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Bridge Day History and Facts

New River Gorge Bridge 2

On the 22nd of October in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was opened to traffic. This bridge opening marked the end of the old, long commute from one side of the New River Gorge to the other. This drive used to take around 45 minutes of driving on narrow roads that snaked down one side of the Gorge and up the other. The construction of the New River Gorge Bridge turned this tedious 45-minute journey into a trip of a little over a minute. Most of my 1980’s generation is familiar with the back seat dare to hold your breath until your Mom or Dad drove all the way across the New River Gorge Bridge. (This, of course, should only be attempted by passengers of a vehicle crossing the bridge).

The American Bridge Division of US Steel constructed this miracle of modern technology for almost $37 million dollars. They saved $300, 000 off the original cost by using unpainted weathering steel to construct the bridge. The color blends with the surrounding breathtaking beauty of the New River Gorge itself. The West Virginia Division of Highways does not need to repaint the New River Gorge Bridge, saving them around $1 million dollars for each time the bridge would have required painting. All they need to do is treat the bridge with calcium magnesium acetate, which smells very much like vinegar, instead of the normal salt treatment preventing ice in the wintertime.

For those of you who will be attending Bridge Day for the first time, you are being treated to something most people do not get to experience. Pedestrian traffic is not allowed on the surface of the New River Gorge Bridge at any time—except on Bridge Day, the third Saturday in October. The distance you have to walk to get from one side of the Bridge to the other may astound you. The main span of the Bridge is 1, 700 feet long, and the total length of the Bridge is around 3, 030 feet long. That is quite a walk. It is also a walk that is special for yet another reason. The Bridge you are walking on is actually 876 feet above the rapids of the New River. This may not seem very tall since you just walked 3, 030 feet across the Bridge, but do not just push that number aside. We could move the Washington Monument underneath the New River Gorge Bridge and still have 325 feet left of empty space between the two. This makes the New River Gorge Bridge a perfect location for the BASE jumpers and rappellers that take advantage of the Bridge Day festivities.

Hopefully, you too can join us this Bridge Day to enjoy the New River Gorge Bridge against the beautiful fall colors of the New River Gorge.

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