The New River Gorge Bridge’s Birthday
The year was 1977. Star Wars had just opened in theaters. People were buying their first Atari games. The Space Shuttle had just made its first test flight.
And in Fayette County, West Virginia above the New River Gorge, engineering history was being made. On October 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was dedicated and opened to the public.
It's hard to imagine now the kind of change that was brought to the area with the opening of the bridge. But it helps if you know what existed before.
The old new river gorge bridge is about 40 feet off the water. It connects the Fayette Station Road (formerly the Gentry Road) which winds down one side of the gorge and back up the other.
It would take cars and trucks on average 45 minutes to get from one side of the gorge to the other in the switch-backed one lane road. Longer with bad weather, heavy loads, or traffic. If you were coming around one of the blind curves, and you heard a horn blowing on the other side- better hold on.
And what was that old drive replaced with? An engineering marvel.
The bridge was (and still is, mostly) superlative in every way. It was the longest arch bridge in the world at 3030 feet from end to end. Second highest in the nation at 876 feet. 88 million pounds of concrete and U.S. Cor Ten steel.
And when you see it up close, or jump off of it, or rappel from it, or drive or walk across it, you can feel all the history and pride built into this magnificent achievement.
We celebrate it at Bridge Day every year, but the actual opening day happened 32 years ago today.
Happy Birthday, bridge :-)