. p. 63. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  3. ^ Ed Koch Queensborough bridge: Span officially renamed in honor of former New York City mayor
  4. ^ "Project Page:2000 Biennial Bridge Inspection of the Queensboro Bridge over the East River". HAKS Corporation. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  5. ^ a b "Queensboro Bridge". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  6. ^ "Queensboro Bridge Rehabilitation Program". New York City Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  7. ^ Dunlap, David W. (March 7, 1999). "Bridgemarket Emerging, After 22 Years". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  8. ^ "Queensboro Bridge Opens to Traffic". The New York Times. March 31, 1909. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  9. ^ "300,000 See Queens Linked to Old City". The New York Times. June 13, 1909. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  10. ^ a b c  
  11. ^ a b McCandlish, Phillips (April 7, 1957). "City's Last Trolley at End of Line; Buses Will Replace 49-Year Route on Queensboro Span". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  12. ^ a b "Transportation". Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  13. ^ Welch, Mary Scott (July 2, 1973). "Walking the City's Bridges".  
  14. ^ Petroff, John (August 27, 1973). "Bridge Bits" (letter to the editor)".  
  15. ^ "Roosevelt Island Tramway". New York Correction History Society. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  16. ^ Phillips, McCandlish (April 7, 1957). "City's Last Trolley at End of Line; Buses Will Replace 49-Year Route on Queensboro Span". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  17. ^ "Queensboro Bridge Centennial Celebration Events and Exhibits". NYC Bridge Centennial Commission. Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  18. ^ Bultman, Matthew; Fanelli, James (December 9, 2010). "Just call 59th Street Bridge the Ed Koch". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  19. ^ Lisberg, Adam (February 28, 2011). "Queensboro Bridge should not be renamed after former Mayor Ed Koch, 70% of Queens biz leaders say". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  20. ^ Hernandez, Javier C. (March 23, 2011). "Council Votes to Rename Queensboro Bridge for Koch". New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2011-03-23. 
  21. ^ Briquelet, Kate (July 14, 2013). "Queens councilman drafting legislation to take former mayor Ed Koch’s name off Queensboro Bridge". New York Post (New York). Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  22. ^ Harpers Bizarre


  • Abandoned Stations: Queensborough Bridge Railway terminal
  • Greater Astoria Historical Society and Roosevelt Island Historical Society (2008). The Queensboro Bridge. USA: Arcadia Publishing.  

External links

  • "Queensboro Bridge" on Transportation Alternatives
  • Dave's Electric Railroads Thirty-three historic photographs of the Queensborough Bridge Railway trolley cars
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-19, "Queensboro Bridge"
  • Queensboro Bridge at Structurae
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