This bridge carries 140,000 vehicles per day with eight lanes and 100,000 subway (J, M and Z lines) passengers using two tracks in the middle. It also has a walkway and bikeway. Around the turn of the 21st Century, it was practically rebuilt with a 15-year, $1b plan. [NYCroads]
|HAER NY,31-NEYO,165--4, 1983|
4. VIEW WITH BRIDGE IN FOREGROUND AND WORLD TRADE CENTER IN BACKGROUND - Williamsburg Bridge, Spanning East River at South Sixth Street between New York City & Brooklyn, New York County, NY
[This view also catches the other two bridges between Brooklyn and Manhattan: the 1909 Manhattan Bridge and the 1883 Brooklyn Bridge.]
|Museum of the City of New York posted|
The Williamsburg Bridge opened #onthisday in 1903.
It held the distinction as the longest suspension bridge span in the world until 1924.
Arthur Vitols, Byron Company (New York, N.Y.), ca. 1908, Museum of the City of New York, 22.214.171.1246
Bridges Now and Then shared
"Suspension bridge; steel towers; spans 1,600 feet between towers; total length, 7,200 feet; clearance for ships, 135 feet; double decked; 4 main cables 18 inches in diameter; cost $8 million. The Williamsburg Bridge is the longest span suspension bridge over the East River, it's s span exceeding that of the Brooklyn Bridge by 4.5 feet." [HAER-data]
The Williamsburg Bridge's 1,600-foot main span was the longest in the world from 1903 until 1924 [when the Bear Mountain Bridge was opened]. With 40-foot deep stiffening trusses, it was the first suspension bridge over 1,000 feet to have steel towers....The four main suspension cables are 18.75 inches in diameter and each composed of over 10,000 wires. The Williamsburg Bridge originally carried four trolley lines, two elevated rail lines, four carriage lanes and two pedestrian walkways, making it amongst the most heavily loaded bridges ever built....The Williamsburg Bridge was the last major suspension bridge designed using the "elastic theory," and its exceptionally deep truss is a result of the approximations included in this theory. Substantial increases in suspension bridge spans would not be possible until the application of the "deflection theory" - first used on the nearby Manhattan Bridge. [asce]
Since walking and bicycle riding were an important means of transportation during the horse & buggy days when the bridge was built, there always were walkways on top of the two support trusses. I have to agree with Historic Bridges that replacing the original decorative handrails with cages is a bummer. But to bring attention to them with a gaudy red paint is scandalous.
|Geoff Hubbs Jun 2019 via Bridge Hunter, License: Released into public domain|
Obviously, in the 1920s when the auto became the preferred means of transportation, they changed four of the six tracks to vehicular lanes.
|Figure by Paul Phillipe Cret and Rudolphe Modjeski via NYCroads|
I wish the street view driver had chosen the outer lanes. Nonetheless, we get a view of part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And we get a good view of truss members that a significantly heavy duty design. The subway tracks are to the left between the main trusses and a walkway is on top.
This view confirms that, unlike other suspension bridges, the stiffening truss is a through truss rather than a deck truss. This would allow a clearance requirement above the river to be achieved with shorter (i.e. cheaper) towers. And reduce the height of the approach bridges.
Here is a view that shows how the suspension cables come down along side the stiffening truss.
This bridge was the second one to cross the East River, and it started construction in 1896. The first bridge to cross the East River was, of course, the Brooklyn Bridge. Between 1852 and 1855, the eastern shore of the bridge was the town of Williamsburg. It, along with other neighborhoods, got absorbed in 1855 by Brooklyn. Brooklyn, in turn, became part of the NYC merger in 1898. The west side of the bridge cleared out the Corlears Hook district. "Corlears Hook once had the greatest concentration of shipbuilding businesses in the nation, and the shoreline was completely obscured with piers, ships, and vessels of all sorts. In the 1830s, it had become a notorious red-light district, with "ladies of the night" setting up shop in the neighborhood's saloons and cellars. (As popular legend would have it, the ladies of the Hook would give the oldest profession a new name: hookers.)" [BoweryBoysHistory]
I did not realize it was a lattice truss until I saw this view of the entire 40' deep truss.
|Digitized by Google via Historic Bridges-Historical Text, p21|
Note that the temporary foot walk to help with spinning the cable is made of wood.
|Digitized by Google via Historic Bridges-Historical Text, p130|
The foot walk made of wood is significant because it completely burned along with a lot of wood structures on top of the towers
|Digitized by Google via Historic Bridges-Historical Text, p136|
On Nov 10, 1902, a careless workman overturned a rivet stove in the tool-house at the top of the tower causing "the most beautiful and unique blaze ever witnessed hereabouts." The fire department could not fight a fierce blaze 300' above their heads so they had to let the fire burn itself out.
Above the deck level, the towers slant inwards because the bottom of the tower straddles the truss whereas the top, which holds the cables, is in the plane of the truss.
|Digitized by Google via Historic Bridges-Historical Text, p125|
Here is where the south lanes pass through the west tower, looking backwards.
I later stumbled across an outside lanes view on the north side.
I was trying to figure out why I was seeing a cable on the outside of the outside lanes where the walkway approaches cross over to the top of the trusses at the end of the truss. Since the outside spans are not suspended from the cables, the cables don't remain in the plane of the truss. This probably helps spread the load on the anchorages.
By the late 20th Century, the bridge was falling apart. Several different plans were submitted. Most of them were to replace it with a cable stay bridge. Some of them had the new bridge being slid into place on giant Teflon plates. But NYCDOT decided that it was better to repair than replace. They developed a 15-year, $1b plan. "The project includes an overhaul of the bridge's four main cables, steel towers, stiffening trusses, and roadways." [NYCroads]
|Bridges Now and Then posted|
A 1988 proposal for a new Williamsburg Bridge to replace the present bridge. (NYSDOT)
Craig Coffey: The bridge was in real danger of failure at that point, it was so poorly maintained.
Jim Mmee: Craig Coffey yes and the Brooklyn bridge suffered as well.Around that time,maybe a little earlier, a cable on the Brooklyn bridge snapped, killing a pedestrian! Poor maintenance , but they blamed the pigeon droppings.
Dave Frieder: Jim Mmee That was a Diagonal Cable Stay that snapped.
Bill Campbell: Jim Mmee the acidic content of pigeon droppings indeed is a significant issue in such instances - though I’m not suggesting there wasn’t enough poor maintenance to blame. All four lower East River Bridges were in deplorable condition by the 80’s.
[There are several more comments about pigeons vs. maintenance.]