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Interstate 278

Interstate 278 marker

Interstate 278
A map of New York City with major roads. I-278 runs southwest to northeast across the city.
Map of New York City with I-278 highlighted in red
Route information
Auxiliary route of I-78
Length: 35.62 mi[1][2] (57.32 km)
Existed: 1961 – present
Major junctions
West end: US 1-9 in Linden, NJ
  I‑95 / N.J. Turnpike in Elizabeth, NJ
NY 440 in Staten Island, NY
Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, NY
I-478 in Brooklyn, NY
I-495 in Queens, NY
Grand Central Parkway in Queens, NY
I-87 in Bronx, NY
I-895 in Bronx, NY
Bronx River Parkway in Bronx, NY
East end: I-95 / I-295 / I-678 / Hutchinson River Parkway in Bronx, NY
Highway system
Route 208 NJ I‑280
NY 277 NY NY 278

Interstate 278 (I-278) is an auxiliary Interstate Highway in New Jersey and New York in the United States. The road runs 35.62 miles (57.32 km) from U.S. Route 1/9 (US 1/9) in Linden, New Jersey to the Bruckner Interchange in the New York City borough of the Bronx. The majority of I-278 is in New York City, where it serves as a partial beltway and is the only Interstate to pass through all five of the city's boroughs. I-278 follows several freeways, including the Union Freeway in Union County, New Jersey, the Staten Island Expressway (SIE) across Staten Island, the Gowanus Expressway in southern Brooklyn, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) across northern Brooklyn and Queens, a small part of the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, and a part of the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx. I-278 also crosses multiple bridges, including the Goethals Bridge, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge and the Triborough Bridge.

Despite its number, I-278 does not connect to I-78. There were once plans to extend I-278 west to I-78 east of the Route 24 interchange in Springfield, New Jersey. This was cancelled due to opposition from the communities along the route. The segment that does exist in New Jersey was opened in 1969. There were also plans to extend I-78 east across Manhattan and into Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge; this would have been a second location where the two highways would have interchanged, but these plans were also thwarted. In New York, the various parts of I-278 were planned by Robert Moses, an urban planner in New York City. Some of these completed segments predated the Interstate Highway System and are thus not up to standards. Over the years, portions of I-278 have required upgrading. In addition, they tore through many New York City neighborhoods, causing controversy. All of I-278 through New York City was completed by the 1960s. I-87 was once planned to follow the segment of I-278 between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Major Deegan Expressway, but this ultimately became a part of I-278. In addition, the Bruckner Expressway portion of I-278 had been designated with different route numbers. At first, it was to be I-895 between I-87 and the Sheridan Expressway and I-678 past there. Later, I-278 was planned to follow the Bruckner Expressway and the Sheridan Expressway to I-95 (with no route number for the Bruckner Expressway past there) before the current numbering took place by 1970, with I-895 designated onto the Sheridan Expressway.


  • Route description 1
    • New Jersey 1.1
    • Staten Island Expressway 1.2
    • Gowanus Expressway 1.3
    • Brooklyn–Queens Expressway 1.4
    • Grand Central Parkway and RFK Bridge 1.5
    • Bruckner Expressway 1.6
  • History 2
    • New Jersey 2.1
    • Staten Island Expressway 2.2
    • Gowanus Expressway 2.3
    • Brooklyn–Queens Expressway 2.4
    • Bruckner Expressway 2.5
  • Exit list 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Route description

Time-lapse video of a westbound trip on Interstate 278

New Jersey

  mi km
NJ 2.00 3.22[1]
NY 33.62 54.11[2]
Total 35.62 57.32

The New Jersey segment of I-278 begins in Linden, Union County at the junction with US 1 and US 9 (US 1-9), where it merges into the southbound direction of that road. The freeway heads east and carries two lanes in each direction, with the eastbound direction widening to three lanes.[1] I-278 runs between urban residential areas to the north and the Bayway Refinery to the south as it continues into Elizabeth.[1][3] In this area, the road meets Route 439 and the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) at the only intermediate interchange that I-278 has in New Jersey.[1] This short length is sometimes called the Union Freeway. After the New Jersey Turnpike, I-278 turns southeast and crosses the Arthur Kill on the four-lane Goethals Bridge to Staten Island, a borough of New York City. This bridge is maintained by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[1][3]

