When the Vital Links Break

Completed in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge over New York City's East River has long served as a major traffic artery between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, with more than 240,000 commuters crossing the 1 1/2-mile steel span every day in cars, buses and subway trains. But the bridge is literally falling apart, the result of decades of neglect by city leaders who skimped on maintenance. Last April, after inspectors reported severe corrosion in key support beams and cracks in deck surfaces, the city temporarily closed the bridge. Result: bridgelock. As New Yorkers jammed other bridges and tunnels, the city's commuter rush expanded...

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