The Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridges are two of the bridges overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. They see an enormous amount of traffic, which makes sense because those two states are so interconnected with one another. Originally, both bridges were cantilever bridges. Nowadays, the Outerbridge Crossing is still a cantilever bridge, whereas Goethals Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that replaced its predecessor of the same name.
How the Port Authority Came to Be
To understand the building of the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge, it is useful to mention something about the establishment of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. For starters, governments were even more concerned about waterways in the past than in the present. That was because waterborne transportation was the most effective transportation method by a considerable margin. Its closest land-based competitor consisted of animal-drawn vehicles, which were better than human porters but shared some of the same fundamental issues as human porters.
Under those circumstances, it should come as no surprise to learn that New York and New Jersey used to get into fights over which state had what authority over which waterway. That was a huge problem. After all, they oversaw some of the busiest waterways in the world, meaning their fighting wasn’t just hurting themselves but also hurting the country as a whole. The situation was worsened by the rapid technological change of the Industrial Age, which brought about incredible transformations in the way society operated. Fortunately, New York and New Jersey eventually managed to strike a deal with one another, thus resulting in the creation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921.
The Old Goethals Bridge:
The Port Authority’s Motivation For Building the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge
Both the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge opened in 1928. That made them the first facilities built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Both bridges span the Arthur Kill. However, Outerbridge Crossing connects NYC’s Staten Island with Perth Amboy, NJ. Meanwhile, Goethals Bridge connects NYC’s Staten Island with Elizabeth, NJ. The timing of this construction reflected the trends of the times.
For those curious, water-borne transportation gained a real land-bound competitor with the advent of railroads. By the early 20th century, railroads dominated interstate transportation. However, it was starting to see a serious land-bound competitor in the form of automobiles, which were invented in the late 19th century but didn’t become suitable for mass adoption until the early 20th century. In particular, the First World War saw the United States embracing the use of trucks alongside the use of trains. A choice that was necessary because the sheer amount of men and material being moved about for the First World War was straining the capacity of the railroads to handle them.
Naturally, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plus its counterparts throughout the rest of the country started building infrastructure to support the use of trucks. In some cases, this infrastructure was meant to improve on what came before. For instance, a lot of roads received upgrades to make them capable of supporting the weight of loaded trucks. In other cases, this infrastructure was meant to create new routes that could be traveled by loaded trucks but not by earlier transportation methods. Even in those days, New York and New Jersey were closely entwined with one another. As a result, it makes sense for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build bridges connecting New York City with New Jersey. The Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge were the first two. Soon enough, they were followed by the Bayonne Bridge, which opened just a short while later in 1931.
The Namesakes of the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge
Both the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge are named for people. Specifically, the Outerbridge Crossing is named thus because of Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge. The first part comes from his surname, while the second part is what it is because no one wanted to call the Outerbridge Crossing the Outerbridge Bridge. Regardless, Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge was the first chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Besides that, he tends to be known because he played an important role in a fiberboard company.
Goethals Bridge is named for a more famous figure. Its namesake was George Washington Goethals. The bridge is named for him because he was the first consulting engineer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. However, he tends to be better known because President Theodore Roosevelt named him the chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Under Goethals’ leadership, the project finished two years ahead of schedule, which earned him a great deal of praise from a wide range of parties.
The New Goethals Bridge:
Of course, Goethals’ association with the Panama Canal was more than enough to make his name remembered. Much ink has been spilled on the events that led to Panama breaking away from Colombia. Similarly, much ink has been spilled on the strategic importance of the Panama Canal itself. For context, there were a couple of ways for ships to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean before its existence. One, they could travel through the Arctic and the Bering Strait in the north. Two, they could travel around Cape Horn in the south. As such, the successful completion of the Panama Canal had a transformative effect on water-borne transportation between the two oceans.
The Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge In More Recent Decades
The times are ever-changing. As a result, infrastructure has to keep up for everything to run smoothly. Both the Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge have received repairs over time. Still, there are limits to what repairs can and can’t do for their capabilities. Due to this, the authorities approved plans to replace the original Goethals Bridge with a couple of new cable-stayed crossings in 2013. Those crossings became available for use in 2017 and 2018, while their predecessor was removed in 2018. The Outerbridge Crossing hasn’t been replaced, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has already shown interest in coming up with a replacement.