Staten Island Expressway

Upon coming onto Staten Island, I-278 becomes the Staten Island Expressway.[3] After the Goethals Bridge, the highway has a toll plaza serving the bridge. At this point, the freeway becomes eight lanes and maintained by the New York State Department of Transportation, coming to an exit for Western Avenue and Forest Avenue before reaching a directional interchange with New York State Route 440 (NY 440, named the West Shore Expressway). NY 440 forms a concurrency with I-278 and the road heads into residential neighborhoods. The road carries four lanes eastbound and three lanes westbound as it comes to the exit serving Richmond Avenue. Immediately after, NY 440 splits from the Staten Island Expressway at a large interchange, heading north on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway.[2][3] This interchange also provides access to Victory Boulevard.[2] The six-lane I-278 turns to the east past this point, with Gannon Avenue serving as a frontage road, and reaches the Bradley Avenue exit.[2][3]

A view from the center of a freeway, looking across to homes on a wooded hill
Homes along the Staten Island Expressway

The next interchange the Staten Island Expressway is with Todt Hill Road and Slosson Avenue.[2] At this interchange, the freeway gains a bus lane in each direction that also serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane during rush hours.[4] After Todt Hill Road, I-278 runs through a wooded area where it comes to an incomplete interchange that was to be the northern terminus of the Richmond Parkway.[3][5] The road continues back into residential areas and comes to an interchange serving Clove Road and Richmond Road.[2][3] The next interchange the freeway has is with Hylan Boulevard.[2] A short distance later, the Staten Island Expressway comes to a large interchange that serves Lily Pond Road and Bay Street. Immediately after, I-278 reaches the toll plaza for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.[2][3] Following the toll plaza, I-278 goes onto the Verrazano Narrows Bridge linking to Brooklyn over the Narrows. This bridge, which is maintained by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, has six lanes on the lower level and six lanes on the upper level.[3][6] In addition to local traffic on Staten Island, the expressway provides the most direct route from Brooklyn and Long Island to New Jersey. It is widely known throughout the New York area as one of the most congested roads in the city.[7]

Gowanus Expressway

An elevated freeway in a city with bicyclists riding on it
The Gowanus Expressway in 2008

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane.[8] The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Street, with an exit eastbound and entrance eastbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.[2][3] The Gowanus Expressway turns northeast again at this interchange and continues along an elevated alignment through urban residential and commercial areas.[3] Along this viaduct, I-278 has interchanges with 38th Street/39th Street and the western terminus of NY 27 (Prospect Expressway). After the NY 27 interchange, the freeway widens to eight lanes and heads north, coming to an interchange with the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel approach (I-478), with the exit ramps splitting from the median of I-278. Westbound access to the tunnel is provided by the Hamilton Avenue exit.[2][3]

In this area, the freeway passes over the Gowanus Canal, an extremely polluted canal that was once used for shipping, and has been designated a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Brooklyn–Queens Expressway

At this interchange, I-278 heads north onto the six-lane Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, passing through urban neighborhoods near

  • Interstate 278 at Alps' Roads • New York Routes
  • Union Freeway @
  • Staten Island Expressway @
  • Gowanus Expressway @
  • BQE @
  • Bruckner Expressway @

