Goethals Bridge Stay Cables: the Muscle of a New Bridge-building Era

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

Good bones are important.  But you can’t lift heavy weights without muscles of steel.

Such is the case for a class of bridges called cable stayed bridges, of which the new Goethals Bridge, under construction between Staten Island, N.Y. and Elizabeth, N.J., promises to be this region’s most visually striking example.

This month, the new bridge is finally gaining its muscles – specifically, its powerful stay cables.  Workers have installed the first of what will be 144 stay cables, each up to 400 feet long and 13 inches in diameter.

They will connect the bridge’s four sets of massive, V-shaped concrete towers to its twin roadways. As a constant stream of cars and trucks crosses the bridge, the cables’ extreme tension will transfer the weight of those vehicles from the roadways to the towers – the bridge’s concrete backbone. The towers, in turn, will channel all of the compressional force into the earth.

As shown in these photos by the Port Authority’s Mike Dombrowski, stay cable installation is a painstaking process.

A - preparing the pipe

Before installing the first stay cable on the new Goethals Bridge, workers prepare the high-density pipe that will serve as its outer shell.

Workers begin by threading a single strand – consisting of several steel wires tightly wound together and surrounded by a protective sheath – through a wide, high-density tube that will serve as the stay cable’s outer shell. A crane then hoists this arrangement up to a porthole-like anchor embedded in one of the concrete towers. The other end is fitted to a bazooka-shaped anchor at the bridge’s roadway. More of these strands are threaded through the tube, one by one, and anchored at the required level of tension.

B- cable hook

A crane begins to haul the first stay into place on the Goethals.

As the process continues over the coming months, the stay cables will be installed in sets of four, with two pairs on either leg of the towers.

C - cable lift

A crane hauls the first stay cable into place.

As they are installed, alternating between the New Jersey and New York sides of the Arthur Kill, each set will provide the structural strength necessary for workers to build out a new section of roadway.  It will continue through the summer and fall, until the roadways extending from Elizabeth and Staten Island meet in the middle.

D - cable lift

Standing on the new bridge’s roadway, a worker helps hold the stay cable steady during installation.

The new bridge’s eastbound roadway is expected to open early next year, at which point the existing Goethals Bridge – 88 years old and functionally obsolete – will be taken out of service. The Goethals replacement project will be complete, with both eastbound and westbound structures carrying traffic and the old bridge demolished, in 2018.

E - tower anchor

Workers guide the stay cable toward its porthole-like anchorage in the 272-foot concrete tower.

Extending out from the towers like giant harp strings, the Goethals stay cables are designed to embody the strength, endurance and beauty of a new era of bridges.

G - both cables in place

The outer shells of the first two stay cables are in place.  Bundles of steel cables, tightly twisted and covered in a protective coating, will be threaded through the pipes, then anchored at high tension.

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