Triborough (RFK) Bridge – New York NY


The Triborough bridge linking up Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan over East River, is still known to New Yorkers by that name, even though it was officially renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008.

The Triborough Bridge is one of three major bridges, along with the Henry Hudson and the Bronx-Whitestone, built during the New Deal era to link the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, and tie together the expanding highway system in and out of New York City.  Construction on the Triborough bridge began in 1929, but the Depression soon slowed progress on the project. In 1933, Robert Moses, head of the Triborough Bridge Authority and “Master Planner” of New York, resurrected the project with massive support from the Public Works Administration (PWA). In their 1939 report on PWA projects, Short and Brown describe the Triborough Bridge’s development at length:

“The Triborough Bridge was constructed to facilitate traffic between the boroughs of Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. It consists of a suspension bridge over the East River at Hell Gate, a viaduct leading across Little Hell Gate and Randalls Island to a traffic diversion center, a viaduct and a lift bridge from this point to Manhattan, and a viaduct and bridges from the same point across the Bronx Kills to East 134th Street in the Bronx.

The over-all length of the bridge from the Queens entrance to the Bronx is 13,560 feet and from the Manhattan entrance at 125th Street to the traffic diversion center is 4,150 feet or a total length of 3.35 miles. The main suspension span is 1,380 feet between centers of towers, and the clearance under the bridge is 135 feet at high water. The height of the towers is 335 feet above high water, and the length of each side span is approximately 671 feet. The two roadways on the bridge are each 36 feet wide with a dividing curb in the center and the bridge itself is 100 feet wide.

The aerial photograph shows the traffic diversion center of Randalls Island which consists of ramps and loops and provides uninterrupted traffic to and from all three boroughs in all directions. It also permits access to and from Randalls Island. The Bronx Kills section consists of masonry approaches and six truss spans. The ramp rises over 133d Street with a grade of 3.8 percent and the bridge over the Harlem River railroad yards consists of one span of 167 feet, three spans of 276 feet each, and one span of 116 feet. A long-span bridge across the Bronx Kills completed this section, with a clearance above high water of 50 feet. Provisions have been made so that in the future this span may be changed to a lift bridge, with a clearance of 130 feet above high water. The distance from East 134th Street to the traffic diversion center is about a half mile.

The lift bridge over the Harlem River on the Manhattan section is the largest bridge of the kind in the world. The distance from center to center of towers is 320 feet. When lowered, the span has a clearance of 55 feet wide between curbs, with sidewalks on each side. The span west of the lift bridge is 182 feet from center to center of piers and the span east of it is 271 feet. The Triborough Bridge was built and is operated by the Triborough Bridge Authority. It is estimated that after 21 years 20,000,000 vehicles will cross the structure annually. The first contract was awarded on December 7, 1933. The bridge was opened for traffic on July 11,1936, and was entirely completed in September 1937. The approximate construction cost of the bridges and viaducts, not including the approaches, was $30,895,479. The city had spent $5,380,279 on preliminary work before the P.W.A. allotment. The total estimated cost was $49,727,413.”
(Short and Brown)

The Triborough Bridge was one of the largest public works constructed under the New Deal, yet there is no marker crediting the New Deal or any of its agencies.  It probably also benefitted from the labor of relief workers from the Civil Works Administration (1933-34), Federal Emergency Management Administration (1933-35), or Works Progress Administration (1935-42), as did virtually all of Moses projects in the 1930s.


Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s

Source notes

The New Deal: A 75th Anniversary Celebration. Kathryn Flynn with Richard Polese. Layton UT: Gibbs-Smith, 2008.

C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration. (1939).

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

New York, NY 11102

Location notes: Officially called the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

Coordinates: 40.780000, -73.926667

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