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "I-278 Straight Line Diagram" (PDF).  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa "2010 Traffic Volume Report for New York State" (PDF).  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af  
  4. ^ a b Yates, Maura (January 11, 2008). "Staten Island Expressway bus lane open to HOV starting Monday".  
  5. ^ a b c O'Grady, Jim (November 22, 1998). "Neighborhood Report: Staten Island Up Close; Greenbelt Fans Want Routes Off the Maps".  
  6. ^ a b "MTA Bridges and Tunnels".  
  7. ^ Staten Island Expressway Bridge Rehabilitation and TSM Measures. TRC Companies, Inc. 
  8. ^ a b Liff, Bob (March 6, 2000). "Study: Keep HOV Lane at Gowanus".  
  9. ^ a b c d "NYSDOT – Region 11 (New York City) Built and Unbuilt Arterial System". New York State Department of Transportation. Retrieved October 3, 2007. 
  10. ^ NYCDOT Bridges &Tunnels Annual Condition Report 2010 (PDF). New York City Department of Transportation. p. 199. 
  11. ^ New York Designation Of State Interstate Routes,  
  12. ^ a b c d e Wright, George Cable (September 19, 1958). "New Roads with New Numbers Will Parallel Old U.S. Routes". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ The Township of Millburn in the County of Essex New Jersey (Map).  
  14. ^ a b Arterial Progress 1959–1965.  
  15. ^ Union County Sheet 1 (Map). New Jersey Department of Transportation. 1967. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  16. ^ Union County Sheet 2 (Map). New Jersey Department of Transportation. 1967. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  17. ^ New Jersey Highway Facts. New Jersey Department of Transportation. 1967. 
  18. ^ "Elizabeth Link to Goethals Bridge Set To Open". The New York Times. October 29, 1969. 
  19. ^ Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program.  
  20. ^ a b Master Plan: Express Highways, Parkways and Major Streets.  
  21. ^ a b Joint Study of Arterial Facilities. Port of New York Authority and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. 1955. 
  22. ^ Bennett, Charles G. (June 20, 1957). "Span Approaches Approved by City". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ a b  
  24. ^ a b "State announces $50M project to improve X-way". Staten Island Advance. August 1, 2008. 
  25. ^ a b Ingraham, Joseph C. (November 21, 1964). "Hour Will Be Cut for Some Trips". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ "Push Is On for Varied Road Tolls". New York Daily News. November 23, 1998. 
  27. ^ Solomonow, Seth (November 27, 2005). "New Bus Lanes Earn Cheers, Jeers from Motorists". Staten Island Advance. 
  28. ^ "New Last Exit Before Brooklyn-bound Verrazano-Narrows Bridge In Place Beginning Mon., July 9th" (Press release).  
  29. ^ Sedon, Michael (January 18, 2013). "comments New Exit 13B opens on Staten Island Expressway". Staten Island Advanced. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  30. ^ New Parkways in New York City.  
  31. ^ "More Moses Loops Form". The New York Times. June 29, 1941. 
  32. ^ a b Map of Metropolitan New York (Map). Cartography by  
  33. ^ a b Map of New Jersey (Map). Cartography by General Drafting. Esso. 1970. 
  34. ^ Herman, Peter and Albert Appleton (November 13, 1996). "Reconstructing the Gowanus: A Tunnel Is a Realistic Alternative to the Elevated Roadway".  
  35. ^ Stamler, Bernard (December 13, 1998). "Gowanus Expressway: Trouble Overhead". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Gowanus Project". New York State Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 30, 2006. 
  37. ^ Daniel Bush (1 Dec 2011). "Get used to the Gowanus!". Brooklyn Daily. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  38. ^ James Howard Kunstler (1 June 2012). "June 2012 Eyesore of the Month". Eyesore of the Month. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  39. ^ Daniel Bush (1 Dec 2011). "Gowanus Expressway: History of a highway". The Brooklyn Paper. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  40. ^ a b "Freeways Are Now Urged". The New York Times. December 13, 1936. 
  41. ^ Vital Gaps in the New York Metropolitan Arterial System.  
  42. ^ "Opening Set Today for Three Road Links". The New York Times. October 14, 1950. 
  43. ^ "Brooklyn–Queens Link To Be Completed Today". The New York Times. December 23, 1964. 
  44. ^ Liff, Bob (December 4, 1988). "New York: Chess in Concrete".  
  45. ^ Faison, Seth (January 4, 1993). "New Year Brings New Road Projects to Test Commuters' Patience". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  46. ^ Samuel, Peter; Poole Jr., Robert W. (1999). How To Build Our Way Out of Congestion (PDF).  
  47. ^ "Most Of BQE Upgrade To Be Completed By Sept.". The Queens Gazette. February 25, 2004. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  48. ^ Garvin, Alexander. The Planning Game. New York, 2013
  49. ^ "Motorists on the Road". The New York Times. September 5, 1937. 
  50. ^ Thibodeau, William A. (1938). The ALA Green Book (1938–39 ed.). Automobile Legal Association. 
  51. ^ New York Info-Map (Map). Cartography by  
  52. ^ New York (Map). Cartography by  
  53. ^ Traffic Improvement of Bruckner Boulevard. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. 1951. 
  54. ^ "Elevated Road To Open in the Bronx". The New York Times. October 18, 1962. 
  55. ^ Prial, Frank J. (December 21, 1972). "The Bruckner Interchange Is Open at Last". The New York Times. 
  56. ^ "Port Authority approves Goethals Bridge 'link' with Routes 1&9". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 


