willisbridge.jpgThe Willis Avenue Bridge cost the city $1.6 million when it was constructed in 1901. More than a hundred years later, its planned replacement should cost an additional $635.4 million to build. The low-profile bridge crosses the Harlem River and connects the Bronx to Manhattan's First Avenue. The Transportation Department estimated the cost of its replacement at $417 million and was surprised when it received bids of $612 million and $637 million. At 3,212 feet, the new Willis Avenue Bridge will wind up costing $198, 319 per foot, if the city goes with the high bidder. The New York Times offers some helpful context:

When it is done, Ms. Weinshall said, the Willis Avenue Bridge will be the most expensive bridge ever built by her department.

But the reconstruction of some bridges has cost more, and New York State and New Jersey spent more, when inflation is taken into account, for the George Washington Bridge, which was completed in 1931. The 6,016-foot-long Brooklyn Bridge, which was financed by what were then the separate cities of Brooklyn and New York, cost about $16 million to build. It was finished in 1883. In today’s dollars, taking inflation into account, that would be about $300 million, according to the MeasuringWorth.com Web site.

Of course, were the city to build a new Brooklyn Bridge today, the price would reach into the billions. The city has spent more than $3 billion over the last two decades to rehabilitate the East River bridges and is in the midst of an $829 million project to reconstruct the Manhattan Bridge, according to information on the Transportation Department’s Web site.

Construction is expected to begin around the end of this year and should take five years to complete.

(Photo from vaticanus' flickr photostream)