Robert F. Kennedy Bridge

Robert F. Kennedy Bridge
Robert F. Kennedy Bridge

Aerial view of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (left) and the Hell Gate Bridge (right). Queens is in foreground, across from Wards Island. The Robert F. Kennedy Bridge continues out of view and forks to reach both The Bronx and Manhattan.
Official name Robert F. Kennedy Bridge
Other name(s) Triborough Bridge, Triboro Bridge
Carries 8 lanes of I-278
Crosses East River, Harlem River and Bronx Kill
Locale New York City, United States
Maintained by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA)
Design Suspension bridge, lift bridge, and truss bridge
Total length 847.34 meters (2,780 feet) (Suspension span)
234.70 meters (770 feet) (Lift span)
487.68 meters (1,600 feet) (Truss span)
Width 29.87 meters (98 feet) (Suspension span)
Longest span 420.62 meters (1,380 feet) (Suspension span)
94.49 meters (310 feet) (Lift span)
116.74 meters (383 feet) (Truss span)
Vertical clearance 14 feet 6 inches (4.4 m), but trucks onbound from Manhattan are limited to 13 feet 10 inches (4.2 m)
Clearance below 43.57 meters (143 feet) (Suspension span)
41.15 meters (135 feet) (when raised) (Lift span)
16.76 meters (55 feet) (Truss span)
Opened July 11, 1936; 75 years ago (1936-07-11)
Toll $6.50 as of December 30, 2010 (between any 2 boroughs per car in cash) ; discount available with New York State E-ZPass
Daily traffic 165,670 (Suspension span, 2006)
88,121 (Lift span, 2008)[1]
78,399 (Truss span, 2008)[1]
Coordinates 40°46′48″N 73°55′36″W / 40.78°N 73.92667°W / 40.78; -73.92667Coordinates: 40°46′48″N 73°55′36″W / 40.78°N 73.92667°W / 40.78; -73.92667 (Suspension span)
40°48′2″N 73°55′41″W / 40.80056°N 73.92806°W / 40.80056; -73.92806 (Lift span)
40°47′57″N 73°55′9″W / 40.79917°N 73.91917°W / 40.79917; -73.91917 (Truss span)
Robert F. Kennedy Bridge is located in New York City
Suspension span

The Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Bridge, formerly known as the Triborough Bridge (sometimes spelled Triboro Bridge), is a complex of three separate bridges in New York City, United States. Spanning the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill, and the Hell Gate (part of the East River), the bridges connect the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and The Bronx via Randall's Island and Wards Island, which are joined by landfill.

Often still referred to as simply the "Triboro" the spans were officially named after Robert F. Kennedy in 2008.



Plans for connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx were first announced by Edward A. Byrne, chief engineer of the New York City Department of Plant and Structures, in 1916.[2] While its construction had been long recommended by local officials, the Triborough Bridge did not receive any funding until 1925, when the city appropriated funds for surveys, test borings and structural plans.

Construction had begun on Black Friday in 1929, and the Triborough project's outlook began to look bleak. Othmar Ammann's assistance was enlisted to help simplify the structure. Ammann had collapsed the original two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers. These cost-saving revisions saved $10 million on the towers alone. Using New Deal money, the project was resurrected in the early 1930s by Robert Moses and the bridge was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936.

The total cost of the bridge was more than $60 million, greater than that of the Hoover Dam, and was one of the largest public works projects of the Great Depression.[3] The structure used concrete from factories from Maine to Mississippi. To make the formwork for pouring the concrete, a whole forest on the Pacific Coast was cut down.[4]

The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the Triborough Bridge Project as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986.[5] Motorists were first able to pay with E-ZPass in lanes for automatic coin machines at the Randall's Island toll plazas on August 21, 1996.[6]

At some point in the past, a sign on the bridge informed travelers, "In event of attack, drive off bridge", New York Times columnist William Safire wrote in 2008. The "somewhat macabre sign", he wrote, must have "drawn a wry smile from millions of motorists."[7]

On November 19, 2008, and pursuant to a request made by the Kennedy family,[8] the Triborough Bridge was officially renamed after Robert F. Kennedy, who served New York as a senator, 40 years after his assassination.[9][10][11]

On May 5, 2010, the NYPD closed the bridge and sent in the bomb squad to investigate a U-haul truck from which a man had reportedly fled. This investigation came days after a failed attempt at a car bombing in Times Square. A short time later, the NYPD deemed this incident nonthreatening and reopened the bridge.[12]

Many traffic and news reports commonly use the name "RFK Triborough Bridge", likely to avoid confusion among residents.[13][14]


Saddle housing

The toll revenues from the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge pay for a portion of the public transit subsidy for the New York City Transit Authority and the commuter railroads.[15] The bridge carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day.