See also

State County Location mi[1][2] km Old exit New exit Destinations Notes
New Jersey Union Linden 0.00 0.00 1 US 1-9 south – Linden Western terminus; proposed link approved by the Port Authority would allow access to US 1-9 north[56]
Elizabeth 1.01 1.63 2 1 Route 439 (Bayway Avenue) to US 1-9 north – Elizabeth, Linden
1.20 1.93 2 I‑95 / N.J. Turnpike Exit 13 on I-95 / NJ Turnpike
Arthur Kill 2.00
Goethals Bridge (eastbound toll)
New York Richmond Bloomfield 1.60 2.57 3 Western Avenue Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
1.70 2.74 4 Forest Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
1.83 2.95 5 NY 440 south (West Shore Expressway) – Outerbridge Crossing Western terminus of concurrency with NY 440
GranitevilleBulls Head 1.90 3.06 6 South Avenue Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
2.04 3.28 7 Richmond Avenue
2.74 4.41 8 Victory Boulevard Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
2.93 4.72 9 NY 440 north (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Expressway) – Bayonne Bridge Eastern terminus of concurrency with NY 440; exit 10 on NY 440
2.74 4.41 10 Victory Boulevard Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Manor Heights
Castleton Corners
3.44 5.54 11 Bradley Avenue
4.78 7.69 12 Todt Hill Road / Slosson Avenue
ConcordPark Hill 5.73 9.22 13 Clove Road / Richmond Road / Targee Street / Hylan Boulevard Signed as exits 13A (Clove) and 13B (Richmond / Targee) westbound; Hylan Boulevard only accessible eastbound
ConcordShore Acres 7.34 11.81 14 Narrows Road west / Fingerboard Road / Hylan Boulevard Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
7.58 12.20 15 Fingerboard Road / Lily Pond Avenue – South Beach Signed as exits 15S (south) and 15N (north) westbound
The Narrows 8.88 14.29 Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (westbound toll)
Kings Fort Hamilton 8.64 13.90 16 Belt Parkway east – Kennedy Airport Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; exit 3 on Belt Parkway
Bay Ridge 9.84 15.84 17 92nd Street – Bay Ridge
10.47 16.85 18 Fort Hamilton Parkway Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
10.89 17.53 19 86th Street Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Sunset Park 11.18 17.99 20 7th Avenue / 65th Street / 6th Avenue
11.93 19.20 21 Third Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
12.65 20.36 22 Belt Parkway east Westbound exit and eastbound entrance; western terminus of the Belt Parkway
Greenwood Heights 13.92 22.40 23 38th Street / 39th Street No entrance ramps
14.29 23.00 24 NY 27 east (Prospect Expressway) No westbound entrance from NY 27; western terminus of NY 27
Red HookCarroll Gardens 15.06 24.24 26A 25 Battery Tunnel (I-478) – Manhattan Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; westbound exit is via exit 26
15.14 24.37 26B 26 Hamilton Avenue Signed westbound for Battery Tunnel – Manhattan
Cobble Hill 16.12 25.94 27 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn Heights 16.74 26.94 28A Cadman Plaza West Signed as exit 28 westbound
17.20 27.68 28B Brooklyn Bridge Westbound exit is via exit 28
Downtown Brooklyn 17.47 28.12 29A Manhattan Bridge Westbound exit is via exit 29
18.10 29.13 29B Tillary Street – Brooklyn Civic Center Signed as exit 29 westbound
Clinton Hill 18.68 30.06 30 Flushing Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
Williamsburg 19.32 31.09 31 Wythe Avenue / Kent Avenue Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
19.85 31.95 32A Williamsburg Bridge – Manhattan Eastbound exit is via exit 32
20.41 32.85 32B Metropolitan Avenue Signed as exit 32 eastbound
20.60 33.15 33 Humboldt Street / McGuinness Boulevard Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
GreenpointEast Williamsburg 21.80 35.08 34 Meeker Avenue / Morgan Avenue Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Newtown Creek Kosciuszko Bridge
