New York State Bridge Authority
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.
In 1933, during the construction of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Authority acquired the Mid-Hudson Bridge, originally built by the State Department of Public Works in 1930.
Of note, the toll for a round trip across the Mid-Hudson Bridge for a car with 3 passengers in 1933 was $2.20, more than the $1.25 charged today. The 1933 $1 toll for a one horse wagon is no longer charged.
The Rip Van Winkle Bridge was dedicated in 1935.
The Bear Mountain Bridge, originally built by a private venture in 1923, was sold to the Authority in 1940.
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 law creating the New York State Bridge Authority is found in the Bridge Authority Act, currently Sections 525 to 542 of the New York Public Authorities Law and defines the Bridge Authority’s mission as “to maintain and operate the safe vehicle crossings over the Hudson River entrusted to its jurisdiction for the economic and social benefit of the people of the State of New York.”
The crossings listed in the statute are: the Rip Van Winkle Bridge between Hudson and Catskill; the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge; the Mid-Hudson Bridge between Poughkeepsie and Highland; the parallel Newburgh-Beacon spans; and the Bear Mountain Bridge.
The Authority believes its mandate imposes a responsibility to provide reliable, safe and convenient access across the river to all lawful traffic and to achieve that goal within the framework of a sound long-term financial policy. The elements of that policy are:
An unqualified commitment to meet all obligations to the bondholders in the full letter and spirit of the Authority’s General Revenue Bond Resolution and the covenants made therein;
A vigorous, integrated program of inspection, maintenance, repair and rehabilitation to insure the structural integrity of its facilities and the safety of its patrons;
Control of expenditures to the extent consistent with prudent stewardship and responsible administration; and
The lowest possible toll rates which at the same time enable the Authority to meet its obligations and responsibilities as well as provide for adequate financial reserves.
The area of New York State Law that empowers the New York State Bridge Authority is found in the Consolidated Laws of New York under Public Authorities, Article 3 (Bridge & Tunnel Authorities), Title 2 (Section 525-542): New York State Bridge Authority.