New York State Route 878
Map of western Long Island with NY 878 highlighted in red
|Maintained by NYSDOT and NYCDOT|
|Length:||5.69 mi (9.16 km)|
|Length:||3.73 mi (6.00 km)|
|West end:||NY 27 / Belt Parkway and Conduit Avenue in Queens|
|I-678 in Queens|
|East end:||Farmers / Rockaway Boulevards in Queens|
|Length:||1.96 mi (3.15 km)|
|North end:||Burnside Avenue / Rockaway Boulevard in Inwood|
|South end:||Atlantic Beach Bridge / Seagirt Boulevard in Lawrence|
New York State Route 878 (NY 878) is a state highway in the U.S. state of New York, forming the Nassau Expressway. The route exists in two sections, connected to each other by Rockaway Boulevard and Rockaway Turnpike. The combined route's western terminus is the Belt Parkway and Conduit Avenue (NY 27) in Ozone Park, southern Queens, and its southern terminus is Atlantic Beach Bridge in Lawrence, southwestern Nassau County.
NY 878 is maintained in part by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT); the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), which maintains the Rockaway Boulevard connector between the two sections as the reference route NY 909G; and the government of Nassau County The 0.70 miles (1.13 km) of NY 878 from I-678 east to the JFK Expressway is officially designated, but not signed as, Interstate 878 (I-878). This segment is instead signed as NY 878. The NYSDOT designated the eastbound freeway as I-878 in January 1970, but the entire Nassau Expressway was redesignated as NY 878 by 1991.
NY 878, the Nassau Expressway, was originally planned in 1945 as a freeway between the Belt Parkway in Queens and Long Beach in Nassau. The expressway was supposed to replace Rockaway Boulevard and Turnpike in the vicinity of what is now John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, connecting to a proposed Long Beach Expressway south of Atlantic Beach Bridge. The short freeway portion in Queens was originally built as part of Interstate 78 (I-78) in the late 1960s, but the segment of I-78 through New York City was canceled in March 1971 due to community opposition. Through the 1970s, the entire freeway south of 150th Street was also canceled for various reasons. A scaled-down version of the road in Nassau, a 4-lane arterial road, was completed in 1990. There has been an attempt to complete the freeway in Queens, but it was deferred due to the early 1990s economic recession.
The 3.73-mile (6.00 km) northwest section in Queens is mostly built to freeway standards and lies along the north edge of JFK Airport, just south of the Belt Parkway and Conduit Avenue (NY 27). Officially it stretches from the interchange between the Belt Parkway, Conduit Avenue (NY 27) and Cross Bay Boulevard east to the intersection of Rockaway Boulevard and Farmers Boulevard. The eastbound freeway does in fact begin in the median of Conduit Avenue just west of Cross Bay Boulevard – but it carries NY 27 until a point between the IND Rockaway Line underpass and Lefferts Boulevard. The separate NY 878 begins at that split, and carries eastbound one-way traffic only until the junction with I-678 (Van Wyck Expressway). There it becomes two-way, continuing east past the JFK Expressway; the freeway ends at a traffic light at North Hangar Road. NY 878 ends soon after at Rockaway Boulevard and Farmers Boulevard.
The 0.70 miles (1.13 km) stretch from I-678 (Van Wyck Expressway) east to the JFK Expressway is designated but not signed as I-878 by the Federal Highway Administration, making it the shortest three-digit Interstate Route, and the shortest Interstate Highway for that matter, in the Interstate Highway System. This section of NY 878 is only signed eastbound, not on the shorter westbound side. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) designates I-878 as the stretch of NY 878 from the Van Wyck Expressway east to the 150th Street underpass. The entire segment, including the unsigned I-878, is maintained by the NYSDOT.
Between the two halves of NY 878, traffic uses Rockaway Boulevard in Queens and Rockaway Turnpike in Nassau County. From the end of NY 878 to near Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, the road is maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). From there to just short of the city line is NY 909G; the last 0.07 miles (0.11 km) are again city-maintained. The part of Rockaway Turnpike that helps connect NY 878 is maintained by Nassau County.
The 2.40-mile (3.86 km) southeast section of NY 878 is a surface expressway, with only two bridges – over the Far Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road and under Seagirt Boulevard at a trumpet interchange. As signed, NY 878 runs from the split with Rockaway Turnpike south to the toll plaza of the Atlantic Beach Bridge. However, only the 1.96-mile (3.15 km) piece from Burnside Avenue in Inwood south to the Atlantic Beach Bridge toll plaza in Lawrence is actually considered NY 878 by NYSDOT; the road is county-maintained from Rockaway Turnpike to Burnside Avenue. The southern section of NY 878 is one of several NYS touring routes with no connections to other state routes.