Queens SunnysideMaspeth 22.02 35.44 35 I-495 (Long Island Expressway) / 48th Street / Greenpoint Avenue – Midtown Tunnel, Eastern Long Island Westbound exit to I-495 east is via service road; no westbound entrance from I-278 east; exit 17 on I-495
WoodsideElmhurst 23.30 37.50 36 39 NY 25 (Queens Boulevard) / 65th Place / 58th Street Signed as exits 39E (east) and 39W (west) westbound
Woodside–Jackson Heights 23.87 38.42 37 40 Broadway / Roosevelt Avenue
24.48 39.40 38 41 NY 25A (Northern Boulevard)
East Elmhurst 24.66 39.69 39 42 Grand Central Parkway east – LaGuardia Airport Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; exit 4 on Grand Central Parkway
Woodside 25.3 40.7 40 43 30th Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
Astoria 25.57 41.15 41 44 Astoria Boulevard west Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
26.01 41.86 4 Grand Central Parkway east – LaGuardia Airport Eastern terminus of concurrency with the Grand Central Parkway; westbound exit and eastbound entrance
26.37 42.44 3 45 31st Street / Astoria Boulevard Western terminus of the Grand Central Parkway
East River 27.11 43.63 Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (suspension span)
New York Randall's Island 46A Randall's Island Westbound exit only
28.18 45.35 46 FDR Drive – Manhattan, Randall's Island, Wards Island, Icahn Stadium Toll collected in both directions on I-278 mainline and on Manhattan exit
Hell Gate 28.60 46.03 Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (truss span)
Bronx Port Morris 28.89 46.49 44 47 I-87 north (Major Deegan Expressway) – Albany Southern terminus of I-87
45 48 East 138th Street Westbound entrance closed
Hunts Point 30.78 49.54 46 49 I-895 north (Sheridan Expressway) to East 177th Street Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; southern terminus of I-895
50 Hunts Point Avenue – Hunts Point Market Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Soundview 51 Bronx River Avenue Westbound exit only
31.58 50.82 51 52 Bronx River Parkway north – White Plains No westbound exit; exit 2 on Bronx Parkway
32.35 52.06 52 53 White Plains Road / Castle Hill Avenue
Throggs Neck 33.62 54.11 54 I-295 south (Throgs Neck Bridge) / I-678 south (Whitestone Bridge) / Hutchinson River Parkway north / Zerega Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance;
exit 19W on I-678; exit 12 on I-295
33.62 54.11 I-95 north (Bruckner Expressway) – New Haven Exit 6B on I-95
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Exit list

The Bruckner Expressway was originally the Bruckner Boulevard, designated as part of NY 1A.[50][51][52] In the 1930s, a freeway was planned on the Bruckner Boulevard alignment in order to provide a connection between the Triborough Bridge and a freeway leading north into Westchester County.[20][40] Robert Moses took over planning for the road in 1951 and called for an elevated freeway between the Triborough Bridge and the Bronx River and a depressed freeway east of there.[53] Construction on the elevated Bruckner Expressway began in 1957 while it started on the depressed segment in 1959. The depressed portion was opened in 1961 while the elevated portion of the Bruckner Expressway was opened in 1962.[54] In 1972, the large Bruckner Interchange was finished, completing the route.[55] Over the years, the I-278 portion of the Bruckner Expressway has had different designations. When the Interstate Highway System was first created, the road was to be part of I-895 from I-87 to the Sheridan Expressway and I-678 from there to I-95.[12] Later, I-278 was planned to follow the Bruckner Expressway from I-87 to the Sheridan Expressway, where it would continue on that freeway to I-95, while the Bruckner Expressway was not designated an interstate north of there.[32] By 1970, I-278 was aligned onto its current alignment, with I-895 created along the Sheridan Expressway.[33]

