NO. 10 BRIDGE: Giovanni Would be Proud

Dec. 1, 2023
How the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge shapes New York

Since it opened in 1964, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (VNB) has become an integral part of New York transportation, allowing 220,000 motorists to commute between Brooklyn and Staten Island daily.

Owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges and Tunnels (TBTA), the sprawling structure deteriorated and needed an update. The TBTA hired WSP and HNTB to modernize this legendary New York bridge. 

Once the largest suspension span in the world, the bridge is named for Giovanni da Verrazzano, who in 1524 was the first European explorer to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River

The project began in 2019, and its goals were to replace 225,000 square feet of bridge deck, as well as make superstructure replacements in the anchorage spans, seismic upgrades, cashless tolling implementation, and improvements to lighting, drainage, and standpipes. 

WSP and HNTB build a structure to replace the anchorage span stringers.

A new floorbeam was installed, along with new bearings to improve the span’s seismic performance. A jacking scheme also was developed to install the bearings on the structure. 

The project repaired the existing structure and added resiliency and flexibility for the future of all commuters. 

Work was performed during peak traffic hours with lane-by-lane reconstruction, leading to the need for complex traffic management. A moveable barrier system expanded or contracted the traffic lanes for safety. 

The system placed six available travel lanes in either a 4/2 or 2/4 configuration depending on traffic needs throughout the day. This required a two-lane shift of the moveable barrier across the span using two barrier transfer machines. With the location of the closed lane changing as work progressed, each stage required unique traffic patterns and striping.    

Federal legislation required the VNB to be tolled in both directions. Before that, the VNB was the only bridge in the country with a federally mandated one-way toll. With a westbound-only toll zone, many vehicles would use the VNB eastbound and return west through the East River bridges and Hudson River tunnels — an inefficient but toll-free route. Unfortunately, this caused an imbalanced traffic distribution in the region.

The implementation of two-way tolling balances traffic more evenly between the Staten Island Expressway, Gowanus Expressway and Lower Manhattan, while also increasing revenue.   

The go-live date for two-way tolling operations was set for December 2020, which meant the project needed to expedite the eastbound cashless toll zone design and construction.

WSP and HNTB enhanced the historical significance of this bridge while keeping safety and commuters’ needs a top priority. The project team transformed the bridge into a more modern structure with a storied past. 

Rejuvenating this historic bridge provides a safer commute for travelers, while preserving its legacy and expanding its lifespan for years to come. RB

Project: Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Upper-Level Deck and Brooklyn Approach Rehabilitation and Reconstruction 

Location: Brooklyn, New York 

Owners: MTA Bridges & Tunnels (TBTA) 

Designer: WSP/HNTB 

Contractor: El Sol Contracting 

Cost: $210,000,000 

Length: 225,000 square feet 

Completion Date: October 2022