This 2004 photo shows an original stone-arch bridges carrying Boundary Avenue over the Bethpage State Parkway in South Farmingdale, Nassau County. The parkway has a "super 2" design -- a two-lane road with no center divider -- throughout its entire length. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, gribblenation.com.)
PROVIDING PARK ACCESS: The Bethpage State Parkway was opened in 1936 to serve as a parkway connection from the Southern State Parkway to Bethpage State Park in eastern Nassau County. The parkway, which cost $1.1 million to construct, also provides access to Hempstead Turnpike (NY 24). With the opening of this parkway, Bethpage State Park, with its five golf courses, immediately became a popular destination.
The Bethpage State Parkway was constructed with a 22-foot-wide undivided pavement, providing one northbound and one southbound lane. All crossroads, as well as the LIRR main line, are grade-separated. The two-lane, 55 MPH roadway terminates at the Bethpage State Park traffic circle (unsigned EXIT B5). Roads through the state park connect the circle east to the park facilities and Central Avenue, and west to Powell Avenue, Plainview Road and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135).
In 1977, maintenance of the Bethpage State Parkway was transferred from the Long Island State Park Commission (LISPC) to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), although ownership remained under the jurisdiction of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). To accommodate the increase in traffic volume and speed, and to address the accident history, the NYSDOT began to modify the parkway in accordance with federal and state traffic safety guidelines.
Traffic characteristics along the Bethpage State Parkway have changed from the largely recreational nature of the 1930's to the commuter nature of today. To accommodate this change, additional safety improvements were implemented in the early 1980's. Among the improvements wider 12-foot travel lanes, 10-foot-wide shoulders, improved reflective signs and sand-filled impact attenuators.
The early 1980's rehabilitation project brought a pedestrian and cycling trail running parallel along the east side of the parkway. Unlike the original trail, which ran along the west side of the parkway and only goes as far north as EXIT B3 (NY 24-Hempstead Turnpike), the new trail runs along the entire length of the parkway.
According to the NYSDOT, the Bethpage State Parkway handles approximately 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT). Despite safety upgrades over the years, the Bethpage State Parkway is expected to remain the only Long Island parkway to remain true to its origin as a two-lane undivided road.
This 2002 photo shows the northbound Bethpage State Parkway at the LIRR underpass just before EXIT B4 (Central Avenue) in Bethpage. Note the underpass just to the right of the two-lane parkway for the pedestrian and bicycle trail. The parkway ends at Bethpage State Park, about one-quarter mile north of this point. (Photo by Jon Lebowitz.)
When the Bethpage State Parkway opened in 1936, LISPC commissioner Robert Moses was considering extensions of the parkway south to Merrick Road in Massapequa, and north to the Northern State Parkway in Plainview. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, state and county officials further refined both extension proposals.
Unlike the earlier proposed extensions, the revised extensions were to be constructed as four-lane, dual-carriageway facilities. In addition, the existing Bethpage State Parkway was to be upgraded as a modern parkway facility.
The extensions were to be built as follows:
SOUTHERN EXTENSION: Beginning at the Southern State Parkway, the Bethpage State Parkway was to have been extended two miles south through Massapequa to Merrick Road (Nassau CR 27A) in Massapequa. The right-of-way for the parkway was to have been through Massapequa State Park, so additional land acquisition was not an issue for Moses.
Interchanges were to have been built at the following locations:
EXITS B-X E/W: Nassau CR 27A (Merrick Road) - "trumpet" interchange EXITS B-X E/W: NY 27 (Sunrise Highway) - full "cloverleaf" interchange EXITS B1 E/W: Southern State Parkway - reconstructed as full "cloverleaf" interchange
NORTHERN EXTENSION: Beginning at the existing terminus at Bethpage State Park, the Bethpage State Parkway was to have been extended 11 miles north through Bethpage, Plainview, Woodbury, Cold Spring Harbor and Lloyd Harbor. North of the Northern State Parkway, the Bethpage State Parkway was to be designated as the Caumsett State Parkway.
Interchanges were to have been built at the following locations:
EXITS B1 E/W: Southern State Parkway - reconstructed as full "cloverleaf" interchange EXIT B2: Nassau CR 97 (Boundary Avenue) - reconstructed as "diamond" interchange EXIT B3: NY 24 (Hempstead Turnpike) - reconstructed as "diamond" interchange EXIT B4: Nassau CR 186 (Central Avenue) - partial "cloverleaf" interchange EXIT B5: NY 135 (Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway) - "scissors" interchange allowing northbound-to-northbound and southbound-to-southbound movements only; existing traffic circle (shown as EXIT B5 on maps) was to have been eliminated EXIT B6: Plainview Road-Broadway - "diamond" interchange; was to have included new entrance to Bethpage State Park EXIT B7: Nassau CR 25 (Old Country Road) - full "cloverleaf" interchange EXITS B8 E/W: I-495 (Long Island Expressway) - partial "cloverleaf" interchange (movements Bethpage Parkway N/B to I-495 E/B and W/B, I-495 W/B to Bethpage Parkway S/B, I-495 E/B to Bethpage Parkway S/B); right-of-way set aside for full "cloverleaf" upgrade) EXITS B9 (C1) E/W: Northern State Parkway - full "cloverleaf" interchange EXIT B10 (C2): NY 25 (Jericho Turnpike) - "diamond" interchange EXIT B11 (C3): NY 25A (Main Street) and NY 108 (Harbor Road) - interchange configuration unknown END PARKWAY: Caumsett State Park
At the northern terminus of the Caumsett State Parkway, there was to be a new 1,500-acre Caumsett State Park on the site of the former Marshall Field estate in Lloyd Harbor. The new park on Long Island Sound, with its proposed beach, boardwalk, bathhouse, picnic area, ball fields, and two golf courses, was envisioned as an "active use" park similar in nature to Sunken Meadow State Park.
