George Washington Bridge

Bike Paths Transformed!

By Cyndi Steiner, Executive Director, NJ Bike & Walk Coalition

In December 2011, the Port Authority announced that they would be replacing all 592 of the suspender ropes on the George Washington Bridge, and that this 10-year project would require the south path be closed for the 5 years needed on that side.

 

The late Ted Semegran, BTCNJ member, was the first to call out that this meant the bridge would be effectively closed to all but the hardiest riders (including those who have no choice but to commute by bike), as the north path has 171 steps across numerous staircases on both ends of the north path.

 

Riders currently must carry their bikes up and down these staircases to cross when the south path is closed, and that would be the state for the entire 5-year period. A coalition of organizations on both side of the bridge, including NJ Bike & Walk Coalition, Transportation Alternatives, NYCC and 5BBC, testified in February 2013 at the Board of Commissioners meeting of the Port Authority, asking that this situation be addressed.

 

Shortly thereafter, NJBWC, TA and BTCNJ participated in a day-long session consisting of a walk-through of both paths with the GWB bridge engineering and management teams, and a brainstorming session where we identified the most critical issues: the staircases and the steep narrow approach ramp on the NY-south side. With the suspender rope “Restoring the George” project already having its scope defined, we were limited in what we could ask for.

But we were
encouraged by the Authority’s
words: “We hear you;
we want to fix the problem.”

Over the ensuing several years, NJBWC and TA negotiated a $118 M win that includes the rebuild of all 4 entrances to the paths (NJ north and south; NY north and south), separated paths for bike riders and pedestrians, new sidewalks, ADA-compliant access ramps, elimination of stair ways and constricted turns on access ramps, introduction of spacious entry plazas and viewing platforms, and safety fencing along ramps and main span sidewalks to eliminate suicides (something the PA deals with on a regular  basis). For more information and renderings of the exciting changes to come, go to:

http://corpinfo.panynj.gov/docu-ments/George-Washington-Bridge-Supplemental-Information-on-Bike-and-Pedestrian-Access

 

Continuing our advocacy, in early February of this year, NJBWC and TA led a sign-on campaign of bicycle clubs and advocacy organizations on both sides of the river in providing comments on the Port Authority’s 10-year Capital Plan.  Among other requests, we asked for an exploration into the possibility of constructing wider paths around the towers, as these tend to be areas of safety concern to many riders.

 

On February 16, we listened in to the PA Board of Commissioners’ public proceedings on the Capital Plan, and were thrilled to learn that our request had been answered; that the paths around the towers will be modified so that the sharp angles will be transformed into smooth entrances into the tower area.

 

Another win for safety for bike riders and pedestrians on the George Washington Bridge!

 

Read our letter on the Capital plan.  and our press release.

 

Read the full article in the March Masterlink on Page 10.