Story by Ryan Stolz, Photos by Krista Didzbalis, Media Relations Staff
When it first opened on November 15, 1931, the Bayonne Bridge was such a novelty that 17,000 motorists – nearly double today’s daily traffic volume – couldn’t wait to make the trek between Bayonne and Staten Island. On top of those who drove over the crossing, an additional 7,000 pedestrians paid a nickel to walk across the spa. Back then, that was the equivalent of 12-ounce bottle of Coke or a movie ticket.
The bridge opening continued the Port Authority’s trend to build vehicle crossings (the others being the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing) that linked Staten Island to New Jersey at the start of the Great Depression. Previously, those seeking access to and from the island had to travel by ferry.
This week, the Bayonne’s history was front and center, as a who’s who of federal, state and local dignitaries gathered for a rededication ceremony to mark the completion of a $1.7 billion rebuilding project to meet 21st century standards. The project was conceived nine years ago to raise the bridge’s roadway to allow the world’s largest containerships to pass underneath it to call on port terminals in Elizabeth, Newark and Staten Island.
During the ceremony, officials and local residents celebrated the new state-of-the-art, four-lane bridge and recognized the Bayonne’s higher navigational clearance, part of the ‘Raising the Roadway’ project to accommodate bigger ships calling on Port Authority ports and generate a huge economic boost to the region.
When the bridge first opened nearly 90 years ago, it was the world’s longest steel arch bridge (today it’s No. 4). The American Institute for Steel Construction awarded it a “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Prize” for its design. In 1985, it was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. And in 2006, it was listed as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Perhaps the most unusual fact about the bridge is the tale still told of the golden scissors used to cut the Bayonne Bridge’s ceremonial opening day ribbon. After the ribbon-cutting, the scissors were sent to the Bayonne Bridge’s sister bridge, the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. That bridge opened on March 19, 1932 and used the same scissors for its ribbon-cutting.
Some four months later, one scissor arm was sent back to the United States, the other kept in Australia. But at some point in transit, the scissor piece returned to this country went missing, and to this day has never been found.