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_   New River Gorge Bridge
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New River Gorge Bridge
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Vital Statistics:
Location: Fayetteville, West Virginia, USA
Completion Date: 1978
Cost: $37 million
Length: 4,224 feet
Type: Arch
Purpose: Roadway
Materials: Steel
Longest Single Span: 1,700 feet
Engineer(s): Michael Baker, West Virginia Department of Highways

The New River carves a deep gorge through southern West Virginia. For years, in order to cross the New River Gorge, drivers were forced to take a 40-mile detour or carefully wind down narrow mountain roads. Despite its scenic beauty, the New River Gorge was a major obstacle. It wasn't until the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge in 1977 that this problem was solved.

New River Gorge Bridge
Click photo
for larger image.

The New River Gorge was an ideal location for a steel arch bridge. The solid rock on both sides of the gorge would resist the outward thrust of the arch, making tall towers and deep piers unnecessary. In June 1974, cables were strung between temporary towers located on each side of the gorge. The steel sections of the arch bridge were pieced together over the gorge by trolleys running on these cables. After three years of construction and $37 million, the new bridge reduced a 40-minute drive around one of America's oldest rivers to less than one minute.

Today, the New River Gorge Bridge is the world's longest spanning, steel single-arch bridge. Soaring 876 feet above the rugged whitewaters of West Virginia's New River, it is also the second tallest bridge in the United States.

Here's how this bridge stacks up against some of the longest-spanning bridges in the world. (total length, in feet)
Chart showing the relative size of the longest bridges in the world
New River Gorge Bridge 4,224'

Fast Facts:
  • The New River Gorge Bridge weighs 88 million pounds. That's heavier than 4,000 elephants!
  • On the third Saturday in October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce hosts Bridge Day. On this day, the bridge is open to pedestrians, and a variety of activities draw up to a quarter of a million people. One of the day's main attractions includes watching hundreds of BASE (Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth) jumpers from around the world plunge into the gorge using parachutes.

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