The original Lower Trenton Bridge was the first bridge to span the Delaware River and opened to traffic on January 30, 1806. It was located on the same site as now occupied by the present structure. Prior to the opening of the bridge, river crossings were made by ferry, a means of travel made uncertain by floods and ice stages in the river with travel frequently delayed for weeks at a time.
The original bridge was constructed completely of wood and was covered by a roof of red cedar shingles. Both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania ends of the bridge featured high and elaborate fronts, with great arched doorways over the carriage ways and foot-walks. The piers and abutments were constructed of stone masonry designed to be elevated enough to clear the highest flood. As a result of floods reaching a level higher than expected during the construction period, the masonry was raised to a new high-water level. Because of this precaution, the bridge was not swept away during the 1841 flood that destroyed five other bridges over the Delaware north of Trenton. Several years later, the bridge was remodeled to permit passage of locomotives and became the first bridge in the United States to be used for interstate railroad traffic.
The current 1,022-foot bridge is a five-span Warren Truss built in 1928. The roadway consists of two lanes: a lane in each direction separated by the center truss. The substructure — originally built in 1804, widened and raised in 1874 — consists of stone masonry. The down-river truss displays the “Trenton Makes The World Takes” sign, which is mounted to the truss members; hence, the bridge’s nickname. The original sign was erected in 1935 and most recently replaced in 2005.
The bridge is currently posted for a five-ton weight limit, a ten-foot vertical clearance, and a 25 MPH speed limit.