Predecessors and planning
The expressway was first proposed in late 1945, to connect Brooklyn with southeastern Queens and the South Shore of Long Island, as well as to provide a link to Idlewild (now JFK) Airport. It was among several highways planned jointly between Robert Moses' Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. By 1949, the Nassau Expressway was planned along with a replacement for the original Atlantic Beach Bridge. It was envisioned by Moses and Nassau County executive J. Russell Sprague as a vital link between Atlantic Beach, the Belt Parkway system, and the Bronx–Whitestone Bridge. A contract for preliminary engineering work was awarded that year. As originally proposed, the highway would have only extended from the interchange with Van Wyck Expressway and Belt Parkway to the Atlantic Beach Bridge.
In the beginning, the Nassau Expressway was supposed to be a single highway, with the now-separate spurs to be connected by a highway running parallel to Rockaway Boulevard and Rockaway Turnpike. The connector highway would have passed through the wetlands of Idlewild and Hook Creek, then turned south through the small community of Meadowmere, Queens, located near Five Towns. This route was favored as a replacement to Rockaway Boulevard/Turnpike, which was viewed as inadequate and congested. A map of the expressway was presented to the Nassau residents in 1951. Three years later, the state made the first land acquisitions for the Nassau segment of the expressway.
The Nassau Expressway was proposed along with a planned Long Beach Expressway, which would have extended east past the Atlantic Beach Bridge along the South Shore to Long Beach and Lido Beach, ending at a junction with the Loop Parkway leading to Jones Beach and the Meadowbrook State Parkway. The Long Beach Expressway would have been a six-lane expressway, running along Reynolds Channel on the north shore of the Long Beach Barrier Island to New York Avenue, then along Park Avenue, which was the primary commercial thoroughfare of Long Beach.
The Nassau Expressway was mapped as part of the Interstate Highway System in 1961, at which point the New York State Department of Public Works began purchasing land for both the Nassau and Long Beach Expressways. In particular, many homes in Inwood, Nassau County were either condemned and demolished or relocated in order to facilitate the expressway. However, Long Beach residents opposed the proposed Long Beach Expressway's routing along Park Avenue, as the residents believed the highway would create a "Chinese Wall" dividing their community. The Long Beach Expressway was vetoed by the state in 1967 due to community opposition.
Construction and delays
The first section of the Nassau Expressway was a 2.8-mile-long (4.5 km), one-way eastbound segment between Cross Bay Boulevard and 150th Street, near the current JFK Expressway. The eastbound Nassau Expressway intersected with the Van Wyck Expressway at JFK Airport. The construction of this section was approved by the New York City Planning Commission and New York City Board of Estimate in 1963 and work began in 1965.:I-3 Construction of the new roadway was completed in 1967:I-3 or 1971. The construction of the eastbound highway drastically reduced congestion and increased average traffic speeds for drivers traveling eastbound on South Conduit Avenue and the Nassau Expressway. Westbound drivers on North Conduit Avenue continued to experience 10 to 15 miles per hour (16 to 24 km/h) congestion since no new highway had been built there. This corridor saw an average of 600,000 daily trips by 1981, of which 20% were airport traffic.:I-2 to I-3
Construction on the southern section of the highway along Rockaway Boulevard and in Nassau County was hindered due to the muck that composed the right-of-way along the Idlewild wetlands near the Queens-Nassau border, which could not be built upon and was both fiscally and environmentally difficult to dispose of. The wetlands had previously been used as a garbage landfill by the New York City Department of Sanitation.:2–3 Like the Long Beach Expressway, the route was also opposed due to the potential of creating a "Chinese Wall" between communities in Nassau County.
In March 1971, Governor Nelson Rockefeller revealed a plan to improve New York City highways. The plan denied funding" to several proposed New York City Interstate Highways, including the Nassau Expressway segment east of 150th Street to Rockaway Boulevard, because they did not qualify for 90% federal funding under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952. The New York Times quoted a state official who said that this move had the effect of canceling these projects. By that time, less than a quarter of the proposed $51.8 million, 10-mile (16 km) highway had been completed; the only section open at the time, the eastbound freeway west of JFK Airport, had been built for $18 million. Contemporary maps show that the connector between the Van Wyck and Rockaway Boulevard had yet to be constructed. However, a 1971 New York Times article mentioned that the freeway between the Van Wyck and 150th Street was already open. At the time, the entire highway from Queens to Nassau was planned for completion in 1981.
Work on the project restarted circa late 1973, with federal funds sought from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. The project would have completed the westbound highway west of 150th Street, and the Rockaway Boulevard and Nassau County sections. Rockaway Boulevard would have also been relocated and modernized.:1 However, the federal government refused to approve the funding, which was instead awarded to projects in Arkansas; Indiana; and Fort Worth, Texas. This further delayed the construction of the Nassau Expressway. By then, the unbuilt segment in Nassau was called the "phantom expressway" because it was still unbuilt after decades of planning. The right-of-way for the unbuilt expressway became an unused, rodent-infested "wasteland". Meanwhile, Rockaway Turnpike was carrying five times the number of cars it had been built to accommodate.
