Hudson River Crossing - Pro Tips?
April 1, 2008 11:16 AM   Subscribe

GW vs. Tappan Zee: Pro tips for deciding on route?

I travel back and forth between New England and my relatives in NJ (and points south) frequently. Most of these journeys entail a Hudson River crossing.

I'm pretty good at telling when the bad times are to cross (Sunday evenings, especially in summer, and rush hours on both ends) but I don't really have any sense of what factors to weigh when choosing a crossing. I listen to the traffic report like anyone else, and know where the points are that I can easily switch from Garden State Parkway to Jersey Turnpike. But I feel like I'm doing guesswork and floundering in the dark. It seems to me that there are people who are sort of wizards at knowing where and when to cross the Hudson. What are your pieces of advice on trip planning and on when a last-minute change-up is called for? GW, upper or lower? When and why?
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I always take the Tappan Zee when I am visiting friends & family in Rockland County and New Jersey. Just don't take the TZ westbound during evening rush hour, or eastbound during morning rush hour, and you should be fine. It might technically be a longer distance, but it seems to take less time and just generally is a lot less stressful for me.

It's really hard for me to tell you what makes the most sense without knowing more specifically what areas you are traveling to. I am sure in some situations it might make more sense to take the GW.
posted by tastybrains at 11:25 AM on April 1, 2008

I always take the Tappan Zee always avoid the GW (Boston to DC, etc). I've NEVER gone over the GW smoothly. Even at 3am. The only issue I've had with the Tappan Zee was, as tastybrains said, crossing during rush hour, so avoid it from 4-7pm.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: It's really hard for me to tell you what makes the most sense without knowing more specifically what areas you are traveling to.

For me it doesn't matter - assume all my destinations fall below the point at Exit 11 on the Turnpike where the Parkway and Turnpike meet at an interchange. I can take either and get where I'm going.

I, too, have always found the Tappan Zee easier and not a great loss of time. But sometimes when traveling 95 from points south it seems easier to stay on 95 all the way up and over the GW than to switch to the Parkway, make the Tappan Zee crossing, and rejoin 95 in Connecticut. I have done it, but I'm wondering if I could count on a time savings if I knew some of the patterns on the GW that maybe others are aware of.
posted by Miko at 11:37 AM on April 1, 2008

Same here - I don't think there's ever been a good time to cross the GW, and since the Tappan Zee is really just part of the road (that is, no on-ramps or off-ramps) that'll generally save you a lot of time.

Plus, if you take the Tappan Zee you get to drive the Saw Mill River Parkway, which is something that everyone* should do at every given opportunity.

*"everyone" in this context means "exclusively me and maybe my friends if they're nice to me." We've got to keep it pure, after all.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2008

Tappen Zee all the way.

Specifically, if you are coming from NH, you are going to want to take 90 west (toll road), to 84 through hartford, 684 south just past Danbury CT, then get on 287/87 west/south over the tappen zee (free westbound, make sure you got ez pass or cash for return trip).

From 287 you can either take the Garden State parkway, or the palisades down towards Newark, to meetup with 95 south of that mess for the coast or even continue on 287 for anything on the interior.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:44 AM on April 1, 2008

Seconding... everyone. We always take the TZ to go to New England. We also always avoid 95 in Connecticut, so there's really no reason for us to take the GWB.
posted by xsquared-1 at 11:47 AM on April 1, 2008

The George Washington is occasionally acceptable between about 3:15 AM and 4:45 AM. Even then, the Tappan Zee is probably slightly better.
posted by Partial Law at 11:52 AM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you do take the GWB, I find it very worthwhile to avoid the Cross-Bronx Expressway. One way to do this is to take 95 to the Hutchinson Parkway, and then just keep switching parkways until you get to the Henry Hudson Parkway. It drops you right at the end of the GWB, and there's virtually never any traffic to deal with. Only negative is that there's an extra toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge.

Alternatively, you can take the Sawmill south past the TZB, and then get directly on the Henry Hudson.

It's always good to know both ways to go. I've run into awful, awful traffic on the TZB approaches.
posted by smackfu at 11:54 AM on April 1, 2008

As a frequent Cambridge, MA to Morris County, NJ driver, I completely concur with opinions on the Tappan Zee being the better choice, and mrzarquon's choice of route in particular.

When I know I'll be approaching the Tappan Zee during rush hour, I'll sometimes take a longer route, but one that has no traffic at all:

Mass Pike to Route 84, all the way into NY State (well past 684), where it hits Route 87, near Newburgh. Then I take Route 87 south to Route 287, which gets me to Morris County.

I think it's about an extra 20 miles or so, but well worth it to avoid the horror of 2+ hours that I've spent on on the Tappan Zee.
posted by scottso17 at 12:07 PM on April 1, 2008

Same here: Boston to Garden State Pkwy, I always take the Tappan Zee. Furthermore, the Merritt Parkway through Connecticut is much more beautiful and truck-free than 91 or 84. (My route is 90W > 84W > 91S > 15/W.Cross/Merritt (exit 17) > 287W (exit 26W) > to the TZ.)
posted by not_on_display at 12:23 PM on April 1, 2008

I always take Tappan Zee; and for the subset of always when I take the GW instead, I always regret it.
posted by OmieWise at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2008

