- The longest bridge in Connecticut is the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, a 6,000-foot-long bridge with two spans.
- The bridges have about 134 feet of clearance below them, more than enough for most boats that pass beneath them.
- These spans cross the Thames River, a short river that flows from the confluence of the Yantic and Shetucket Rivers to the Long Island Sound.
The state of Connecticut is known for its natural beauty, rich history, and for having somewhat large cities for such a small state. Yet, the region is not known for having incredibly wide rivers that necessitate the construction of very long bridges. While none of the longest bridges in the United States are located in Connecticut, the state still has at least one respectable bridge structure. Learn about the longest bridge in Connecticut, find out where it is located, and see how it came to be!
What is the Longest Bridge in Connecticut?
The longest bridge in Connecticut is the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, a 6,000-foot-long bridge with two spans. The bridge is roughly 1.13 miles long. While that may not be the most impressive bridge length, it’s still an important structure in the state.
Although the name makes it seem like a single span, the Gold Star Memorial Bridge consists of two spans. Both the northern and southern spans carry vehicles, but only the southbound span has a pedestrian pathway. Each span 80 feet wide, and together they carry over 120,000 cars over the Thames River between New London and Groton.
The bridges have about 134 feet of clearance below them, more than enough for most boats that pass beneath them. However, one ship struck the bridge in 1972.
The northern span carries southbound traffic, and the southern span carries northbound traffic. Without these spans, traffic would be pushed far to the north at the Thames River Bridge.
Where is the Gold Star Memorial Bridge Located on a Map?
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge is located between the city of New London and the town of Groton. These spans cross the Thames River, a short river that flows from the confluence of the Yantic and Shetucket Rivers to the Long Island Sound.
The bridge carries I-95 and US 1. The portion of the highway that crosses the bridge is officially known as the Jewish War Veterans Memorial Highway. The bridge may not be well-known outside of the state, but it’s still easy to find on a map.
The History of the Longest Bridge in Connecticut
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge was originally built in 1943. The first bridge was the modern south span, people used it to carry traffic in both directions. Back then, it was only a single span and not two spans.
The state built the second portion of the bridge in 1973, allowing more vehicles to travel over the river. By 1975, the south span was expanded, and it was designated to carry the northbound traffic.
The bridge was not always named the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. Instead, the name was added in 1951 to honor people that lost their lives in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
Today, the bridge serves as a major highway connection for people traveling between New York and Boston. Moreover, the bridge is used to facilitate the flow of traffic to the nearby U.S. Coast Guard Station at New London.
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge has been the site of some accidents throughout the years. During one incident, the US Coast Guard Academy’s USCGC Eagle (WIX-327) struck the north span of the bridge in 1972 while it was still under construction. The ship suffered considerable damage to both masts, and the ship had to undergo extensive repairs.
More recently, a truck carrying heating oil rolled over on the bridge on April 21, 2023. A passenger vehicle suffered a tire blowout, causing the vehicle to slam into the oil tanker. The oil tanker rolled over, dumping 2,200 gallons of heating oil onto the bridge, resulting in a large fire.
The Future of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge is undergoing a rehabilitation project helped by an influx of federal funds. Currently, the bridge is limited by the need for repairs and load restrictions. These factors reduce the number and types of vehicles that can safely pass over the bridge.
The United States Department of Transportation provided $158.2 million to the Connecticut Department of Transportation to help accelerate the bridge’s rehabilitation project.
The goal is to increase the weight limit of vehicles that cross the bridge, complete necessary repairs, and ensure that the project is completed faster than originally planned before the federal government granted the state additional money. The money will also help increase the number of pedestrians and bicyclists that cross the bridge.
What Animals Live Near the Gold Star Memorial Bridge?
Many animals live in the areas near the bridge and in the water that flows below it. In fact, people often charter boats to catch fish that live in the Thames River. Some of the most popular fish for people to catch include:
Yet, these are not the only creatures that live near the Thames River in Connecticut. People will also find:
These are just a few examples of the many animals that are found in New London County. The area near the bridge is rather urban, but the area is rife with state parks and other protected areas where animal populations can flourish.
The longest bridge in Connecticut is just about 6,000 feet long. Some sources have it listed as 5,931 feet as well. The uncertainty of the bridge’s size is not the strangest thing about the structure, though. The bridge consists of twin spans that were built decades apart! Still, the bridge is not quite finished growing. A new project is set up to reinforce the bridge and expand the pedestrian crossings. The Gold Star Memorial Bridge will continue to be a significant portion of the state’s roadway well into the future.
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