New River Gorge Bridge

Fayetteville, West Virginia

The New River carves a deep gorge through southern West Virginia. For years, to cross the New River Gorge, drivers were forced to take a 40-mile detour or carefully wind down narrow mountain roads. Despite its scenic beauty, the New River Gorge was a major obstacle.

Hired in 1967, Michael Baker provided comprehensive engineering services for the $37 million design and construction of the 3,030.5-foot-long New River Gorge Bridge. Services included location studies, preliminary and final design, alternatives development, environmental assessment, construction-phase services, and in-depth inspection and analysis. The design required 4,759 design calculation sheets and the equivalent of 15 years of full-time man hours.

Our team provided preliminary design of three alternates: a suspension bridge, a deck truss bridge, and an anchored truss arch bridge. In final design, we selected the arch bridge alternative and performed an environmental assessment. Construction phase services consisted of erection plan and details review, shop drawing review, resident inspection, and consultant services.

Innovative erection methods included the use of two cableways suspended from towers on each side of the gorge, in effect creating “a bridge to build a bridge,” due to the inaccessibility of the construction site and environmental conditions. The bridge features extensive appurtenances, such as large tooth-type rocker and pin bearings, large tooth-expansion joints, scuppers and downspouting, and momentum-transfer crash impact attenuators at the approaches.

As the longest steel arch in the country and second-longest steel-arch in the world, at 1,700 feet, the bridge carries four lanes of traffic 876 feet above water level over the New River Gorge and is constructed of COR-TEN steel to minimize future maintenance.

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 2013, after only 34 years, for its exceptional impact on local transportation and its engineering significance.


“The bridge continues to remind us of the importance of imagining a greater future, to challenge nature, economics, culture, technology and even the laws of physics to improve the quality of life for our communities. We’re just as proud of this bridge today as we were when it opened."

Brian A. Lutes

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