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Roosevelt Island Bridge


You may be familiar with the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which is an elevated tram that takes you from midtown Manhattan over the East River to Roosevelt Island, but did you know that there is a bridge that takes you from Roosevelt Island to the borough of Queens? The Roosevelt Island Bridge is that bridge, and is the only bridge that offers motor vehicle access from Roosevelt Island to the rest of New York City. The bridge was opened on May 18, 1955 at a total cost of $6,498,255.13 under the name of the Welfare Island Bridge, as Roosevelt Island was known as Welfare Island at the time. All vehicles, including emergency services, will find that the only way for getting onto the island is by going through Queens. The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a tower drive, vertical lift, movable bridge across the East Channel of the East River with a span length of 418 feet. The bridge was renamed the Roosevelt Island Bridge in 1973, in accordance with Welfare Island being renamed Roosevelt Island.

In comparison, the Roosevelt Island Bridge is small potatoes when you compare it to other bridges over the East River, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the nearby Queensboro Bridge (officially known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, or the 59th Street Bridge, if you're feelin' groovy). Speaking of the Queensboro Bridge, the Roosevelt Island Bridge replaced a truck elevator from the Queensboro Bridge to Roosevelt Island built in 1916. Prior to the bridge being built, there was a car ferry from 78th Street in Manhattan to what was then known as Welfare Island, named because of the mental institutions that were once located on the island. Overcrowded and causing delays on the Queensboro Bridge, the elevator system was a mess which frequently broke down, plus the ferry service was inadequate for traffic demand, so work began on a new East River Bridge in 1952, which led to the opening of the bridge in 1955.  It is arguably easier to access Roosevelt Island now, and during a visit to New York City, I decided to check out Roosevelt Island and the bridge to get on and off the island.

Looking towards Queens from Roosevelt Island.

The Roosevelt Island Bridge's seamy underbelly.

The Roosevelt Island Bridge was relatively peaceful that Sunday afternoon.

Typically, the bridge has a clearance of 40 feet over the water. When the 418 foot long, 1000 ton vertical lift span is raised between the bridge's 170 foot tall towers, a 100 foot clearance is then provided for passing ships.

The Roosevelt Island Bridge has access for both vehicular traffic and pedestrians.

Bridge plaque for the Welfare Island Bridge. Like the nearby Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, Frederick H. Zurmuhlen of the New York City Department of Public Works oversaw the design and construction of the Welfare Island Bridge. Zuhrmulen was one of the unsung men who built the modern city, and he served under three mayors.
The Queensboro Bridge, hiding behind the Roosevelt Island Bridge when you look towards the south.
A nice parting shot of the Roosevelt Island Bridge, as seen from Roosevelt Island.


How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
The History of the Roosevelt Island Bridge - Brownstoner
Movable Bridges over Smaller Waterways - New York City DOT
Roosevelt Island Bridge - NYCRoads.com

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