$320 Million in 2007 dollars
From 1873 to 1877 work was carried out on the anchorages and the 276-foot neo-Gothic limestone and granite towers. Then, beginning in February 1877, the four massive steel main cables, each capable of holding 11,200 tons were connected to the anchorages on both sides of the river. These were the 15” diameter cables that would hang from the stone towers and hold up the roadway of the bridge. The following year the vertical cables called “suspenders” were hung from the main cables to the temporary roadway below.
Beginning in 1879 and over the following four years, work continued on completing the permanent roadway stretching out 135 feet above the water. The unique feature about this bridge was that the elder Roebling designed it with an elevated walkway running down the center of the bridge for pedestrians and bicycles. On either side and partly below this walkway were railroad tracks that connected directly to the elevated railroad systems in New York and Brooklyn. And next to each track toward the outside edge of the bridge were two lanes each side for carriages and horseback riders.
Big Opening Day
Finally, on May 23, 1883, before an enormous crowd of 14,000 invited guests, President Chester Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, as it was originally called until 1915. The first person to ride across this spectacular bridge was Roebling’s wife Emily who had been instrumental in helping her husband direct the day to day operations. The following day was the official opening. At 9 a.m. the barricades were taken down and replaced by a line of policemen. At noon, businesses in Brooklyn and New York closed and the bells throughout the area began to toll. The bridge was officially opened to the public at two in the afternoon with fireworks from 8 to 9 p.m.
- $15 Million (including $4 Million for the land) in 1883 dollars
- $320 million in 2007 dollars
Maintenance Costs And Design Changes Over The Years
Over the following years, as needs and technologies changed, so did the design of the bridge. When the railroad stopped running in 1944, the trolleys moved onto the tracks until around 1950. At that time the tracks were removed and a six-lane highway and connecting ramps was installed, three lanes in each direction that today accommodates about 150,000 vehicles each and every day. Commercial vehicles and buses, however, are not allowed on the bridge. The separate walkway for pedestrians and bicycles was rebuilt and still runs along the centerline of the bridge. In 1999 a re-decking of the roadway was completed at a cost of $34 Million as well as retrofitting current steel trusses to enhance the original capability of the span. Currently, there is a plan to spend $725 Million for rebuilding the ramps and to repaint the bridge. Work is scheduled to begin around 2009 and should be completed by 2011.