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Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

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Title: Brooklyn-Queens Expressway  
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Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

"The BQE" redirects here. For the Sufjan Stevens album, see The BQE (soundtrack).

Interstate 278
Map of New York City with I-278 highlighted in red
;">Route information
Maintained by NJDOT, PANYNJ, NYSDOT, NYCDOT, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels
Existed: 1961 – present
;">Major junctions
West end: US 1-9 in Linden, NJ
  I-95 / NJ Tpk. 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

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 passes 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

New Jersey

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

The New Jersey segment of I-278 begins in Linden, Union County at the junction with 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]

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

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 westbound. 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 downtown Brooklyn on a depressed alignment.[3] The next interchange the highway reaches serves Atlantic Avenue.[2] After Atlantic Avenue, the road runs along the East River harbor in downtown Brooklyn and is partially covered to create the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.[3] I-278 makes a sharp turn to the east away from the East River, maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation, and comes to an interchange serving the Brooklyn Bridge and Cadman Plaza.[2][3][9] The freeway continues on an elevated alignment and makes a turn southeast as it comes to ramps accessing the Manhattan Bridge.[2][3] The highway becomes state maintained again and reaches at an exit serving Tillary Street and Flushing Avenue.[2][9] At this point, the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway continues east through residential areas and turns northeast upon coming to the Wythe Avenue/Kent Avenue exit. The road passes through the Williamsburg neighborhood on a depressed alignment, reaching an interchange that serves the Williamsburg Bridge, with an exit at Metropolitan Avenue a short distance later. I-278 becomes elevated again as it passes through more neighborhoods and comes to the interchange with Humboldt Street/McGuinness Boulevard. The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway enters more industrial areas as it comes to Meeker Avenue/Morgan Avenue.[2][3]

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]

Grand Central Parkway and Triborough Bridge

Main article: Grand Central Parkway

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 Triborough 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 Triborough Bridge over the Harlem River. After this interchange, the Triborough Bridge carries the route over the Bronx Kill into the Bronx.[2][3]

Bruckner Expressway

Main article: Bruckner Expressway

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]


New Jersey

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]

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]

Staten Island Expressway

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 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 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]

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]

Gowanus Expressway

The Gowanus Expressway was initially the Gowanus Parkway, first planned in the 1930s.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31][32] 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.[33] In 1998, a $16 million feasibility study for a tunnel for the Gowanus Expressway was awarded.[34] The New York State Department of Transportation was considering putting the road in a tunnel,[35] but in November, 2011 the Federal Highway Administration canceled the project.[36] The viaduct's vertical steel supports show material missing due to rust,[37] but the federal government promises it won't collapse.[38]

Brooklyn–Queens Expressway

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 .[39] 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.[40] 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.[41][42] 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][43]

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 muiltyear project begin in the 1980s brought upgrades to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.[44] In 1999, a proposal surfaced to put the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway in a tunnel.[45] In the 2000s, the expressway underwent another upgrade project that replaced many bridges along the route.[46]

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.[47]

Bruckner Expressway

The Bruckner Expressway was originally the Bruckner Boulevard, designated as part of NY 1A.[48][49][50] 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][39] 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.[51] 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.[52] In 1972, the large Bruckner Interchange was finished, completing the route.[53] 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.[31] By 1970, I-278 was aligned onto its current alignment, with I-895 created along the Sheridan Expressway.[32]

Exit list

See also


External links

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

Browse numbered routes
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