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April 19, 2007

NYS Bridge Authority – 75 Years of Service

From humble beginnings in 1932 to more than 58 million crossings in 2006, the spans of the NYS Bridge Authority have served a vital role in the prosperity and cultural heritage of the Hudson Valley.

“Today, the Bridge Authority holds the highest bond rating given any toll-supported transportation entity, provides safe and convenient access across five bridges from Westchester and Rockland counties to Columbia and Greene counties and charges one of the lowest tolls for any self-supported bridge authority in the nation,” Authority Chairman James Sproat said.

The origin of the Bridge Authority was embodied in the Great Depression during the 1930’s and ‘40’s. 

State finances were in short supply and an originally proposed plan for the state to build the Rip Van Winkle Bridge was vetoed by then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.  A possible precursor to the ‘New Deal’, Roosevelt supported the creation of an Authority, separate from state finances, to let bonds for funding construction and repaying debt though the collection of tolls. 

            The Rip Van Winkle Bridge was dedicated in 1935.
           
In 1933, the Authority acquired the Mid-Hudson Bridge, originally built by the State Department of Public Works in 1930.  The Bear Mountain Bridge, originally built by a private venture in 1923, was sold to the Authority in 1940.

Of note, the toll to cross the Mid-Hudson Bridge for a car with 3 passengers in 1933 was $1.10, more than the $1.00 charged today.  The $.75 toll for a wagon and two horses is no longer charged.

The Authority dedicated the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge in 1957, the first span of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge in 1963 and the second span in 1980.

The Bridge Authority has been recognized over its 75 years for a number of innovations and its continued support for Hudson Valley communities.

The Authority provides safe roosting areas for Peregrine Falcons, received national recognition for innovative lighting that adds an element of art and design to the Mid-Hudson Bridge and provides a venue for many community service groups allowing the bridges to be an integral part of the stewardship of the Hudson River and its communities.

While all the original bonds of the Authority have been paid, and current bonds are financed at a very low rate; the Authority continues to operate a cost- effective transportation agency.  The Authority receives no tax dollars for operation or maintenance and is supported by tolls paid by the users of the bridges.

Earlier this year, Moody’s Investors Service gave the Authority an Aa2 rating, the highest rating given any toll-supported transportation entity in the nation, and an accolade shared by only two others across the country.  Moody’s particularly cited the “Financial performance of the authority remains quite strong even though the authority has only raised tolls twice since its inception in 1932.”

Looking forward, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge will be a test site for the next generation in electronic toll collection, which is designed to provide safer, more efficient transportation and will continue to provide well-maintained, cost effective Hudson River crossings.

“As we celebrate our 75th anniversary and look forward to 2009 for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river that bears his name, preserving our history and the stories behind them lends perspective to the true impact of the Hudson River and its bridges for future generations,” Sproat said.

 

The 5 Bridges of the New York State Bridge Authority

Rip Van Winkle Bridge
With state financing unavailable during the Great Depression, the NYS Bridge Authority was originally created to build the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, financed through bonds to be repaid by toll revenue.
Over 7,000 people joined Governor Herbert Lehman to dedicate the span on July 2, 1935.

Kingston-Rhinecliff “George Clinton” Bridge
In 1946, the New York State Legislature instructed the Bridge Authority to begin operating the Kingston-Rhinecliff Ferry and, in 1952, authorized the construction of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
Opened by Governor Averill Harriman on February 2, 1957, more than 500 spectators waited in long lines to cross the new bridge for free before the Bridge Authority began collecting tolls at 4 p.m. that afternoon. 

Mid-Hudson “Franklin D. Roosevelt” Bridge
Originally approved by Governor Alfred E. Smith, the Mid-Hudson Bridge was officially opened on August 25, 1930 by then Governor Roosevelt. 
When it opened, the bridge won recognition as the most beautiful suspension bridge in this part of the country and in 1983 was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a Civil Engineering Landmark.
In 1933 the newly formed Bridge Authority acquired the bridge from the New York State Department of Public Works which built it.

Newburgh-Beacon “Hamilton Fish” Bridge
The most traveled of NYSBA’s bridges, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge carries more than 25 million crossings a year across Interstate 84.  The original north span was dedicated by Governor Nelson Rockefeller on November 2, 1963.  Responding to increased traffic from the development of I-84, the south span opened in November 1, 1980.

Bear Mountain Bridge
The oldest of NYSBA's bridges, the Bear Mountain Bridge was the first river crossing between New York City and Albany.  It was also the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built in the 1920's. 
Originally built by the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Company, the span was privately financed by stockholders.  The Bear Mountain Bridge was opened to traffic on Thanksgiving Day, 1924.
On September 25, 1940, the Bridge Authority bought Bear Mountain on behalf of the state for $2,275,000

 

Mission Statement:
The mission of the New York State Bridge Authority is to maintain and operate safe vehicle crossings over the Hudson River entrusted to its jurisdiction for the economic and social benefit of the people of the state.

 

Board of Commissioners
The Board of Commissioners is the governing Board of the New York State Bridge Authority.  The Board consists of seven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the NYS Senate.  They serve five-year terms and receive no compensation.

Members of the Board of Commissioners are:
James P. Sproat, Chairman; Roderick O. Dressel, Vice Chairman; Robert P. Carter; Richard A. Gerentine; Thomas J. Madison Jr.; Walter A. Paradies; and David A. Teator.

Quick Facts about the New York State Bridge Authority

  • The NYS Bridge Authority operates the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle bridges. 
  • The Authority is funded from bridge tolls and receives no tax monies for bridge maintenance and operation.
  • The Authority holds the highest bond rating given any toll-transportation entity in the United States, reducing bond and annual costs.
  • The $1 passenger vehicle toll for east-bound passage on all Authority bridges is among the lowest nationwide for self-supporting transportation agencies (there is no toll for west-bound passage).