When the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was built in the late 1930s, planner Robert Moses thought the Long Island Expressway was unnecessary, with rumors circulating that Robert Moses was not in charge of its construction. This is because the tunnel was constructed by the New York City Tunnel Authority, which was not under the authority of Moses.
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The first section of the Long Island Expressway opened in 1940, as a one-mile six-lane viaduct over the Long Island City bustle of western Queens. At the same time, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel under the East River also opened. The highway then ended where the interchange with Interstate 278 is currently located. In 1941, it was planned to extend the Long Island Expressway further east to Horace Harding Boulevard (current interchange with the Grand Central Parkway ), to replace busy Queens Boulevard.to relieve through traffic. Later, in 1945, after a nine-year struggle for power, Robert Moses was given authority over the Tunnel Authority and a new agency, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, was created. After that, Moses’ position on the Long Island Expressway also changed and $32.5 million was invested in extending the highway eastwards into what is now the Queens-Midtown Expressway between I-278 and Queens Boulevard, a mile or so away. 6 further east.
East of Queens Boulevard, the Long Island Expressway route crossed Horace Harding Boulevard. In 1949, the New York State Department of Public Works (NYSPDW) proposed building a highway that would be open to all traffic, unlike the many parkways where trucks are banned. The Long Island Expressway was part of a 2,865-mile highway plan in upstate New York. The Long Island Expressway was supposed to run all the way to Orient Point in eastern Long Island. At the time, Long Island was still mostly rural, Nassau County began urbanization just after World War II.
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On September 1, 1953, plans were unveiled for a 115-mile, 2×3 lane highway from New York to the eastern end of Long Island. According to a letter to then-Governor Thomas E. Dewey from Robert Moses, the Long Island Expressway, then called the “Central Motor Expressway,” was the only logical solution;
The proposed Long Island Expressway is the main part of the major highway network that will serve the entirety of Long Island, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Suffolk and Nassau counties, with a population of 5.5 million. The main artery of this program is a 115-kilometer highway for all traffic types from Manhattan to Riverhead. The construction of this highway has the support of both Nassau and Suffolk county. Rapid completion of a significant highway network from Manhattan and Queens through Nassau to Suffolk County is the only logical solution to the unacceptable congestion caused by large-scale housing, population growth and car ownership. Almost daily, the last lots on Long Island are sold to developers. When not a right-of-way soonTo be obtained, the highway has to pass through built-up areas with huge costs of expropriation and the problems of demolishing homes and businesses.
Governor Dewey approved the highway on March 27, 1954. The Long Island Expressway, which initially had a design capacity of 80,000 vehicles per day, cost $500 million, raised by state and federal funds. In 1954, volumes of 100,000 vehicles per day were measured on the borders of Nassau and Suffolk counties. It was feared that failure to build the Long Island Expressway on time would cost runways if the original 1961 completion date was not met.
Between 1954 and 1958, the Horace Harding Expressway (now Long Island Expressway) was constructed by the NYSPDW between Queens Boulevard and the Nassau County border. A small section off the Clearview Expressway did not open until 1960 after a large stack junction was constructed. In October 1958, the first section opened in Nassau County, between the Queens border and Exit 39, Glen Cove Road. That same month, the Interstate Highway system was launched and the Long Island Expressway was numbered I-495. Just east of the new section, through Old Westbury, Robert Moses was able to purchase a large tract of land that could not be obtained 25 years earlier for the Northern State Parkway, which makes a strange curve to the south there, but Moses was unable to build connections here, so that the motorway has a section of 6 kilometers without exits here, rather striking in an otherwise highly urbanized area.
Slowly but surely, the Long Island Expressway was built further east. In 1960 the highway was extended to exit 41 in Jericho and in mid-1962 the highway reached the border with Suffolk County, to exit 49. A year later the highway was extended to exit 52 in Commack. In 1964 another stretch opened up to exit 59 at Ronkonkoma and by the end of 1966 the highway was completed to exit 61 at Holbrook.
Just a few years after the Long Island Expressway opened, the highway was already named the world’s largest parking lot. In 1963, Henry Barnes, president of NYC Transportation, proposed a second deck for the interstate through Queens, at a cost of $94 million. The second deck was to become an alternating lane, heading west in the morning and east in the evening. The daily intensities were already 130,000 vehicles per day. A small section, between I-278 and Maurice Avenue, eventually became double-decker. There are a total of 12 lanes here.
In the early 1970s, 35 kilometers was still missing from the planned end at Riverhead. In 1970, 32 miles of I-495 opened from exit 61 in Holbrook to exit 71. On June 28, 1972, the last 3 miles to exit 73 in Riverhead were opened, completing planned Interstate 495.
In 1971, the Long Island Expressway got its first HOV lanes, with a 2 mile bus lane between the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Interstate 278. The inner lane to the east became an alternate lane for buses and taxis. The alternating lane had to process about 60 buses per hour. In order to reduce traffic in Manhattan, the bus lane was converted to an HOV lane in 2003 for vehicles with 3 people or more. This is still an alternating lane, separated from the rest of the traffic by a jersey barrier.