Looking east at the Bruckner Expressway over the Soundview Bridge from the westbound service road.

Bruckner Expressway

The brief portion of I-278 that follows the Grand Central Parkway between the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway and the Triborough Bridge opened in the 1930s.[49]

The BQE was designed by Robert Moses who had originally planned for the two-tiered section in Brooklyn Heights to go straight through Hicks Street, then connect to the Brooklyn Bridge at Adams Street. . Another route that was proposed by Moses would have continued up Hicks Street passed Atlantic Ave removing all the buildings on one side of court street (where Trader Joes is located today) destroying what is now a thriving commercial and residential district, then curving east into Tillary Street (at Cadman Plaza). The Brooklyn Heights Association was able to fight off these proposed routes which created the two-tiered section above Furman Street with the Promenade over it. Today this section of the BQE is in need of repair and the DOT proposed building a tunnel which was unable to get the support or funds. Most likely in the next couple of year one level will be repaired at a time which will force north and south bound traffic on the other level. This has yet to be confirmed by the DOT. [48]

In 1958, existing segments of the expressway were eligible for interstate highway funding. For a short time, the segment of highway between the Triborough Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge was to be designated I-87 and continue north as the Major Deegan Expressway. By 1959, the I-278 designation was given to the entire length of the highway.[12] Since the roadway was constructed prior to modern expressway standards, the road needed to be upgraded to meet standards. By the 1990s, a major multiyear project beginning in the 1980s brought upgrades to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.[45] In 1999, a proposal surfaced to put the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway in a tunnel.[46] In the 2000s, the expressway underwent another upgrade project that replaced many bridges along the route.[47]

An elevated freeway in an urban area with a church visible
Climbing out of trench in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn and passing St. Stephens to head south for Gowanus Canal

The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway was initially planned in 1936 as the Brooklyn–Queens Connecting Highway, a link between the Gowanus Parkway and the Triborough Bridge .[40] A part of the Brooklyn–Queens Connecting Highway opened in 1939 between Meeker Avenue and NY 25. In 1940, engineering mogul Robert Moses proposed an expressway between Queens and Brooklyn to relieve local streets of congestion from the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges.[41] A section between the Williamsburg and Kosciuszko bridges opened in 1950; the road in its entirety was completed in 1964 at a cost of $137 million.[42][43] Construction of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, overseen by Moses, tore through many residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens instead of following the East River.[23][44]

Brooklyn–Queens Expressway

The Gowanus Expressway was initially the Gowanus Parkway, first planned in the 1930s.[30] Construction of the road, overseen by Robert Moses, started in 1939, with the parkway being built on top of the BMT Third Avenue Line. The parkway was completed in 1941 and became part of a Belt Parkway that received the NY 27A designation.[31] The Gowanus Parkway was to be reconstructed into the Gowanus Expressway in the 1950s to connect the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel. This road was initially planned to be twelve lanes with a 3–3-3–3 configuration, but was reduced to six lanes to reduce disruption to the Bay Ridge neighborhood.[21] The Gowanus Expressway was incorporated into the Interstate Highway System and became a component of I-278.[12] The improvements to the Gowanus Expressway into a six-lane freeway configuration was completed in 1964 with a $100 million price tag.[25] The NY 27A designation was removed from the Gowanus Expressway by 1970.[32][33] By 2000, a high-occupancy vehicle lane was added to the eastbound Gowanus Expressway to serve traffic heading toward Manhattan.[8] Over the years, the viaduct structure of the Gowanus Expressway has deteriorated.[34] In 1998, a $16 million feasibility study for a tunnel for the Gowanus Expressway was awarded.[35] The New York State Department of Transportation was considering putting the road in a tunnel,[36] but in November, 2011 the Federal Highway Administration canceled the project.[37] The viaduct's vertical steel supports show material missing due to rust,[38] but the federal government promises it won't collapse.[39]