Wow, really? If you know the tricks going from NJ to NYC on the GWB isn't that bad, except during rush hour (obviously). If coming from 95 or 80, go upper level, then take the "last exit before toll" and right before you actually get out, you can jump across back to the left to get onto the bridge. Great little shortcut. However, it works best if you have an easy-pass.
posted by Grither at 12:46 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tappan Zee, baby! Sixteen years of trips between VA and MA. Only once have we been stuck in traffic on Tappan Zee and it was nothing compared to the 5 hours it took us to go 1 mile on the NJTP.
posted by onhazier at 12:51 PM on April 1, 2008

I am a George fan just because everyone else takes the Tap. If it is not rush hour, I come down the Deagan to the George or if I hear that is crowded the Henry Hudson. If I am on the Deagan and it is crowded I get off at either 230 St and take the Broadway Bridge to Dyckman St to the HH or Fordham Rd and take the 207th st Bridge straight to Broadway to Dyckman to the HH. I actually do this daily for my commute.

I find the Tap is subject to construction delays and all sorts of issues in Rockland. The Parkway can also be slow where it is two lanes.

Fwiw, my wife and I were driving in separate cars from Westchester to the Jersey shore. She took the Tap and I took the George. We both agreed to keep our speeds below a certain number which is not relevant here. I beat her to the crossover to the Parkway by about 13 minutes. Neither of us had significant traffic. YMMV
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2008

Usually the Tappan Zee is preferred due to less traffic. However, the GWB route is usually shorter in miles, so for times like Sunday morning when it is not crowded it can be faster. I think onhazier has been particularly lucky. While the Tappan Zee has on average much less congestion than the GWB I have been stuck in terrible traffic on the Tappan Zee, traffic where people got turned off there cars and stepped out to stretch while waiting for it to clear. The whole New England to NJ drive just stinks due to traffic.
posted by caddis at 1:47 PM on April 1, 2008

got turned off there
turned off their

posted by caddis at 1:49 PM on April 1, 2008

Do you have a mobile device that can use Google Maps with traffic data?
posted by nomad at 6:21 PM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: Do you have a mobile device that can use Google Maps with traffic data?

That would be too easy!

It was interesting to see the overwhelming Tappan Zee recommendation here. Maybe I'm not so crazy to think it's just about always better.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on April 1, 2008

It is just about always better, IMHO. Too bad it also sucks. I wish there were a better option to drive upstate New York and then cross over, but the existing options in that direction add way too many miles, unless you are going to stop off to take in Tanglewood, and that is so, so highly recommended - great music, great B&Bs, great food, and then there are mini mountains for hiking etc.
posted by caddis at 8:38 PM on April 1, 2008

If you are coming from NEw England, you could consider taking 84 to the Beacon Bridge then head south on the Thruway to the Garden State.

I may be a contrarian, but I am a believer in the George as I mentioned upstream.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:41 PM on April 1, 2008

Just to go against the tide: in college, I regularly drove from Philadelphia to Westchester and back, and almost always took the GWB (unless traffic reports had really huge delays). The only time I had real trouble was the one (stupid, stupid) time I tried to do this on a Friday evening, going into New York. Of course, I would often leave Philly around 9 or 10 at night (or 10 or 11 in the morning), but to those who think there's no good time to cross the GWB, I'd have to disagree (the Lincoln and Holland, though, really are always bad). I also prefer the Henry Hudson to the Saw Mill to the Cross County to the Hutch (and vice versa), because 95 in that area of New York is pretty much always terrible. It sounds like a lot of on/off, but almost all of those are just choosing a split in the highway, so it was really no trouble at all.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:40 AM on April 2, 2008

As someone who was in a NJ to MA LDR for several years, I've done most of the main routes at various times of year and during every holiday; legal, religious, or otherwise. Of course, my travel needs and desires will differ from yours, as will the endpoints.

Most often, I take I-84 to either CT-15 (Wilbur Cross/Merrit Pkwy) or to I-684/I-287. I use the Merrit if I'm staying with my grandmother in Washington Heights, NYC, because it's a little more convenient. But if I'm going to NJ, either way works. The Merrit hits 287 one exit east of where 684 does. Either way, I take the Tappan Zee. The roads approaching the GWB are narrow, poorly maintained, and always busy. If the TZ is busy, the GWB is usually doubly so.

As others have mentioned, once you're on 287, you can catch the Garden State Parkway or (as I prefer) the Palisade Interstate Parkway. The PIP is usually slower, narrower, and more heavily patrolled; but is much more scenic and personally of sentimental value. Also, my family's much closer to the southern end of the PIP than I'd imagine yours are (since you're from SOUTH Jersey and all).

I wouldn't take 84 all the way to 87. 684 is more direct and, in my experience, 20-25mph above speed limit with very little enforcement (if that's your style). The Newburgh-Beacon bridge is nice, and there are some cool historical districts along the Hudson, so if you're taking things slow by going all the way to Newburgh, I'd take 9W south. Make sure you stop at one of the Storm King pullouts.

Please please please contact me (phone e-mail or IRC) if you want to know more; I love talking about travel up and down the Hudson.

[found this thread through MyAsk!]
posted by Eideteker at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Great, great tips. I'm excited to try some of the slick approaches next time.

(since you're from SOUTH Jersey and all).

Hey! I'm from Central New Jersey.

*Central New Jersey is defined as 'a region of New Jersey comprised of people who believe there is such a place as Central New Jersey'
posted by Miko at 1:44 PM on April 2, 2008

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