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Bear Mountain Bridge
The Bear Mountain Bridge was designed with aesthetics in mind to help preserve the scenic beauty of the Hudson River Highlands.
At the time of its completion in 1924, the Bear Mountain Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world with a center span of 1,632 feet (497 m). It also was the first suspension bridge with a concrete deck and one of the first suspension bridges to be designed with aesthetics in mind to help preserve the scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Nestled between the 1,284-foot (391 m) high Bear Mountain and the 900-foot (270 m) high Anthony's Nose, the unique topography of the site enabled the main cables of the Bear Mountain Bridge to be anchored directly into solid rock formations on either side of the river. The anchorages are drilled into 100 feet (30 m) of bedrock on the eastern end and 80 feet (24 m) of bedrock on the western end.

This narrow portion of the Hudson River was first "spanned" in October 1776 when the Americans constructed a chain across the river to prevent the passage of British naval ships during the Revolutionary War. The chain was dismantled by the British during attacks at Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton but a second chain was installed two years later a few miles upstream at West Point, the site of the United States Military Academy (the oldest educational institution in the United States to offer formal academic instruction in the field of civil engineering and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark).

The first attempts to construct a suspension bridge across the Hudson River at Anthony's Nose began with the incorporation of the Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge Company in 1868. The primary purpose of the bridge across the Hudson River was to reduce the cost of transporting coal from Pennsylvania to New England. At the time, it was expected that the new bridge would be used by trains carrying 6 million tons (5.4 million t) of coal per year, eliminating the need to transport coal by boat from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Bear Mountain Bridge Plaque
Robert L. Cahill and Satoshi Oishi stand before the bronze plaque mounted near the west end of the bridge.

The proposed bridge was to have a main span of about 1,600 feet with railroad tracks on the upper level and a highway on the lower level. However, the difficulty in constructing railroads and highways through the mountainous area leading to the bridge delayed its construction. By 1873, surveys were 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. Several attempts were made to build the bridge in subsequent years, but the only work that was completed was preparations for the foundations.

On March 31, 1922, New York Governor Nathan Lewis signed a bill to incorporate the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, authorizing the company to construct a toll highway bridge across the Hudson River. The company's board of directors included E. Roland Harriman (the son of railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman) and George W. Perkins, Jr. (whose father was the president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission). The bill also gave New York State the right to purchase the bridge at a later date from the private company.

Construction of the Bear Mountain Bridge began on March 24, 1923 and the main cables were finished in August 1924. Each cable was fabricated by John A. Roebling & Sons, Company, is 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter, has a length of 2,600 feet (792 m), and is composed of 7,452 individual wires. The main cables are supported by 355-foot (108 m) high steel towers. New York City engineer Howard C. Baird designed the bridge, which was built by Terry & Tench Company. Former New York Governor Benjamin Odell drove the last rivet on October 9, 1924. The bridge cost a total of $6 million, of which $2 million was spent to construct the Bear Mountain Bridge Road towards Peekskill, a 3-mile (5 km) long approach road that was blasted out of granite alongside Anthony's Nose, 400 feet (122 m) above the Hudson River.

The Bear Mountain Bridge was dedicated in a ceremony on November 26, 1924 and opened the following day—during which 5,000 vehicles crossed the new bridge on the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Tolls for automobiles were eighty cents for a car and driver plus ten cents for each additional passenger, while pedestrians were charged ten cents to cross the bridge. The first highway bridge to cross the Hudson River south of Albany, the bridge helped to double the amount of visitors to Bear Mountain State Park and Harriman State Park, relieving traffic congestion on the ferries across the Hudson River. In addition to carrying US Routes 6 and 202, the Bear Mountain Bridge also forms a link in the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.

Bear Mountain Bridge
The main cables of the Bear Mountain Bridge are anchored directly into the solid rock formations of Anthony's Nose, as viewed from Bear Mountain.

In the 1930s, Robert Moses created the New York State Bridge Authority with the objective of purchasing the Bear Mountain Bridge from the private company that operated it. The bridge was sold to New York State for $2.3 million and taken over by the New York State Bridge Authority on September 26, 1940, which reduced the tolls on the bridge to a flat rate of 50 cents for motorists, cut in half from the average rate of one dollar collected by the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company. The bridge's takeover by New York State on September 26th also coincided with the opening of the new four-lane Storm King bypass roadway (Route 9W) between Highland Falls and Cornwall.

Spanning the Hudson River approximately four miles (6 km) north of Peekskill, the Bear Mountain Bridge links four different counties. On the western side tolls are collected in Orange County just a few feet northwest of Rockland County, in which the bridge's western tower stands. The eastern tower is located in Westchester County just a few feet south of where the northeastern approach crosses into Putnam County

The Bear Mountain Bridge and Toll House were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The Toll House is located approximately two miles (3 km) southeast on Bear Mountain Bridge Road (US Routes 6 and 202). It was recently restored to function as a tourist information and visitor center and also serves as the starting point for the Camp Smith Trail to the top of Anthony's Nose.

ASCE and the New York State Bridge Authority formally declared the Bear Mountain Bridge a Metropolitan Area Historic Civil Engineering Landmark on May 14, 1986. New York State Bridge Authority Chairman Robert L. Cahill accepted the designation from ASCE Met Section President Satoshi Oishi at a brief ceremony outside the office on the west end of the bridge in Fort Clinton and unveiled a bronze plaque marking the occasion.