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Bear Mountain Bridge, New York

The Bear Mountain Bridge crosses the Hudson River about 40 miles north of New York City. Constructed in 1924, Bear Mountain was the first traffic bridge to cross the Hudson. When constructed, it was about 30 feet longer than the Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan, making it the longest suspension span in the world, although the bridge only held that record for a few years.

It is interesting to note that the main driving force behind the location of this first bridge over the Hudson was not primarily technical or logistical. The location was not selected because it was the easiest place to construct a bridge, or to link economically important communities together. Instead, it was constructed to open up access to Bear Mountain State Park west of the Hudson.

Bear Mountain State Park was developed on private land donated by E. Roland Harriman, in 1910. The park became the prominent outdoor playground for well-heeled New Yorkers. It had one problem, though, which was that New York City was on the east side of the Hudson and the park was on the west side. This was no problem for the tens of thousands who visited the park by steamboats from New York City, but by the 1920s, more and more people wanted to access the park in their cars, resulting in enormous traffic backups at the ferry landings near the park. By 1923, a private company began construction of the bridge, which opened in 1924.

There is also a detailed description of the bridge, and the state park area, in my book, Bridgespotting Part 2: A Guide to Even More Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times.

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