The Mid Hudson Bridge is a wire suspension crossing that carries US Route 44 and NY Route 55 over the Hudson River between Ulster County and Poughkeepsie, New York
The concept of constructing a bridge over the Hudson River traces its origins back to the 19th century. 5 Thomas Pope, a prominent builder during that era, initially advanced the idea of constructing a cantilever-type span in the vicinity of Poughkeepsie. Subsequently, in 1855, Benjamin Watkins, an engineer, proposed a suspension bridge at the same location due to the area’s elevated shoreline.
In 1868, an editorial by John I. Platt was published in the local newspaper, which led to increased interest among local business leaders and residents regarding the need for a bridge. 5 Consequently, a committee of leaders in the city made efforts to secure a charter for the construction of a railroad bridge in Poughkeepsie, which was granted by the state legislature in 1871. The eastern approach was initiated on Reynolds Hill on November 26, 1873, with the new crossing eventually opening in 1888.
The movement for a vehicular crossing began in 1919 when Governor Alfred E. Smith expressed support for the plan. 5 Despite efforts to convert the railroad bridge to vehicular use, a long legal battle ensued between local leaders and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Ultimately, engineers concluded that the bridge could not withstand the added weight of the roadway.
Subsequently, a local committee raised funds and retained George W. Goethals & Company to survey and prepare plans. 5 The firm estimated the cost of constructing a cantilever bridge at $4.9 million. In 1923, legislation was introduced in the state legislature by J. Griswold Webb and John M. Hackett, calling for the construction of the bridge. 1 At that time, the only existing bridge across the river south of Albany was the Bear Mountain Bridge. In support of the initiative, the Hudson Valley Bridge Association, which comprised of local leaders, business people, civic groups, and area clergy, lobbied for the bridge. On June 2, 1923, Governor Smith signed the legislation, which appropriated $200,000 for the provision of surveys, specifications, and preliminary work. 1 3 5
The Mid-Hudson Bridge design contract was awarded to Modjeski & Moran, a well-respected bridge design firm of the 20th century. 1 3 Initial plans called for a suspension bridge 3,000 feet in length with two river piers and three spans. 3 There was some contention from steamboat captains as to the placement of the piers near the Poughkeepsie docks, but the concerns were overruled.
Construction of the $484,570 substructure of the bridge commenced by Scott Brothers Construction Company of Rome in May 1925, 5 and on October 9, the cornerstone was laid. 1 3 The river piers were constructed on 200,000-pound caissons that were installed in the riverbed with the open end facing downwards. Weight was then added to the caissons while the earth below was excavated until it hit solid rock. The bottom of the caissons was subsequently sealed with tremie concrete to enable the workers to access the interior and complete the pier construction.
The construction work was halted for a year in July 1927 when the east caisson experienced a severe tilt, even though it was situated 84 feet below the water line. 1 3 The structure had to be rectified using pulleys and dredged at a rate of 18 inches per day for two years. The erection of the $2.9 million superstructure was then initiated by the American Bridge Company in April 1929. 5
The new $5.6 million Mid-Hudson Bridge was dedicated on August 25, 1930, by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, former Governor Smith and his wife, and Poughkeepsie Mayor Lovelace. 1 4 The inauguration featured a parade, a ceremony in Union Square, and fireworks. Mrs. Smith cut the ribbon on the east side of the span at 5:30 PM, while Mrs. Roosevelt cut the ribbon on the west side. An automobile procession began from both sides and met in the middle, with 12,000 automobiles and 30,000 pedestrians crossing the bridge for free on the first day alone.
During its construction, two men were reported killed. 5 At the time of its opening, the Mid-Hudson Bridge was the sixth-longest suspension crossing in the world.
On March 17, 1933, the recently established New York State Bridge Authority procured ownership of the bridge from the New York State Department of Public Works. 1 In order to facilitate the movement of peak hour and weekend traffic, the east approach to the bridge was expanded in 1949.