In 1976, New York Governor Hugh Carey announced the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)'s five-year, $212 million highway improvement plan, which included completing much of the rest of the Nassau Expressway. Three years later, the NYSDOT published plans for an expressway segment in Nassau. A revised plan for the Nassau County section of the highway, between Rockaway Turnpike in Inwood and the Atlantic Beach Bridge, was introduced around 1981, calling for a four-lane arterial highway. This section was opened in March 1990.
Also around 1980, plans to complete the expressway in Queens were reintroduced, including direct access to Aqueduct Racetrack.:I-6 to I-7 Work on the expressway project was to begin in 1998. However, by the 1990s, the project had not commenced, in spite of the fact that the new expressway would have relieved congestion on the parallel Belt Parkway. Construction was delayed indefinitely in 1995 due to a lack of funds due to the early-1990s recession, as well as a general decline in horse racing at the Aqueduct Racetrack, which obviated the need for the westbound Queens freeway.
In 1998, Nassau County legislator Bruce A. Blakeman proposed renaming the southern portion of NY 878 after President Ronald Reagan. Originally, he wanted that name applied to the Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) further east, but after opposition to that expressway's renaming, Blakeman then proposed renaming the Nassau Expressway after Reagan, but the Nassau Expressway renaming proposal was also opposed.
From 1959 to 1970, the I-878 designation was used for a section of what is now I-278 (Bruckner Expressway) between the Sheridan Expressway (I-895) and the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95) in the Bronx. I-278 was routed north on the Sheridan, while its present route was taken by I-878. At that time, the northwest piece of present NY 878 was to be part of I-78, which would have continued from the Holland Tunnel along the Lower Manhattan Expressway, Williamsburg Bridge and Bushwick Expressway to reach the Nassau Expressway at Cross Bay Boulevard. Northeast of Kennedy Airport, I-78 was to turn north onto the Clearview Expressway, using the Throgs Neck Bridge and Cross Bronx Expressway to end at the Bruckner Interchange.
The one-way eastbound section of the Nassau Expressway from Cross Bay Boulevard to the Van Wyck Expressway was built in the late 1960s as part of I-78. I-78 through New York City was canceled in March 1971. Effective January 1, 1970, the year before, the Nassau Expressway and unbuilt Cross Brooklyn Expressway, stretching from I-278 at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge east to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, was officially designated I-878 by the NYSDOT. The Nassau Expressway was redesignated as NY 878 by 1991.
Until 2005, the southern terminus of the southern portion of NY 878 was at Meadow Causeway. At the time, the portion of the Nassau Expressway from Meadow Causeway to the Seagirt Boulevard interchange was maintained by Nassau County while the section between the Seagirt Boulevard interchange and the Atlantic Beach Bridge toll barrier was maintained by the NYSDOT as NY 900V, a 0.25-mile (0.40 km) long reference route. In 2005, NY 878 was extended south to its present terminus at the Atlantic Beach Bridge toll barrier, resulting in an overlap with NY 900V. The NY 900V designation, now redundant to NY 878, was removed by October 2007.
|Queens||Ozone Park||0.00||0.00||–||NY 27 west (South Conduit Avenue)||Western terminus of eastbound NY 878|
|–||NY 27 east (South Conduit Avenue) to Belt Parkway / Lefferts Boulevard – Long Term Parking||Eastbound exit and entrance|
|–|| Belt Parkway west – Verrazano Bridge
NY 27 west (North Conduit Avenue) – Kennedy Airport
|Westbound exit only; western terminus of westbound NY 878|
|1S||Van Wyck Expressway south – Kennedy Airport||No westbound entrance; westbound exit is combined with NY 27 west|
|1N||I-678 north (Van Wyck Expressway) – Whitestone Bridge||No westbound entrance|
|2.76||4.44||2S||JFK Expressway – Kennedy Airport||No westbound exit|
|2.90||4.67||2N||Belt Parkway east / NY 27 east (South Conduit Avenue)||Eastbound exit only|
|3.30||5.31||Eastern terminus of freeway section|
|3||North Hangar Road / North Boundary Road – Kennedy Airport||At-grade intersection with westbound jughandle|
|3.73||6.00||Rockaway Boulevard north / Farmers Boulevard||At-grade intersection with eastbound reverse jughandle; Rockaway Boulevard continues south without designation|
|Gap in route; connection via 2.8 miles (4.51 kilometres) of Rockaway Boulevard and Turnpike|
|Nassau||Inwood||0.00||0.00||Burnside Avenue||Nassau Expressway continues north without designation, merging into Rockaway Turnpike 0.53 miles (1 km) north|
|Lawrence||1.71||2.75||Seagirt Boulevard||Trumpet interchange|
|1.96||3.15||Atlantic Beach Bridge||Southern terminus of NY 878 at toll barrier|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
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