It will take-up to three years to erect the cable-stayed structure which will be be 614ft high and more than 1,100ft long.
The bridge will link Wessington Way on the north side of the river to Pallion New Road on the south.
The plans were agreed at a committee meeting on Thursday.
Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said the landmark bridge would be a “people’s bridge”.
He added: “It will be a distinctive new symbol for the city, help raise Sunderland’s profile and the potential for greater prosperity and further regeneration along the river corridor, and in the city centre.”
The bridge has been designed by Tyneside-born architect Stephen Spence and structural engineers Techniker.
Before construction work can begin, the city council must secure ownership of the land and seek final approval from the Department for Transport.
The city council is planning to contribute £32m towards the project, with the government and regional development agency One North East providing the rest.