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Bear Mountain Bridge
Bear Mountain Bridge, NY, looking south from Hudson River.JPG
Bear Mountain Bridge in 2009
Carries 2 lanes of US 6 / US 202 and Appalachian Trail and State Bike Route 9
Crosses Hudson River
Locale Cortlandt / Bear Mountain
Other name(s) Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bridge (ceremonial)
Maintained by New York State Bridge Authority
Design Suspension bridge
Total length 2,255 feet (687 m)
Width 48 feet (15 m)
Height 360 feet (110 m)
Longest span 1,632 feet (497 m)
Clearance below 155 feet (47 m)
Opened 1924
Daily traffic 17,695 (2007)
Toll (eastbound only) cars $1.75 cash, $1.35 E-ZPass
Bear Mountain Bridge
Bear Mountain Bridge is located in New York
Bear Mountain Bridge
Location in New York
Bear Mountain Bridge is located in the United States
Bear Mountain Bridge
Location in the United States
Location Cortlandt / Bear Mountain
Built 1923
Architect Baird, Howard C.; Terr & Tench Construction Co.
MPS Hudson Highlands MRA
NRHP reference No. 82001266
Added to NRHP November 23, 1982

The Bear Mountain Bridge, ceremonially named the Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bridge, is a toll suspension bridge in New York State. It carries US 6 and US 202 across the Hudson River between Bear Mountain State Park in Orange County, less than a half mile north of the Rockland County line, and Cortlandt in Westchester County, less than a half mile south of the Putnam County line. At completion in 1924 it was longest suspension bridge in the world until this record was surpassed 19 months later by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. The Bear Mountain Bridge has an unconventional structure among suspension bridges; though the main span hangs from cables in the usual manner, the side spans leading to the approaches are suspended by their truss work, drawing no support from the cables above, similar to the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City.

The span enables connections between the Palisades Interstate Parkway and US 9W on the west bank near Bear Mountain and NY 9D on the east bank as well as US 9 and the Bear Mountain Parkway farther east. It also carries the Appalachian Trail and New York State Bicycle Route 9 across the Hudson.

The bridge has two lanes, separated by a dividing double yellow line. Pedestrian walkways flank each lane. Bicycling is permitted on the roadway; cyclists may walk their bikes on the pedestrian walkway.


Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge

Plans for a bridge at the site had been made as early as 1868. The following year, The New York Times reported that a contract had been signed and construction would "speedily commence" on the "Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge" between Fort Clinton and Anthony's Nose. The intent was to carry a railroad toward Derby, Connecticut, to supply coal and iron for industry in the lower Naugatuck Valley. The surface of the bridge was to be 150 feet (46 m) above high tide. In 1871 the newspaper reported that capital of $2.5 million had been raised and construction was expected to begin in 1875.

In 1887, reports said the bridge would be finished in two years. By 1889, "work on the anchor pits was progressing rapidly."

The story again resurfaces in 1896, when the Hudson Highland Bridge and Railway Company reportedly filed for incorporation with capital of $84,900. The company was described as a reorganization of the former Hudson Suspension Bridge and New England Railway Company, which at some point included steel magnate Andrew Carnegie on its board.

Much of this period coincided with the so-called Long Depression, including stock market crashes called the Panic of 1873 and Panic of 1893. A charter for construction of the bridge expired in 1916.

Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company

In March 1922, the state Legislature authorized creation of the private Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company to complete the project, including a 3-mile (4.8 km) approach road from the Albany Post Road north of Peekskill. The 11-member board of directors included financiers E. Roland Harriman and George W. Perkins. A $4.5 million bond issue was completed in April of that year through the Harriman banking and brokerage firm. Under the 1922 charter, ownership of the bridge was to revert by 1962 to New York State, which also had the right to acquire the bridge at any time.


When the bridge formally opened on November 27, 1924, it was the longest suspension bridge span in the world, and the first of its type to have a concrete deck. It was the first automobile bridge to cross the Hudson south of Albany, and surpassed the 1888 Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge as the southernmost crossing of the river.

Construction methods pioneered on the Bear Mountain Bridge influenced much larger projects to follow, including the George Washington (1931) and Golden Gate (1937) bridges. Completion also inspired the state to extend the Bronx River Parkway from Kensico Dam northward, work which evolved into the Bear Mountain Parkway and the first phase of the Taconic State Parkway.

New York State Bridge Authority

Ownership was transferred to the New York State Bridge Authority on September 26, 1940, and the toll was reduced to a flat rate of 50 cents per automobile. Originally, tolls were collected in both directions. In August 1970, the toll was abolished for westbound drivers, and at the same time, eastbound drivers saw their tolls doubled. The tolls of eleven other New York–New Jersey and Hudson River crossings along a 130-mile (210 km) stretch, from the Outerbridge Crossing in the south to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the north, were also changed to eastbound-only at that time.

In 1982 the bridge and its then-abandoned original toll house several miles away on the Peekskill approach road, Routes 6 and 202, were added to the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was also designated as a local historic civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1986.

Toll rates were increased on May 1, 2020; the passenger automobile toll is $1.75 for those paying cash or $1.35 for those using E-Z Pass, and is collected from eastbound travelers only.

Maintenance innovation

The Bridge was used to test several new materials designed to lower the cost and environmental impact of bridge cable maintenance. One of them proved promising.

During routine inspections, bridge cables are unwrapped and wedges are used to separate the individual strands. Inspectors look for signs of moisture and corrosion throughout the cable. For over 100 years, a red lead paste was used to seal the strands against moisture intrusion. In addition to emerging as an environmental hazard during that span, the paste was also prone to drying out and cracking in a few years, creating an ongoing maintenance task.

In the 1990s engineers experimented with several materials on a small section of the cables of the Bear Mountain Bridge. After a year the test areas were reexamined and one polymer-based, non-toxic paste was found to be superior. The bridge cables were then rewrapped in 2000 using the material. Seven years later the cables were found to be free of additional moisture or corrosion. New York State Bridge Authority chief engineer William Moreau expressed hope that the new material may lengthen the life of the cables, and lower the need for inspection and maintenance.


Panoramic View of Bear Mountain Bridge from Anthony's Nose
Panoramic view of Bear Mountain Bridge from Anthony's Nose. To the right are three bridges over Popolpen Creek: the Popolopen Railroad Bridge, the Popolopen Pedestrian Bridge and the Popolopen Highway Bridge.
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