ONCE A COUNTY ROAD: In 1950, the Suffolk County Department of Public Works (SCDPW) completed Veterans Memorial Highway, a four-lane arterial highway connecting Jericho Turnpike (NY 25) in Commack with the Sunrise Highway (NY 27) in Holbrook. The 13.6-mile-long highway, which was one of the few divided highways in Suffolk County when it opened, cost $1.75 million and took two years to build.
The opening of "Vets Highway" was touted in The Patchogue Advance as follows:
Actually, 13.62 miles have been added (to the 4,314 miles of road in Suffolk County) since the Veterans Memorial Highway has been opened to the public. It opens interesting areas of Suffolk's few remaining hinterlands. It has two assigned numbers, County Road 76 for the 4.18 miles in the Town of Smithtown, and County Road 78 for the 9.44 miles in the Town of Islip. Its eastern, or so-called Patchogue terminus, which actually does not touch the community of Patchogue, will run into the Sunrise Highway extension. Skirting MacArthur Airport, readily attainable from it via Lakeland Avenue, the road connects with Jericho Turnpike in Commack.
The dual artery with a mall to keep eastbound and westbound traffic apart, is the pride of County Superintendent of Highways Harry T. Tuthill, and it was largely through his incentive that it was built. The rights-of-way are 144 feet wide and allow for additional lanes, should they ever be required, and permit water and sewer lines to be laid when wanted without tearing up roadbed.
Built under the Federal Secondary Road program whereby the U.S. government and the State of New York share construction costs equally, the highway is now under the full jurisdiction of Mr. Tuthill.
STATE TAKEOVER AND EXPRESSWAY PLANS: In 1972, Veterans Memorial Highway was transferred to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), upon which time the highway was re-designated NY 454. (The two former designations for Vets Highway - CR 76 and CR 78 - were assigned to Town Line Road and Church Street, two county roads that intersect the highway.) Soon thereafter, the NYSDOT widened Veterans Memorial Highway to six lanes (three lanes in each direction) from the eastern terminus of the Northern State Parkway east to the terminus of Smithtown Bypass (NY 347). In 1977, the NYSDOT co-designated the Hauppauge section of Vets Highway NY 454 and NY 347, after the cancellation of the Hauppauge Spur connecting to the Long Island Expressway (I-495).
The NYSDOT had grand plans for both NY 454 and nearby NY 347. Both four-lane arterial highways were to be converted into six-lane expressways with flanking service roads. The proposed conversion of NY 454 into an expressway, recommended in the 1970 Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board transportation plan, had been long abandoned by the time of the commercial development boom of the 1980's.
VETS HIGHWAY TODAY: According to the NYSDOT, Veterans Memorial Highway carries approximately 60,000 vehicles per day (AADT) in the area of the Hauppauge County Center, and approximately 45,000 vehicles per day in the area of Long Island MacArthur Airport.
Under the "Route 347 Corridor Study" and "LITP 2000" long-range proposals, the NYSDOT plans to provide an additional travel lane along the entire length of Vets Highway. Most of the route would have six travel lanes (three lanes in each direction), while the multiplexed NY 454-NY347 section through the Hauppauge County Center would have eight travel lanes (four lanes in each direction). The new travel lanes may accommodate Long Island Rapid Commute (LIRC) articulated vehicles during peak-hour periods. A grade separation structure will be built at the NY 347-NY 454 split in Hauppauge. The $359 million Route 347 project is scheduled for completion between 2012 and 2015.
This 2000 photo shows the eastbound Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454) approaching the split for Smithtown Bypass (NY 347) in Hauppauge. The NYSDOT plans a bridge at this location to separate the eastbound NY 347 and westbound NY 454 traffic flows. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, gribblenation.com.)
In addition to the widening planned by NYSDOT, grade separations should be constructed at key intersections including New Highway, Old Willets Path (Suffolk CR 108) and Smithtown Bypass (NY 347) in Hauppauge, Lakeland Avenue (Suffolk CR 93) in Bohemia, and Johnson Avenue (Suffolk CR 112) near MacArthur Airport.
Daniel T. Dey, Long Island contributor to nycroads.com, suggested an even bolder approach by recommending the adoption of the 1970 Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board proposal to convert NY 454 into a six-lane expressway with service roads. Given the rapid development of the NY 454 corridor over the past quarter century, this project would be very difficult to construct today.
SOURCES: "New County Road Opens Up Interesting Hinterlands" by Coletta Clayton, The Patchogue Advance (1/26/1950); "Long Island Regional Transportation Plan," Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board (1970); "Island's Hottest Seven Miles" by Kimberly Greer, Newsday (12/22/1986); "Road Study Urges Veterans' Revamp" by Stuart Vincent, Newsday (2/22/1987); "LI's Roads in a Big Jam" by Tom Morris, Newsday (2/22/1990); "Revamp Key Roads: Study Says Veterans Highway Key Part of Plan That Would Cost Billions" by Katti Gray, Newsday (2/22/1990); "Route 347 Corridor Study," New York State Department of Transportation (1993); "Highway Hopes That Faded" by Sidney C. Schaer, Newsday (11/05/1999); "Proposal to Fix Route 347" by John Valenti, Newsday (2/03/2002); "Route 347 Plan: Honk If You Hate It" by John Rather, The New York Times (6/12/2005); Daniel T. Dey; Nick Klissas; Jim Wade; Karl Walz.
NY 454, Suffolk CR 76 and Suffolk CR 78 shields by Ralph Herman.