Bear Mountain Bridge carries US Routes 6 and 202, the Appalachian Trail, and State Bike Route 9 over the Hudson River at Bear Mountain, New York.
The project for building a bridge across the Hudson River in the vicinity of Bear Mountain dates back to 1868, when the state legislature passed a bill that was subsequently signed into law by Governor Fenton, leading to the creation of the Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge Company. 1 2 3 This company attracted the investment of several prominent individuals, including Erastus Corning, Isaac Bell, and Addison P. Jones. 3 The initial plan from 1869 called for the construction of a suspension bridge to facilitate the transportation of coal and iron from New York and Pennsylvania to New England by way of a roadway and railroad between Fort Clinton and Anthony’s Nose. 1
The proposed bridge was to have a main span of 1,600 feet, with railway tracks on the upper level and a roadway on the lower level. 1 In 1871, the company engaged the services of Horatio Allen, Quincy Adams Gillmore, George B. McClellan, and Edward W. Serrell to design the structure. However, the complex terrain and the challenging task of building the necessary infrastructure to access the bridge site caused significant delays.
The plan called for construction to begin in June 1871 and the bridge to be completed by 1875, 4 but due to financial difficulties brought about by the Long Depression and stock market crashes in 1873 and 1893, no work was initiated. 5 By 1873, surveys had been completed for railroad branches between Turner’s Station (Harriman) and Fort Clinton on the west side of the Hudson and between Anthony’s Nose and Lake Mahopac on the east side of the Hudson. 1 Reports from 1887 indicated that the bridge would be finished within two years, although progress was slow, and by 1889, only one of the anchor pits had been completed. 6
The Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge Company was reorganized as the Hudson Highland Bridge & Railway Company in 1896 with a capital of $84,900. 7 However, the bridge construction project failed to materialize, and the charter for its construction lapsed in 1916. 5 Despite years of preparation and investment, the project only managed to complete some foundation preparations without any significant progress toward the construction of the bridge. 1
In March of 1922, the state legislature authorized the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, through a bill introduced by State Senator C. Ernest Smith, to construct a bridge for automobiles and a three-mile approach road from the Albany Post Road north of Peekskill. 1 8 9 The board of directors for this newly-formed entity included E. Roland Harriman, the son of railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman, and George W. Perkins Jr., whose father was president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The charter stipulated that ownership of the bridge would revert to New York State by 1962, and the state had the right to acquire the crossing at any time. In April, Harriman Brothers and Company issued a $4.5 million bond.
Design work for the bridge was led by Howard C. Baird, a New York City engineer, and construction was begun by Terry & Tench Company on March 24, 1923. 1 The eastern approach from the Albany Post Road was initiated in April 1923, necessitating excavation of the south face of Anthony’s Nose to the east at an elevation of 410 feet above the river. 9 The majority of the structure required excavation and fill, and due to the granite terrain, 70% of the material had to be drilled and blasted.
The main cables were completed in August of 1924, with each cable fabricated by John A. Roebling & Sons Company measuring 18 inches in diameter and having a length of 2,600 feet, composed of 7,452 individual wires. 1 These cables were supported by twin 355-foot-high steel towers. The last rivet was driven by former Governor Benjamin Odell on October 9.
On November 26, the new Bear Mountain Bridge was dedicated. 1 9 Mary Harriman, the mother of E. Roland Harriman, the President of the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, assisted in the formal opening day ceremonies. 9 The crossing was opened to traffic on November 27. 1 9 This bridge marked the first automobile bridge to cross the Hudson River south of Albany and exceeded the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge as the southernmost crossing of the river. 10 Upon its completion, the bridge held the title of the longest suspension bridge globally 9 until the Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey surpassed it 19 months later. 11 It also distinguished itself as the first of its kind to possess a concrete deck. 9 The bridge’s construction cost amounted to $6 million, with $2 million used to build the three-mile approach road from Peekskill. 1
The construction of the Bear Mountain Bridge facilitated the extension of the Bronx River Parkway from Kensico Dam to the north, which ultimately led to the Bear Mountain Parkway and the initial phase of the Taconic State Parkway.
The New York State Bridge Authority acquired ownership of the bridge on September 26, 1940, and reduced the toll to a flat rate of 50¢ per automobile. 1 9 12 13 This date coincided with the unveiling of the new four-lane Storm King bypass on US 9W. 1 In August 1970, tolls for westbound drivers were abolished, while those for eastbound motorists were doubled. Furthermore, tolls for 11 other crossings in the region were modified to be eastbound-only at that time. 14
The Bear Mountain Bridge and its original toll house, which was abandoned at the time, located several miles away on the Peekskill approach road, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Subsequently, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the bridge a local historic civil engineering landmark in 1986.
Routine inspections of the bridge cables entailed unwrapping them and using wedges to separate the individual strands to allow inspectors to check for any signs of moisture and corrosion. 15 To prevent moisture intrusion, a red lead paste was utilized to seal the strands, but this paste was prone to drying out and cracking after a few years. In the 1990s, engineers experimented with several materials on a small cable section and discovered that a polymer-based, non-toxic paste was superior. Thus, the cables were rewrapped in 2000 with this material.
In 2006, additional support cables were added, and a supplemental anchorage was embedded into the bedrock on the south side of the bridge. 9
Effective midnight on October 1, 2021, the bridge converted to all-electronic tolling.
- State: New York
- Route: US Route 6, US Route 202, Appalachian Trail, State Bike Route 9
- Type: Wire Suspension
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2,255 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,632 feet
- Deck Width: 48 feet
- Total Height: 360 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Bear Mountain Bridge.” ASCE Metropolitan Section.
- “Hudson Highland Bridge and Railway Company Records.” Rhode Island Historical Society.
- “General News.” Hartford Courant, 29 Apr. 1868, p. 3.
- “The Hudson Bridge: New Railroad Connections-Vast Saving in Time, Trouble and Expense-Coal Direct from the Mines.” New York Times, 20 May 1871.
- “New Scenic Motor Highway in Highlands of the Hudson.” New York Times, 6 May 1923, p. XX6.
- “The Anthony Nose Bridge.; Work on the Anchor Pits Progressing Rapidly.” New York Times, 4 Sept. 1889, p. 3.
- “A Suspension Bridge Company.” Democrat and Chronicle, 6 Mar. 1896.
- “Would Span Hudson at Bear Mountain.” New York Times, 9 Feb. 1922, p. 27.
- “The Bear Mountain Bridge.” New York State Bridge Authority.
- “Open New Bridge Over Hudson River.” New York Times, 27 Nov. 1924, p. 21.
- “Ben Franklin Bridge.” Delaware River Port Authority.
- “State Recaptures Bear Mt Bridge.” New York Times, 8 Aug. 1940, p. 21.
- “State Will Take Over Bear Mt. Span Today.” New York Times, 25 Sept. 1940, p. 21.
- Moran, Nancy. “One‐Way Tolls Confusing Some Drivers.” New York Times, 13 Aug. 1970.
- “Sticky solution.” Bridge Design & Engineering. 25 May 2008.