Opening to traffic in 1931, the George Washington Bridge is for the first time going to get a refit of a key component of its structural integrity. According to a Dec. 9 New York Times article, the 592 signature “vertical suspender ropes,”each one made of 283 individual strands of steel wire, will be replaced over the next eight years. Each rope–the term engineers use for them, though they are not made of hemp, but steel–is a different length and weight, depending on where they fit to one of the four main cables that form the horizontal necklaces that arc along the entire length of the bridge. The lightest of the vertical suspender ropes weighs 1,500 pounds, and the heaviest 10,000 pounds. These shots by New York Times photographer show what’s at stake in replacing the ropes.
From a favorite college professor long ago I heard that the French Catholic theologian and philosopher Jacques Maritain swore that the sight of the George Washington Bridge and Manhattan, as seen traveling south on the Henry Hudson Highway, was the most breathtaking view he ever experienced. Reading about this essential renovation of such a key piece of our urban infrastructure, I am mindful that the stock market crash of 1929, might’ve delayed the engineering and construction of The Great Gray Bridge, but that didn’t happen. I’m grateful that the span across the Hudson did not fall victim to the Great Depression. Considering the resistance to creating and even maintaining infrastructure among many right-wing politicians today, I am also grateful that the Port Authority of NY and NJ have shown the foresight and good judgment to undertake this key renovation now, despite the economic conditions prevailing today.