The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn atBroadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278). It once carried New York State Route 27A and was planned to carry Interstate 78, though the planned I-78 designation was aborted by the cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway and Bushwick Expressway.
This is one of four toll-free crossings between Manhattan and Long Island. The others are the Queensboro, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridges.
Construction on the bridge, the second to cross this river, began in 1896, with Leffert L. Buck as chief engineer, Henry Hornbostel as architect and Holton D. Robinson as assistant engineer, and the bridge opened on December 19, 1903 at a cost of $24,200,000. At the time it was constructed, the Williamsburg Bridge set the record for the longest suspension bridge span on Earth. The record fell in 1924, when the Bear Mountain Bridge was completed.
Decades of deferred maintenance caused the bridge to deteriorate significantly; by 1988, more than 200 cables in the suspension had snapped, and pieces of concrete were falling from the bridge. The bridge’s structural integrity was rated as 1.6 out of a scale of 1 to 7. Inspectors were appointed to monitor the bridge’s status and make temporary bridge closures based on the amount of stress placed on the bridge. The bridge was completely shut down to motor vehicle traffic and subway trains on April 11, 1988, after a painter noticed a large hole in a girder; upon further review, inspectors also discovered severe corrosion in a floor beam. The bridge was reopened in June 1988.
The bridge was rebuilt through much of the 1990s and 2000s. The cast iron stairway on the Manhattan side, and the steep ramp from Driggs Avenue on the Williamsburg side to the footwalks, were replaced to allow handicapped access in the 1990s. Since the new bike path opened, the bridge has become the most heavily bicycled span in North America.In 1999, Gandhi Engineering designed, engineered, and installed the pedestrian bridge along the Williamsburg Bridge.