As the oldest of NYSBA’s bridges, Bear Mountain Bridge was the first vehicular river crossing between New York City and Albany. At the time it was built, it was also the longest suspension bridge in the world and the first suspended bridge to have a concrete deck. The project of building the Bear Mountain Bridge marked the beginning of a golden age of long span bridge building along the Hudson River and throughout the New York metropolitan area.
The popularity of nearby Bear Mountain State Park, which opened in the 1910s, led to the need for a span across the river to replace the ferryboats which could no longer accommodate the crowds and their automobiles. In February 1922, the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, a privately financed entity, was created through a bill passed by the New York State Legislature, allowing for a vehicular bridge to be built across the Hudson at Bear Mountain.
Just 20 months and four days after the contract was signed, the longest suspension bridge in the world was completed without the loss of a single life. On November 26, 1924, Mary Harriman, mother of Mr. E. Roland Harriman, President of the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, helped preside over the opening day ceremonies.
The New York State Bridge Authority purchased the Bear Mountain Bridge from the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company on September 26, 1940 for $2,275,000. One of NYSBA’s first achievements was to lower the basic passenger car rate from $.80 to $.50 each way. On January 1, 1942, the toll was lowered further to $.35 and then to $.25 each way on July 15, 1945.
In 2018, an act of the State Legislature, The Purple Heart Veterans memorial Bear Mountain Bridge, was ceremoniously named to pay tribute to soldiers who were killed or wounded in defense of the United States.
The Bear Mountain Bridge celebrates 100 years of service in 2024.