The bridge has sidewalks in all three legs where the TBTA officially requires bicyclists to walk their bicycles across[16] due to safety concerns.[17] However, the signs stating this requirement have been usually ignored by bicyclists,[18] while the New York City Government has recommended that the TBTA should reassess this kind of bicycling ban.[19] Stairs on the 2 km (1.2 mi) Queens leg impede handicapped access. The Queens stairway along the southern side was demolished at the beginning of the 21st century, thus isolating that walkway, but the ramp of the Wards Island end of the walkway along the northern side was improved in 2007.[citation needed] The two sidewalks of the Bronx span are connected to only one ramp at the Randalls Island end.[citation needed]

The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority's most recent toll increase went into effect on December 30, 2010. The cash charge for passenger vehicles to cross the bridge was raised to $6.50 (from $5.50) in any direction. The toll for E-ZPass users was raised to $4.80 (from $4.57). The crossing charge for a motorcycle increased to $2.75 (from $2.50), with motorcycle tolls with E-ZPass rising to $2.09 (from $1.99).[20] The return trip from Randall's Island to any borough is free.[citation needed]

Public transportation

The RFK Bridge carries the M35 and M60 local bus routes operated by MTA New York City Transit, and nine express bus routes operated by the MTA Bus Company, the BxM1, BxM2, BxM6, BxM7, BxM8, BxM9, BxM10, BxM11 and BxM18.

The three sections of the bridge

East River suspension bridge (I-278)

A panorama of the Hell Gate Bridge and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge from Astoria Park
  • Span crosses the East River at the Hell Gate between Queens and Wards Island
  • Connects to Grand Central Parkway and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
  • Length of main span: 1,380 feet (421 m)
  • Length of each side span: 700 feet (213 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 2,780 feet (847 m)
  • Width of bridge: 98 feet (30 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 8 lanes
  • Height of towers above mean high water: 315 feet (96 m)
  • Clearance at center above mean high water: 143 feet (44 m)
  • Number of sidewalks: 1
Location of the bridge in New York City
6 minutes video of traffic passing under lifted bridge

Harlem River lift bridge (NY Reference Route 900G)

  • Span crosses the Harlem River between Manhattan and Randall's Islands
  • Connects to Harlem River Drive, FDR Drive, and 125th Street
  • Length of main lift-truss span: 310 feet (94 m)
  • Length of each side truss span: 230 feet (70 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 770 feet (235 m)
  • Height of towers: 210 feet (64 m)
  • Clearance of lift span above mean high water: 55 feet (17 m)
  • Clearance of lift span in raised position: 135 feet (41 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 6 lanes
  • Number of sidewalks: 2 (1 on each side)

Bronx Kill crossing (I-278)

Bronx Kill crossing.
  • Span crosses the Bronx Kill between The Bronx and Randall's Island
  • Connects to Major Deegan Expressway and Bruckner Expressway
  • Length of main truss span: 383 feet (117 m)
  • Length of approach truss span: 1,217 feet (371 m)
  • Length, anchorage to anchorage: 1,600 feet (488 m)
  • Clearance of truss span above mean high water: 55 feet (17 m)
  • Number of traffic lanes: 8 lanes
  • Number of sidewalks: 2 (1 on each side)


  1. ^ a b "2008 Traffic Data Report for New York State" (PDF). New York State Department of Transportation. Appendix C. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Triboro Plaza". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  3. ^ Roberts, Sam (July 11, 2006). "Reappraising a Landmark Bridge, and the Visionary Behind It". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ Caro, Robert (1974). The Power Broker. New York: Vintage Books. p. 386. ISBN 0-394-72024-5. 
  5. ^ "Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ Purdy, Matthew (August 22, 1996). "Drivers Give Passing Grade To E-Z Pass In Major Test". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ Safire, William (July 13, 2008). "On Language: Dead End". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  8. ^ Gershman, Jacob (January 8, 2008). "Enduring Wish May Come True in RFK Bridge". The New York Sun. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Triborough Bridge may be renamed for Robert F. Kennedy". Daily News. Associated Press (New York). January 8, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Triborough Bridge Renamed Robert F. Kennedy Bridge" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. November 21, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  11. ^ Chan, Sewell (November 19, 2008). "The Triborough Is Officially the R.F.K. Bridge". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  12. ^ "New York shuts Triborough Bridge after truck found abandoned". The Washington Post. Reuters. May 5, 2010. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Steinhauer, Jennifer (February 13, 1994). "F.Y.I.". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Rules and Regulations Governing the Use of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Facilities" (PDF). MTA Bridges & Tunnels. October 1, 2003. Section 1022.1(e). Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  17. ^ "MTA Bike & Ride". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  18. ^ "New York City Bicycle Master Plan" (PDF). New York City Department of City Planning. May 1997. p. 16. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "New York City Bicycle Master Plan" (PDF). New York City Department of City Planning. May 1997. p. 57. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Crossing Charges". MTA Bridges & Tunnels. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 

External links

External videos
Time Lapse: Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; April 19, 2011; 1:04 YouTube video clip
Robert F. Kennedy Bridge LED Lights, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; April 22, 2011; 3:38 YouTube video clip
Robert F. Kennedy/Triborough Bridge: 75 Years, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; July 11, 2011; 3:22 YouTube video clip

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