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About the SeriesBridging New York


 Bridging New York

Program Three: 'Bridging New York'

Linking the Island of Manhattan to the City and Continent

Eleven major bridges unite New York City together and with the rest of the nation. One engineer was responsible for more than half of them, yet hardly anyone knows his name.

Othmar Ammann came to America as a graduate of Swiss engineering schools and learned bridge building from the reigning bridge engineer, Gustav Lindenthal. As his protégé, Ammann worked on the Hell Gate Railroad Bridge, an arch bridge of unprecedented strength and beauty. Lindenthal had plans for an enormous rail bridge across the Hudson River, but they were rejected as too expensive. Ammann proposed a lighter, less expensive span for automobiles and trucks. In a painful parting, he left Lindenthal and built the landmark George Washington Bridge, a span twice as long as any suspension bridge in the world.

Ammann went on to build the Bayonne, Triborough, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck and Verrazano Narrows. All that commemorates his accomplishments is a modest bust in a bus terminal at the east end of the George Washington Bridge. Ammann cared little about honorifics. For him, the fact that his bridges were all built on time and within budget was honor enough.

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