The escalation in economic growth engendered an excessive burden upon the Mid-Hudson Bridge. 6 Consequently, the State Department of Public Works deliberated upon the feasibility of erecting a supplementary adjacent structure to alleviate the overburdening of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Toward that goal, in 1965, $1.5 million was allocated by the state legislature for the construction of a new 2.66-mile four-lane highway approach, interchange with US Route 9W, and toll plaza on the bridge’s western side, which was opened to traffic at the cost of $4.7 million 7 on December 20, 1967. 8 Notably, the toll-collecting equipment implemented employed electro-mechanical techniques. While this alleviated congestion at the toll plaza, it did little to ease congestion on the bridge itself.
In August 1970, tolls for westbound drivers were abolished, while those for eastbound motorists were doubled. 2 Furthermore, tolls for 11 other crossings in the region were modified to be eastbound only at that time.
The Mid-Hudson Bridge’s 50th anniversary was marked on August 24, 1980, with a rededication of the bridge plaque, speeches by local politicians and dignitaries, a reception at the Barrett House, an antique car show, and fireworks. 1 The American Society of Civil Engineers honored the Mid-Hudson Bridge as a New York State Civil Engineering Landmark in 1983.
Persistent traffic congestion on the Hudson River bridge prompted state officials to investigate the potential construction of a new crossing in the vicinity of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in 1983. 9 The proposed alignments under consideration encompassed a fresh bridge located opposite to NY Route 299 in Highland, along a former railway right-of-way that had been abandoned, and a parallel span to the Mid-Hudson. It was estimated that a bridge could be built by 1990 at the cost of $100 million.
During the summer, a trial of a new traffic flow system was conducted, revealing that a road segment typically consisting of two lanes required an expansion to three lanes during peak hours, with two of the lanes accommodating the highest traffic volume. 1 The roadway deck was replaced in 1987-88.
In 1994, the bridge was ceremoniously renamed the Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge by the state legislature in recognition of the former governor and president’s significant role in the establishment of the New York State Bridge Authority. 3
The Mid-Hudson Bridge Scenic Walkway was inaugurated on October 24, 1999, thereby becoming the solitary dedicated walkway spanning the Hudson River in a 60-mile stretch between Newburgh and Hudson. 1 As part of the 70th-anniversary celebrations of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in 2000, visitors were granted tours of the newly constructed pedestrian walkway and were given access to the east anchorage room, a location on the bridge that had seldom been accessible to the public.
During that year, the bridge underwent a painting and steel repair project, which included repairing substructures and steel, dehumidifying the anchorage, fixing the roadway, removing lead paint, and applying a new coat of silver paint. 1 In 2001, the bridge was further enhanced with the installation of LED necklace lighting designed by Baker Engineering. Each fixture was fitted with multi-colored LEDs and a microprocessor to produce over 16.7 million colors and color-changing effects. The Bridge Authority promptly unveiled the new lights ahead of schedule, illuminating the bridge with red, white, and blue colors in honor of the victims of September 11, 2001.
In 2009, local composer Joseph Bertolozzi created Bridge Music, a public sound-art installation that utilizes sounds recorded on the Mid-Hudson Bridge to create a suite of music. Visitors can experience listening stations along the bridge’s pedestrian path from April through October, and the project is broadcast year-round within the bridge’s vicinity on 95.3 FM, marking the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial year.
- State: New York
- Route: US Route 44, NY Route 55
- Type: Wire Suspension
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 4,201 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,495 feet
- Deck Width: 30.8 feet
- Total Height: 280 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 14.7 feet
- Navigational Clearance: 135 feet
- “The Mid-Hudson Bridge.” New York State Bridge Authority.
- Moran, Nancy. “One‐Way Tolls Confusing Some Drivers.” New York Times, 13 Aug. 1970.
- “The Mid-Hudson Bridge – 90 Years of Crossing the Hudson.” Poughkeepsie Public Library District.
- “New Bridge Spans the Hudson.” Democrat and Chronicle, 26 Aug. 1930, p. 1.
- “Poughkeepsie’s New Vehicular Bridge.” Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, 22 Sept. 1928, p. 14.
- “Bixby Forsees Need for Second Spans As Beacon, City Area Growth Continues.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 27 Nov. 1964, p. 1.
- “Preparations Begun to Pave Mid-Hudson Bridge Approach.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 16 Jul. 1967, p. 6C.
- “West End Toll Booths of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 17 Dec. 1967, p. 4.
- Auster, Harvey. “Differences over bridge separate 2 counties.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 13 Apr. 1983, p. 13.