Press Release Article


Date: Oct 24, 2012
Press Release Number: 146-2012

Historic civil engineering landmark still the world’s busiest span

The Port Authority’s George Washington Bridge—the most heavily traveled vehicular crossing in the world—will celebrate its 81st anniversary on Thursday, October 25.

The span, which opened in 1931, is the world’s only 14-lane suspension bridge. It also carries the distinction of being home to the world’s largest free-flying flag. In its first full year of operation, five and a half million vehicles crossed the bridge. Today more than 300,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day, and an estimated 102 million vehicles cross it each year.

The agency named the bridge after the nation’s first president, George Washington, who actually crossed the Hudson River between Washington Heights in upper Manhattan and Fort Lee in New Jersey more than two centuries ago by boat.

A new lower level opened to traffic in 1962, thirty-one years after the crossing first opened to traffic. In 1981, The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the George Washington Bridge as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Designed by Othmar H. Ammann, then the Port Authority's chief engineer, the bridge features four giant cables, each three feet in diameter, which hold the bridge in place. The cables contain 26,424 wires, each thinner than a pencil. Stretched out, the wires would reach 107,000 miles—nearly halfway to the moon. The famous "diamond necklace" lights on the cables of the bridge include 156 LEDs (light emitting diodes).

Over the years, the Port Authority has provided access to the George Washington Bridge not only to vehicles and pedestrians, but also for numerous charitable events, bicyclists, roller skaters, and film crews.

The Port Authority invests millions of dollars to maintain the bridge and to repair and replace the bridge’s deck, road surface and steel structure. The agency plans to begin work to replace all 592 suspender-rope cables on the bridge, which have been in place since the GWB first opened.

You can help us celebrate the George Washington Bridge’s 81st anniversary by checking-in on your favorite social network or sending your favorite GWB photo to To learn more about the history of the bridge, visit

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Steve Coleman or Rudy King

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey builds, operates, and maintains many of the most important transportation and trade infrastructure assets in the country. The agency’s network of aviation, ground, rail, and seaport facilities is among the busiest in the country, supports more than 550,000 regional jobs, and generates more than $23 billion in annual wages and $80 billion in annual economic activity. The Port Authority also owns and manages the 16-acre World Trade Center site, where construction crews are building the iconic One World Trade Center, which is now the tallest skyscraper in New York. The Port Authority receives no tax revenue from either the state of New York or New Jersey or from the City of New York. The agency relies on revenues generated by facility users, tolls, fees and rents as well as loans, bond financing, and federal grants to fund its operations. For more information, please visit