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New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel-arch bridge, in West Virginia near Fayetteville, and was for many years, with a length of 3030 feet (924m) the longest in the world of that type. Spanning the New River at a height of 876 feet (267m), making it the second-highest bridge in the country, its arch extends 1700 feet (518m). Part of US Highway 19, it is crossed by an average of 17,000 motor vehicles per day. Its construction marked the completion of "Appalachian Corridor L."

Construction was begun on the bridge in June of 1974, and completed on October 22, 1977. It was designed by the Michael Baker Company 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, a proprietary material which was developed to obviate the need for painting, and has a rustlike appearance. 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.

The bridge is the centerpiece of Fayette County's "Bridge Day," during which the bridge is open to pedestrian traffic. This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, bungee jumping, parachuting, etc., and is held every October on the third Saturday. Nearby the National Park Service operates a visitor center with scenic overlooks.

† The Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, completed February 8, 2003, is now the longest steel-arch bridge by 105 feet (32m), although the New River Gorge Bridge remains the longest of its particular type.

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