An elevated four lane freeway in an urban area as it appeared in 1954
The original Gowanus Expressway in 1954, before widening. This part was built on the BMT Third Avenue Elevated

Gowanus Expressway

It was announced in July 2008 that a major project to improve the notoriously bad traffic conditions on the expressway is expected to commence in spring of 2010 at a cost of $50 million. Included in the project is the construction of six new on- and off-ramps, improvements to and relocations of existing on- and off-ramps, and other improvements to surrounding roads. This comes following numerous minor improvements to alleviate traffic, such as time/distance displays and designated bus lanes.[24] A brand-new exit 15, which served Lily Pond Avenue and Bay Street on the eastern end of Staten Island opened to traffic on July 9, 2012, replacing a former exit further to the east. Signage would also be changed to reflect Fingerboard Road and Lily Pond Avenue rather than Lily Pond and Bay Street.[28] On January 17, 2013, it was announced that the westbound exit 13 was permanently closed in favor of a new interchange setup, which involved two new ramps, exit 13B for Richmond Road and Targee Street and exit 13A for Clove Road and Richmond Road.[29]

The first link of the Staten Island Expressway opened in January 1964, from the Goethals Bridge to Victory Boulevard. The remainder opened later that year. The freeway had a total cost of $47 million.[25] In 1998, bus lanes were created on the eastern part of the Staten Island Expressway near the Verrazano Narrows Bridge; they were extended west to Todt Hill Road/Slosson Avenue in 2005.[26][27] In 2008, the bus lanes were opened to high-occupancy vehicles during rush hours.[4]

The construction of the Staten Island Expressway was particularly noted for the massive movement of earth required to build the section of the highway between Clove Road and Price Street (now Narrows Road North, a service road of the expressway) between Grymes Hill and Emerson Hill. The earth removed from the cut in the hill was placed in a remote section of central Staten Island adjacent to Sea View Hospital and has since been nicknamed "Moses Mountain," as a backhanded compliment to the highway's builder.[23] Originally Moses intended for a spur of the expressway to follow the central ridge of the island, to connect with the Outerbridge Crossing. But local opposition to this spur was tremendous, and unlike previous projects by Moses, it went down to defeat when Mayor John V. Lindsay took office in 1966; the southern half of this proposed spur did get built, however, and was opened for traffic as the Richmond Parkway, which was to have been the name of the entire roadway.[5] The aborted section, from the Expressway to Richmond Avenue, has become part of the park system of New York City known as the Staten Island Greenbelt.[5] A ramp stub of an interchange on the expressway still exists cut into the hillside section of Todt Hill. Part of the trail system of the Greenbelt was using the abandoned overpass bridge as pedestrian crossing of the Expressway up until 2013, when it was dismantled for lane widening improvements.[3][24]

The Staten Island Expressway was first planned in 1941 as the Cross-Richmond Express Highway, a freeway connecting the Goethals and Verrazano bridges that was a part of a comprehensive system of freeways and parkways for the borough of Staten Island.[20] In 1945, Robert Moses took over planning for the freeway and called it the Clove Lakes Expressway.[21] The plan received approval in stages through the mid-1950s and construction on the expressway began in 1959.[14][22] By this time, the Staten Island Expressway had received the I-278 designation.[12]

The brand-new exit 15 on the Staten Island Expressway eastbound that opened on July 9, 2012

Staten Island Expressway

The Union Freeway Extension was revived again, and was to start at US 1/9, but end at I-287 in Hanover Township, following the Route 24 freeway between I-78 and I-287. Nevertheless, the Federal Highway Administration rejected the proposal, thus ending the I-278 project.[19]

