2023/02 – North (South) Path Plan

Complete George is two hundred organizations, communities and electeds calling on the Port Authority to widen the bikeways across the George Washington Bridge.  

With the opening of the NorthWalk, the current ask is for the PA to spend $60 million widen the remaining South Path into a modern bikeway.  Or—if the PA won’t self-fund the project—for the states to pick up the tab.

Current GWB PathScreen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.18.14 AMCurrent GWB. (1) 7′ path for pedestrians, runners and cyclists.  Photo by Hassan Diop.

Between 2018 and 2025, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will rip out and restore the 1931-era, 7 foot paths on the George Washington Bridge as part of a $1.9 billion program to Restore the George.

The George is the sole bike-able connector between North Jersey and NYC.  Its paths are already dangerously overcrowded at 3700 cyclists per day, on weekends, and growing 10.4% per year between 2010 and 2015.

If the paths aren’t widened to comply with national standards for a high use cycling facility (AASHTO), the George will become a solely pedestrian facility.

This will hobble the growth of cycling across the region for generations, impacting durable enhancements to tourism, public health, affordability, competitiveness, sustainability and resilience annually worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • For six months in 2015, NYCDOT recorded an average 3700 trips per day on weekends, making the GWB the #3 most heavily biked bridge in NYC.
  • Between 2010 and 2015 it was also the fastest growing at 10.4% per year.
  • Yet at 7 foot wide, the George has by far the narrowest path.

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 7.15.24 PM.pngData sources: NYCDOT and PANYNJ.  Measurements by Neile Weissman.

  • At 521 users per hour, travel across the GWB paths well exceeds AASHTO‘s 300 user-per-hour threshold to widen the paths to 14 foot.
  • Remarkably, this growth has occurred on a facility with an FHWA level of service of “F – Failing“.

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 7.49.28 PM.png

Port Authority’s ADA-compliant PlanScreen Shot 2017-07-17 at 12.04.16 PMPort Authority’s Plan: (1) 7′ path for peds-runners.  (1) 7′ path for cyclists.  11′ high anti-suicide barrier.  Rendering by Amman & Whitney.

The PA’s “Restore the George” plan for the paths would:

  • Replace stairs on the North Path with ramps.
  • Widen the NY-NJ approaches.
  • Assign one path to pedestrians-runners and another to bicyclists.
  • Restore paths on the mile-long span to 7 foot, in compliance with ADA.

Unfortunately, PA’s plan won’t improve the GWB’s current level of service.

  • Peds-runners comprise just 25% of current peak use.
  • 5-10% of pedestrians and runners will still use the bike path.
  • Melt-refreeze of snow accumulation will continue to restrict winter access.
  • Safety barriers will obstruct views of city skylines and the Palisades.
  • ADA won’t insulate the PA from liability in crashes involving cyclists.
  • If current levels of growth sustain, its grade will remain “F – Failing”.

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 11.16.11 AM.png

North Path Plan

gwb-enhanced-1Upgraded North Path: 10′ path for cyclists, 7′ path for peds-runners, 9′ high barrier. Rendering by Joseph Lertola.

Complete George’s AASHTO-compliant proposal would cantilever a 10 foot bikeway and safety barrier below the existing 7 foot path which would both be reserved for peds and runners. 

  • It would maintain unobstructed views of pedestrians and runners.
  • No cables intruding on bikeways allow them to be fully snowplowed.
  • AASHTO-compliance insulates the PA from liability.
  • FHWA grade for fully widened paths will be “A – Excellent“

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 11.18.44 AM.png

South Path Plan (January, 2023 update)

In early 2023, it is expected that the Port Authority will open the George Washington Bridge north path when it moves the $1.9 billion recabling project to the southern span.  It will then face a choice. 

It can allow cyclists to use a facility not half as wide as needed for safe use—which will expose the PA to potentially endless litigation.  Or—if the sign over the entrance is to be taken at face value—it can make everyone walk the one mile span.

NORTHWALK Darren Bartels2New York entrance to the renamed GWB “NorthWalk.”  Photo Darren T. Bartells.

This brings us to the South Path, which the PA will close for four years.  The image below depicts a temporary catwalk erected under the existing walkway to facilitate the recabling.  

original_south_bike_lane_01Catwalk spanning GWB South Path.   Looking west from the NJ-side tower.

The next image is a rendering of a proposed 10′ wide bikeway occupying the same space. The bikeway routes through the towers following the same track as the upper walkway.  The two paths merge at the new access ramps.

new_south_bike_lane_low_01Design for permanent bikeway under existing sidewalk.  Rendering Joseph Lertola.

  • Cables don’t extend to the lower level, so cyclists can use the full 10’ width.
  • The lower bikeway would be sheltered from falling ice.
  • Keeping the path within the structure should simplify design and reduce cost.

GWB SOUTH GIRDERSGWB South Path showing supports for the entrance ramp—which ends before tower.

Both the North and South Path proposals are consistent with original designs which feature a pair of 15 foot wide promenades.

GWB ASCE 19331933 drawing with 15 foot promenades.  American Society of Engineers and PANYNJ.


Based on PA engineering studies, the projected the cost to widen the path is $60 million—or $6 million per year for 10 years.  

How North (South) Path Plan Advances Goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

Benefit Underserved Constituencies

Create Jobs and Develop Local Economies

Preserve Access to Green Space

Invest in Resilient Infrastructure

Have a Positive Effect on Climate Change

Neile Weissman, 2023