New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world's longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years, it is now the fifth longest. An average of 16,200 motor vehicles cross the bridge each day.
Construction began on the bridge in June 1974, and was completed on October 22, 1977. The final cost of construction was $37 million (equivalent to $126 million in 2020 dollars). At the time, the bridge was the West Virginia Department of Highways' largest project in its history and cut the vehicle travel time from one side of the gorge to the other from about 45 minutes to 45 seconds.
BEAVER BOARD VISIT TO BRIDGE 1976
A steel catwalk two feet wide runs the full length of the bridge underneath the roadway. Originally built to facilitate inspections, the catwalk is open for guided, handicapped-accessible quarter-mile "Bridge Walk" tours; visitors use safety rigging.
Since its opening, the bridge has been the centerpiece of Fayette County's "Bridge Day", held the third Saturday of every October. This festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending, and BASE jumping. Bungee jumping, however, has been banned during Bridge Day since 1993.
The first person to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge was Burton Ervin, who lives in Cowen, West Virginia, and was a coal-mine foreman. Burton jumped on August 1, 1979, using a conventional parachute. Four BASE jumpers have died at the bridge, three of these during Bridge Day festivals.