New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel- arch bridge, near Fayetteville, West Virginia, United States. With a length of 3,030 feet (924 m), it was for many years the longest in the world of that type. It is now the third largest arch bridge in the world . Its arch extends 1,700 feet (518 m). Part of U.S. Route 19, it is crossed by an average of 16,200 motor vehicles per day. Its construction marked the completion of Corridor L. In 2005, the structure was further immortalized when a depiction of the span was placed on the West Virginia state quarter. The New River Gorge Bridge carries US 19 over the New River at a height of 876 feet (267 m), making it the second highest vehicular bridge in the Americas (behind the Mike O'Callaghan ”“ Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which bypasses the Hoover Dam), and the fifth highest in the world. Before the 2004 opening of the Millau Viaduct in France, it was the highest in the world. Several suspension bridges in China have since surpassed them. The current record holder is the Si Du River Bridge which opened in November 2009 and currently has 1,549 feet (472 m) of clearance above the river of that name.

History
Construction began on the bridge in June 1974, and completed on October 22, 1977. It was designed by the Michael Baker Company, under the direction of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen, 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. 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 the other from 45 minutes to 45 seconds.

Culture and jumping
The bridge is the centerpiece of Fayette County's " Bridge Day", during which the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic. Until recently, the bridge was half-open, with two way traffic. Security concerns have prompted the closing of the entire span to vehicles during the festival. This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending and BASE jumping, and is held every October on the third Saturday. Bungee jumping has been banned from Bridge Day since 1993. The bridge is within the New River Gorge National River and the National Park Service operates a visitor center at the northern end of the bridge with scenic overlooks and a staircase that descends partially into the gorge. A Bridge Walk catwalk two feet wide runs the full length of the bridge underneath the roadway and a considerable fee is charged to walk the quarter mile with safety rigging. BASE jumper Brian Lee Schubert, 66, of Alta Loma, California, died during Bridge Day 2006 (October 21) when his parachute did not open in time. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was the first that occurred during BASE jumping at the New River Gorge Bridge Day Festival since 1987, and only the third ever. One other BASE jumper was killed while performing an illegal, non-Bridge Day related jump.


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