In the 1970s, congestion on the Long Island Expressway continued to increase, with it being estimated that in 1975 an average of 1,000 vehicles were parked each weekday on the hard shoulder at connections, with people using other modes of transport moving on. Beginning in 1975, P+R sites were built at various connections in Nassau and Suffolk County. In the mid-1970s, it was also proposed to extend the bus lane in order to be able to move more people per hour. In the early 1970s, HOVlanes were considered, but surveys showed that hardly anyone would use them, and those plans were shelved for now. In 1978 there was a proposal to run a light rail over the hard shoulder, but money for this project was eventually invested in other projects. The 1970s also saw a political turning point, the days of Robert Moses were over, and the focus was mainly on public transport. Capacity expansions were no longer as obvious as they were in the 1950s.
It was not until 1983 that the number I-495 was also assigned east of Interstate 295 (Clearview Expressway) for the remainder as far as Riverhead. In the early 1980s, lighting was also installed in Nassau and Suffolk County. In the late 1980s, I-495 became increasingly congested, with traffic volumes approaching 200,000 vehicles in 2×3 lanes. In 1986 plans were made for a fourth lane. Due to the built-up nature of Long Island, it was impractical to build a new east-west link across Long Island. In the late 1980s there was a lot of discussion about whether the fourth lane should become a general purpose lane, or an HOV-lane. Ultimately, a solution was chosen whereby the fourth lane could only be used by public transport vehicles and buses during rush hour, but was opened to all types of vehicles outside rush hour. Construction began in 1991 in western Suffolk County. The first stretches opened between exit 49 and 57 in 1994. A second section between exit 40 and exit 49 opened in 1998 and between exit 57 and 64 in 1999. The last sections between exit 32 in Queens and exit 40 opened on June 30, 2005, almost a year behind schedule.
More recent developments
In 1998, then-Governor Pataki announced that he would reject an HOV proposal in Queens. In response, the state converted the Long Island Expressway emergency lanes to a fourth lane. Although there is extra capacity, there is no space for broken down vehicles and if there is space next to the hard shoulder, it is very narrow.
Mid Manhattan Expressway
The Mid-Manhattan Expressway was a planned east-west highway across Manhattan, connecting State Route 495 in New Jersey to Interstate 495 in New York through the Lincoln Tunnel and Queens-Midtown Tunnel.
The motorway was first proposed in 1926 and included in a master plan in 1929 and again in 1941. The proposed highway was to facilitate east-west traffic and also connect New Jersey to Long Island. In the 1940s, the highway was envisioned by planner Robert Moses as an elevated highway between the Lincoln and Queens-Midtown tunnels. The route was renumbered I-495 in October 1958 to connect I-495 in New Jersey and I-495 in New York. In 1955 the motorway was presented as follows;
the elevated highway from its junction with the West Side Highway would begin as a sunken highway at a widened 30th Street to 10th Avenue. The highway will then move to the north side of 30th Street to connect with the Lincoln Tunnel ‘s runs between 10th and 9th Avenues. The six-lane highway will cross 8th Avenue and run as an elevated highway through the rest of Manhattan. After 2nd Avenue, the highway would curve north to connect to FDR Drive. Between 1st and 2nd Avenue there must be a connection with the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. The estimated cost is $77 million, of which $33.5 million for real estate.
A unique situation would exist around the Mid-Manhattan Expressway that would allow for developments below and above the highway, where the highway could pass through buildings. The highway would have 2×3 lanes, 10 stories above street level with elevators between the sections below and above the highway. Shops and parking garages could be built under the motorway.
From 1937, a tunnel alternative was also considered, with two tubes under 36th and 37th Streets. The main arguments against the tunnel were the cost, 119 million for a tunnel without connections and 145 million for a tunnel with connections to 5th Avenue. The proposals also assumed a 2×2 tunnel, as opposed to the 2×3 elevated highway, less capacity, but higher costs. At the time, Moses also proposed a third tunnel tube for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel worth $120 million for four lanes of alternate lanes.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Robert Moses managed to get support for the construction among mayors and the press. However, from the early 1960s the political turn to public transport began and the political landscape deteriorated for Robert Moses. He continued to support the Mid-Manhattan Expressway. In 1969, the New York City Planning Commission withdrew its support, and in 1971 Governor Nelson Rockefeller blew the project altogether, along with at least six other Interstate Highways in New York City. I-495 remained a solitary Interstate Highway on Long Island and would never connect to its main route, Interstate 95. The constructed section in New Jersey between the Lincoln Tunnel and the New Jersey Turnpikewas numbered State Route 495.
In the late 1950s, there were plans to build a spur from the still under construction Long Island Expressway between exit 70 and exit 71 to the Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays. Eventually County Route 111 was built a bit further west as a multi-lane main road (but not grade separated) between the two highways.
In 1969, three years before the Long Island Expressway reached its end at Riverhead, plans for a 13-mile extension to Mattituck had been approved. This extension was an opportunity for a bridge over the Long Island Sound to Connecticut or Rhode Island. The extension proved unpopular with local residents and the plan was canceled in 1973. Despite that, planning committees remained in the region for an extension of the highway to Mattituck.
Long Island Sound connection
Between the 1960s and 1990s, there were serious proposals for a connection across the Long Island Sound, the strait separating Long Island from the mainland in Connecticut. There were four proposals to extend I-495 over Long Island Sound;
- Riverhead, NY – Guilford, CT
- East Marion, NY – Old Saybrook, CT
- Orient Point, NY – New London, CT
- Orient Point, NY – Westerly, RI