Delaware River Bridge - aka Ben Franklin Bridge

The year was 1927 and the future had hardly ever looked brighter for the City of Camden. Times were prosperous, business and industry were booming, and the city was full of recently constructed public buildings, civic improvements, schools, the new Delaware River bridge and its new highway to the suburbs. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed were in the unimagined future.

It was in these times that Camden prepare for its 100th anniversary, and in this spirit of optimism that the city fathers under the direction of Mayor Winfield S. Price commissioned the booklet whose text you will find below.

Read more about the first 100 years of Camden and more articles from the Centennial Mirror

World’s Longest Suspension Span Linking Camden and Philadelphia Handles Twenty-five Thousand Machines Daily.

NINE million motor vehicles that is the caravan which crosses the World’s Largest Suspension Bridge connecting Camden and Philadelphia, in twelve months.

In the first year of operation, starting July 2, 1926, about 7,000,000 vehicles rolled over the big broad driveway. Two million more will have crossed in the twelve months ending July, 1928. And, the yearly increase is expected to jump at a higher rate each period.

All vehicles crossing the bridge pay toll. The rates are twenty-five cents for private machines and higher fares for buses and trucks. The interstate bus business between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, brings thousands of dollars per year into the treasury of the Bridge Commission.

The average income per machine over the period of a year is twenty-eight cents. The average number of cars crossing daily for the twelve-month period is approximately 25,000, giving a toll income of $7000 per day and $2,555,000 per year.

The Delaware Bridge cost approximately $40,000,000. The expense of building was evenly divided between the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. The City of Camden spent large sums providing necessary approaches but does not participate in the construction cost.

All toll monies go toward paying off the bonds which enabled financing of the huge structure. It is estimated that the entire cost will have been met from tolls by 1941. This is four years ahead of the schedule of the engineers who built the structure.

The costs of administration of the bridge are met from toll receipts. These,include repairs, maintenance of a police department, highway department, office force and other expenses. The toll income meets all of these charges, also the carrying costs of the bonds, and then are expected to meet the bond principle payments in 1941.

All tolls are collected on the Camden end of the span. Booths are erected on the traffic lanes and collectors stand out at the elevated islands and reach to the driver for the toll. The almost total lack of delay in the collection of the tolls has been one of the surprises in the operation of the bridge.

When the span first was started, there was considerable controversy over the question of whether tolls should be collected or passage should be free. Proponents of the free span policy declared the usefulness of the span in facilitating easy passage for cars over the Delaware, would be seriously discounted through delays necessitated by the toll collection. When it is stated that as high as 60,000 autos have crossed the bridge on one day, it is easily understandable that this feature of span operation does not hold up the traffic lines to any appreciable extent.

The affairs of the bridge are conducted by a manager acting for the Delaware Bridge Commission. This group is composed of members from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The New Jersey members also have control of operation of the Hudson Tunnel connecting Jersey City and New York City.

The Delaware River Bridge was built under the supervision of Ralph Modjeski, famed engineer and son of the celebrated Madame Modjeski, grand opera singer of some years ago.

President Calvin Coolidge officiated at formal opening exercises for the span on July 5, 1926. These were conducted on the Camden Plaza and attended by many thousands of persons from near and far. Work was started on the bridge, January 6, 1922.

Following are some outstanding facts about the bridge:

  • Cost, $40,000,000.
  • Length of span and plazas, 9,750 feet. Length of structure proper, 8,536 feet. Length of main span, 1,750 feet. Clearance above high tide, 135 feet. Cables-Diameter, 29-7/8 inches.
  • Each cable contains 18,666 galvanized
  • Wires. Diameter of each wire, 0.2 inches.
  • Length of each cable, 3534 feet.
  • Total weight of cables, 13,500,000 lbs. Length of wire, 22,100 miles.
  • Quantity of steel, 50,000 tons.
  • Vehicular capacity of bridge, 8000 automobiles per hour.
  • Right of way for four (4) trolley lines, two (2) 10-foot walks for pedestrians.
  • All exposed masonry is granite.
  • Width of roadway between curbs is 57 feet. Quantity of masonry for anchorage, 99,700 cubic feet.
  • Floor weight capacity, thirty tons per cubic foot.
  • Total weight capacity of bridge, 6,000 tons. Bridge high enough for all United States war vessels to pass under it.
  • Width of piers, 60 feet.
  • Cables connected at anchorage to 122 eyebars.
  • All bridge activities conducted from Administration Building erected for the purpose on the Camden Plaza.


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