This 1961 map shows the proposed layout of Caumsett State Park with the northwest direction at the top of the map. Note how the proposed Caumsett State Parkway was to enter the park from the lower left-hand corner of the map, ending at a traffic circle. (Long Island State Park Commission Map provided by the Caumsett Foundation, caumsettfoundation.org.)
EXTENSION PLANS THWARTED: Beginning in the early 1960's, Moses purchased rights-of-way for the northern extension. Residents in the wealthy enclaves of Lloyd Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor thwarted plans for both the "active use" state park and the parkway, though both remained on official plans through the 1960's and 1970's. However, without a state park as a destination, and with most of the north-south traffic needs in the area being met by the nearby Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135), the Bethpage State Parkway extension was not a high priority. Finally, in 1977, with Moses gone from the LISPC commissioner's post for more than a decade, Caumsett State Park opened as a "passive use" facility for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
In 1990, the Long Island Regional Planning Board resurrected plans for extending the Bethpage State Parkway to NY 25A in Cold Spring Harbor as part of its 20-year highway improvement program. The plan did not cite potential sources for funding the extension. By 1994, this proposal appeared to be dead. Prior to the Long Island Expressway HOV project in eastern Nassau, plans submitted to the state and county by Vollmer Associates suggested that the new service roads not have any overpasses (and were eventually built without them), and no provisions were made for a future parkway at the LIE.
A decade later, the NYSDOT proposed a short extension of the Bethpage State Parkway north to the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135) as part of the "LITP 2000" long-range plan. The proposed extension, which would be constructed through the southwest corner of Bethpage State Park, awaits environmental study and public review.
In 2002, the NYSDOT handed over the Bethpage-Caumsett right-of-way from Bethpage State Park north to NY 25A to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). The 7.4-mile-long, 400-acre linear park was re-established as Trail View State Park, and has multi-use trails for hiking, cycling and other activities.
THE BETHPAGE BICYCLE PATH: During the past 25 years, the NYSDOT converted the right-of-way for the Bethpage State Parkway south of the Southern State Parkway for the Bethpage Bicycle Path. The state now plans to extend this 13-foot-wide bicycle path north to the Syosset LIRR station. Once the $3.8 million project is completed later this decade, the bicycle path would extend for 16 miles.
The proposed bicycle path extension north from the present terminus at Bethpage State Park would utilize the Bethpage State Parkway right-of-way north through Old Bethpage and Plainview, crossing underneath the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State Parkway through new tunnels. It would veer west along Sunnyside Boulevard to Woodbury Road, and continue north along the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway right-of-way to Convent Road in Syosset.
The original plan called for the path to parallel the current Greenbelt Trail from Bethpage State Park along the Bethpage State Parkway-Caumsett State Parkway right-of-way north to NY 25A in Cold Spring Harbor. However, this plan was shelved due to fears that the bicycle trail would infringe upon the greenbelt.
These 1997 photos show the overpass carrying the Long Island Expressway (I-495) over what was to be the Bethpage State Parkway in Plainview. During the HOV construction project on the Long Island Expressway, the steelwork was removed, and the area beneath the underpass was filled in with aggregate. (Photos by Chip Ordway.)
SOURCES: "New Highways Across Long Island To Link North and South Shores," The New York Times (11/15/1936); Master Plan for Nassau County," Nassau County Department of Public Works (1959); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); History of the Long Island State Parkway System, New York State Department of Transportation (1985); "Reassessing Robert Moses: The Legacy of a Power Broker," The Newsday Magazine (12/04/1988); Robert Moses: Single-Minded Genius by Joann P. Krieg, Heart of the Lakes Publishing (1989); "LI's Roads in a Big Jam" by Tom Morris, Newsday (2/22/1990); "Extension of Three Expressways Urged" by Monte R. Young, Newsday (2/22/1990); "Ask Dr. Conehead" by Kim Nava, Newsday (6/28/1998); "Highway Hopes That Faded" by Sidney C. Schaer, Newsday (11/05/1999); "NYSDOT Peddles Its Plan for Bike Path Extension" by John Valenti, Newsday (3/25/2001); "A Guide to Our Natural World," Newsday (3/14/2004); Caumsett Foundation; New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; Vollmer Associates; Daniel T. Dey; Ralph Herman; Nathan W. Perry; Mike Tantillo; Jim Wade.
Bethpage State Parkway and Caumsett State Parkway shields by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman. Bike route sign by Richard C. Moeur.
BETHPAGE STATE PARKWAY AND CAUMSETT STATE PARKWAY LINKS: