Definitions

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel-arch bridge, in Fayetteville, West Virginia, USA. With a length of 3030 feet (924 m), it was for many years the longest in the world of that type. Its arch extends 1700 feet (518 m). Part of U.S. Highway 19, it is crossed by an average of 17,000 motor vehicles per day. Its construction marked the completion of "Corridor L".

The New River Gorge Bridge carries U.S. Highway 19 over the New River and the CSX railroad at a height of 876 feet (267 m), making it the highest vehicular bridge in the Americas, and the second-highest in the world. (Before the 2004 opening of the Millau Viaduct in France, it was the highest in the world.)

History

Construction began on the bridge in June 1974, and completed on October 22, 1977. It was designed by the Michael Baker Company, under the direction of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen, and executed by U.S. Steel's American Bridge Division. Final cost of construction was $37 million (approximately $4 million over bid). It is made from Cor-ten steel. The use of Cor-ten in construction presented several challenges; notable among them was ensuring that the weld-points weathered at the same rate as the rest of the steel.

Many locals say, with little exaggeration, that completion of the bridge cut the travel time from one side of the gorge to another from 45 minutes to 45 seconds.

Culture and jumping

The bridge is the centerpiece of Fayette County's "Bridge Day," during which the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic. Until recently, the bridge was half-open, with two way traffic. Security concerns have prompted the closing of the entire span to vehicles during the festival. This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending & BASE jumping, and is held every October on the third Saturday. Bungee jumping has been banned from Bridge Day since an accident in 1993. The bridge is within the New River Gorge National River and the National Park Service operates a visitor center at the northern end of the bridge with scenic overlooks and a staircase that partially descends into the gorge.

BASE jumper Brian Lee Schubert, 66, of Alta Loma, California, died during Bridge Day 2006 (Oct 21st) when his chute failed to open in time. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was the first that occurred during BASE jumping at the New River Gorge Bridge Day Festival since 1987, and only the third ever. One other BASE jumper was killed while performing an illegal, non Bridge Day related jump.

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