Over the past year, approximately 345,000 bike riders and 205,000 pedestrians made their way across the George Washington Bridge. According to the Port Authority, starting in 2015 and going until at least 2021, the path to bicycle across the bridge will be closed or rerouted so that they may replace all 592 suspender ropes and clean all four main cables on the bridge.
A coalition of bicycling advocates from New York City and New Jersey teamed up to ensure this necessary maintenance work affects the bicycling route as little as possible. New York City’s Transportation Alternatives and New York Cycle Club, along with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey petitioned the Port Authority to improve the George Washington Bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian crossings in anticipation of the upcoming maintenance project.
Under the Port Authority’s current plan, access to the north and south paths of the bridge will alternate during the maintenance project. Unfortunately, neither path is ideal. The south path closure is expected to last three to four years; additionally, its New York City ramp is a dangerous route with the tight hairpin turn at the end. The north path has its own challenges including 171 stairs to negotiate with a bike on your shoulder. Both paths suffer from low visibility at the towers, crowded ramps leading to the bridge, and tight squeezes where the paths narrow at gateways and standpipes. For these reasons, our coalition is pursuing a solution for the north path.
On February 6, 2013, advocates from T.A., NJBWC, and NYCC presented their case at the Port Authority Board Meeting. The Port Authority invited these advocates to participate in a tour of the bridge paths and brainstorm solutions with engineers and planners from Port Authority, Planning Corps, the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, and the engineering firm of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. Participants discussed in detail the pros and cons of the design of both paths from a cyclist’s perspective and highlighted the trouble spots as well as suggested improvements.
In March 2014, we returned to the Board of Commissioners to continue our case. At that meeting, they voted to approve a project to make both paths of the bridge ADA compliant at a cost of $56 million. The improvements include the elimination of all 171 steps and 6+ staircases that literally plague a crossing of the north path, and replacement with AASHTO-compliant ramps, so that the shared use path on the bridge will be completely accessible by bicycle. Also included is the removal of the south hairpin, or “noodle,” as some riders refer to it, on the Manhattan side of the bridge; that ramp will be replaced with an AASHTO-compliant ramp. A suicide screen, new sidewalks and a new lighting system complete the package. These improvements add $56 million to the overall cost of the suspender rope project.
NJBWC will continue to work with the Port Authority to implement this project, which is expected to be completed in 2024. For additional details on the bridge project and what we see as a possible future for the bridge, please click here:
Please direct any questions and concerns to NJBWC at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition