5. The Hell Gate Bridge Could Last Over 1000 Years

Photo by Dave Frieder

The “grip” of a bridge rivet (or mechanical fastener) is the thickness of the steel it holds together. The rivets of the Hell Gate Bridge happen to have the longest grip of any bridge in New York City: over nine inches. Due to the high carbon steel it is constructed out of, the span could last well over a thousand years.

Unfortunately that 1000 year guarantee does not include the paint job. By the early 1990’s the steel’s coating was in rough shape so with the urging of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US Congress allocated $55 million to re-paint the bridge for the first time since it was built. The color chosen was a deep red called “Hell Gate Red.” But there was a problem, the clear urethane top coating wasn’t formulated to withstand UV bombardment from the sun. This, in turn, faded the red undercoating which was already fading before the paint job was finished. Amtrak chose to use the same paint in the late 90’s to patch up the damage but it too began to fade. Over the years, it has had more paint jobs since.