THE THOUSAND ISLANDS BRIDGE SYSTEM: The Thousand Islands Bridge system extends from Collins Landing near Alexandria Bay, New York to Ivy Lea near Gananoque, Ontario covering a distance of 8.5 miles and provides direct connection between US Interstate Rt. 81 and Canada’s Highway 401.
The crossing over the American channel of the St. Lawrence River, from the mainland to Wellesley Island, consists of a suspension bridge of 800 ft. (main span), with an underclearance of 150 ft. above the river. The American span from abutment to abutment is 4,500 ft.
The Canadian crossing includes the 600 ft. continuous Warren Truss span connecting Hill Island to Constance Island, a steel arch of 348 ft. spans from Constance Island to Georgina Island and a suspension bridge of 750 ft. from Georgina Island to the Canadian mainland (Ontario) with the suspension span providing 120 ft. of underclearance above the river. The Canadian span from
abutment to abutment is 3,330 ft.
The boundary at the International Rift, between Wellesley Island and Hill Island, is bridged by two parallel 90 ft. rigid-frame arched spans of reinforced concrete with masonry facing. Originally there was only one bridge at the boundary or International Rift, however increased traffi c demanded twinning this crossing in 1959.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at Collins Landing, New York, on April 30, 1937, with several thousand people on hand for this eventful occasion,both US and Canadian.
ENGINEERING: Robinson and Steinman of New York City were employed as consulting engineers by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. At the time, Dr. David Steinman was the foremost designer of bridges in the country and Dr. Holton Robinson was equally proficient on construction work. Monsaurat and Pratley of Montreal were employed as Canadian consultants. The original firm of Robinson and Steinman, now Parsons Transportation are still the Authority’s consulting engineers.
The operations of the Thousand Islands Bridge systems are shared under a joint agreement between the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority (TIBA) and the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (FBCL) of Canada.
The TIBA is defined by New York State Public Authorities Law as a public benefit corporation. Its seven members are appointed to five-year terms by the Chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, subject to approval by such Board and are comprised of four US Citizens and three Canadian Citizens serving without salary or monetary compensation, but in the interest of public and community service.
- May 1937: foundation work began for both American and Canadian bridges.
- December 1937: foundations for both American and Canadian bridges are completed.
- September 1937: steel work began in Canada and in October 1937 in the US.
- June 1938: steel work in completed on the American span and in August of 1938 on the Canadian Spans.
- March 1938: cable work begins in Canada and the US.
- April 1938: cable work is completed in Canada and the US.
- May 1938: deck paving begins in Canada and the US.
- August 1938: deck paving completed in both countries.
From ground-breaking ceremonies to completion the entire Thousand Islands Bridge system took only sixteen months to complete, ten weeks ahead of schedule, an amazing accomplishment even by today’s standards. Total materials: 20,700 cubic yards of concrete, 798 tons of reinforcing steel, 6,550 tons of structural steel and other kinds of steel, 555 tons of cable materials, 30,000 barrels of cement and 575,000 man hours of labor.
Total Cost: $3,050,000.
The design of the spans fit the topography producing beautiful bridges with artistic grace and attention to detail, with even the color chosen to fit the surrounding environment.
Dedication: August 18, 1938 marked a major event in North Country history as dedication ceremonies took place at this international border. On this date, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King officially opened the bridges to an estimated audience of over 25,000 people at the border, while thousands more line the motorcade enroute as it proceeded to the ceremonial site.
Vehicular Traffic: Passenger and commercial traffic volumes in the very early years of bridge operations approximated 150,000 vehicle crossings. By 1960 vehicular traffic reached 745,863 and by 1970, 1,274,980 vehicles had crossed the bridge in a single year. Today, annual crossings exceed 2,000,000 vehicles.