The New Jersey portion of freeway was planned in 1955 as the Union Freeway and designated as I-278 in 1958. It was to connect the Goethals Bridge west to I-78 at the tripoint of Springfield, Union Township, and Millburn.[12][13] The western part of this planned freeway faced strong opposition. Even though it was to run along an abandoned railroad right-of-way, it would traverse through dense development in Roselle Park, Kenilworth, and Union Township, thereby making the project further disliked.[14][15][16] By 1967, state officials decided not to pursue the continuation of I-278, and used the funds for I-278 to build I-195 across Central New Jersey instead.[17] Meanwhile, I-278 was built between US 1/9 in Linden and the Goethals Bridge, opening to traffic in 1969 at a cost of $11.5 million.[18]

New Jersey


In the Bronx, I-278 becomes the Bruckner Expressway and reaches an interchange with the southern terminus of I-87 (Major Deegan Expressway).[2] At this point, the Bruckner Expressway heads northeast on a six-lane elevated alignment through industrial areas with some residences, paralleling the Northeast Corridor.[3] Along this section, there is a westbound exit and eastbound entrance for 138th Street.[2] I-895 splits from the eastbound direction of I-278 as the Bruckner Expressway makes a turn to the east into residential and commercial neighborhoods on a surface alignment, crossing the Bronx River on a drawbridge.[2][3] The road has an interchange at Hunts Point Avenue before coming to the Bronx River Parkway. Continuing east, the road has an exit serving White Plains Road and Castle Hill Avenue.[2] I-278's eastern terminus is at the Bruckner Interchange further to the east. Here, the Bruckner Expressway becomes I-95 and continues towards the New England Thruway. At this interchange, I-278 also has access to I-295, I-678, and the Hutchinson River Parkway.[2][3] Legally, the New York section of I-278 is defined as part of Interstate Route Connector 512 and all of Interstate Route Connector 518 in New York Highway Law § 340-a.[11]

Eastbound I-278 in the Bronx, at the exit for I-895

Bruckner Expressway

I-278 turns west to run along the eight-lane state-maintained Grand Central Parkway, with Astoria Boulevard (and Hoyt Avenue later on) serving as a frontage road.[3][9] The frontage road serves as a truck route since large trucks are not permitted on the Grand Central. (Since November 2003, small trucks have been allowed on the Grand Central, an exception to the law prohibiting trucks on parkways in New York State.) The road runs along a depressed alignment, passing under Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.[3] At the 31st Street interchange, the Grand Central Parkway overlap ends, and I-278 continues northwest as an eight-lane freeway over neighborhoods.[2][3] The road crosses the Hell Gate on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, maintained by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and comes onto Wards Island, which is a part of the borough of Manhattan.[3][6] On Wards Island, the road heads north through Wards Island Park and passes to the east of Manhattan Psychiatric Center as it heads onto Randall's Island.[3] I-278 comes to a toll plaza before an interchange that provides access to Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive by way of another segment of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge over the Harlem River. After this interchange, the Triborough Bridge carries the route over the Bronx Kill into the Bronx.[2][3]

Grand Central Parkway and RFK Bridge

I-278 crosses the Newtown Creek into Queens on the Kosciuszko Bridge. Upon entering Queens, the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway runs north between residential neighborhoods to the east and Calvary Cemetery to the west before coming to an interchange with I-495.[2][3] After I-495, the freeway makes a turn to the east, passing over homes before crossing over New Calvary Cemetery.[3] The road turns northeast through more urban neighborhoods and reaches an interchange at NY 25 (Queens Boulevard).[2][3] At this point, I-278 becomes city maintained again and passes under the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line as it continues into a depressed alignment.[3][9] The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway turns north as it comes to the exit for Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. I-278 heads back onto a viaduct and comes to a single-point urban interchange at NY 25A. A short distance past NY 25A, the freeway splits into east and west segments with four lanes each that respectively merge into the Grand Central Parkway east- and west-bound; Astoria Blvd is accessible from either;[2][3] both legs receive interstate highway funding.[10]

A congested elevated freeway passing through an area of urban high rise buildings
The expressway rising to its elevated section in Brooklyn


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