FULFILLING THE NEED FOR AN EAST-WEST PARKWAY: When the Westchester parkway system was planned in the 1920's, there was to be a series of east-west routes to connect the three north-south corridors serving the county: the Saw Mill, Bronx River and Hutchinson River parkways.

The east-west parkway proposals were as follows:

  • Cross-County Parkway
  • Central Westchester Parkway
  • Bear Mountain State Parkway

In 1929, the Westchester County Parks Commission began construction of the Cross County Parkway. Extending from the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers east to the Hutchinson River Parkway, the parkway originally consisted of an undivided, 40-foot-wide roadway that could accommodate four lanes of automobile traffic.

In 1929, the Westchester County Parks Commission began construction of the Cross County Parkway. Extending from the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers east to the Hutchinson River Parkway, the parkway originally consisted of an undivided, 40-foot-wide roadway that could accommodate four lanes of automobile traffic.

Part of the parkway was intended to be built originally along Laurel Brook and through Hunt Woods Park. The park, which is about one-quarter mile to one-half mile north of the current parkway in Mount Vernon, is a naturally contoured strip of land that was purchased by the county during the late 1920's to serve as a right-of-way. To cut the cost of building an additional mile of parkway, the county chose instead to build a concrete arch bridge over the Bronx River and the adjacent Bronx River Parkway, and to build a straight-line alignment through Mount Vernon.

Two wyes of the parkway were built to connect the Cross County Parkway to the Hutchinson River Parkway:

  • The northern wye, which connects to the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway, opened in 1932. It was part of the original mainline that was to be extended northeast to Rye Playland. The original junction between the Cross County Parkway and the Hutchinson River Parkway was a "directional-T" interchange with tightly spaced left-hand exits. By 1960, this interchange had been reconstructed.

  • The southern wye, which connects to the southbound Hutchinson River Parkway, is also known as the Wartburg Connection. The connection, which was constructed through land that was formerly part of the Wartburg Orphan Home in Mount Vernon, did not open until 1947. (However, land for the extension had been purchased as early as 1940.)

The opening of the Wartburg Connection eased congestion at the original Cross County-Hutchinson interchange for some time, but the relief was temporary. Soon, congestion choke points appeared at both wyes of the Cross County Parkway.

Around the time the Wartburg Connection opened, a median barrier was installed along the entire length of the parkway. Rights-of-way were also set aside for a truck route alongside the parkway, but plans for this were soon dropped.

This 1953 photo shows the Cross County Parkway at its junction with the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers. (Photo from "This Is Westchester" supplied by James Rumbarger.)

PARKWAY EXPANSION SPARKS CONTROVERSY: In 1955, Westchester County officials announced a $61 million plan to upgrade the county's parkways up to modern design standards. Among the proposals offered was a widening of the Cross County Parkway to six or more lanes. However, this widening project was delayed until additional state funding was made available.

The Cross County Parkway was maintained by Westchester County until 1961, when it was transferred to the East Hudson Parkway Authority, a New York State agency. In 1964, work began on a project that widened the parkway from four to ten lanes between EXIT 4 (I-87 / New York State Thruway) and EXIT 7 (Gramatan Avenue). This involved the construction of three express lanes and two local lanes in each direction (creating a 2-3-3-2 configuration), as well as the removal of the original tollbooths.

In order to widen the parkway, wooded buffers that separated the parkway from residential neighborhoods had to be bulldozed. Work progressed at a lethargic pace due to insufficient funding, as well as to community opposition from Yonkers and Mount Vernon residents. The Cross County Parkway widening project was completed in 1978, 14 years after ground was broken for the project, and 23 years after the project was first proposed.

One section of the Cross County Parkway was not widened, however. From EXIT 3 (Yonkers Avenue) west to the Saw Mill River Parkway "trumpet" interchange, the route narrows to two lanes in each direction, passing under a railroad bridge belonging to the New York Central Railroad-Putnam Division. The railroad line was last used by passenger trains in 1958, and by freight trains in 1980.

AFTER THE WIDENING: When the last of the agency's bonds were paid off in 1980, jurisdiction over the parkway was transferred from the East Hudson Parkway Authority to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

According to the NYSDOT, the Cross County Parkway carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day (AADT) from the Saw Mill River Parkway east to the Bronx River Parkway, and approximately 120,000 vehicles per day from the Bronx River Parkway east to the Hutchinson River Parkway.

This 2002 photo shows the Cross County Parkway looking west near EXIT 6 (Bronx River Parkway) in Mount Vernon. (Photo by Howard Finkel.)

AN EASTERN EXTENSION TO RYE PLAYLAND: Since the late 1920's, an eastern extension of the Cross County Parkway was proposed to connect the "mainline" and "Playland Parkway" segments. This missing link, which was to have been built along a greenbelt through New Rochelle and Mamaroneck to the vicinity of Saxon Woods Park, was delayed because of the Great Depression and World War II. The proposal remained on county plans through much of the postwar era.

In its 1966 report, Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, the Tri-State Transportation Commission advocated the extension of the Cross County Parkway:

In Westchester, there is a pressing need to provide improved east-west service in the lower portion of the county by upgrading the Cross County Parkway. This upgrade will extend the reconstructed route to connect with the New England Thruway (I-95) and Boston Post Road (US 1). In addition to serve as a peripheral route for close-in suburbs, the Cross County Parkway Extension will promote redevelopment efforts in older cities. It could potentially connect with a future Hudson River crossing to Bergen County.

By the early 1970's, the Cross County Parkway Extension was shelved. Douglas A. Willinger of the Takoma Park Highway Design Studio, former Westchester County resident and frequent contributor to nycroads.com, posted the following on misc.transport.road about proposals for extending the parkway, as well as for allowing trucks on the parkway:

A better means of providing an interstate highway link that trucks might use would be the Cross County Parkway. That road, a relative rarity in Westchester County as a limited access east-west road, was drastically rebuilt during the late 1960's. (I remember seeing it in person, as I had my mother drive me there every two weeks to see the construction progress during the late 1960s.) That rebuild took the CCP from four to six-to-eight lanes, complete with high retaining walls. The overpasses were, from an architectural standpoint, dissimilar from the original parkway architecture because of their lack of stone facing and relatively high clearances. This rebuild did not provide a continuous eight-lane roadway. However, there is median space east of the interchange with the Bronx River Parkway near Mount Vernon that would allow eight lanes within the section of the Cross County Parkway that has the high retaining walls.

Of course, converting the Cross County Parkway into an interstate highway would likely require building an extension eastwards through Pelham and New Rochelle to I-95 (New England Thruway), logically connecting with it just south of the Larchmont toll plaza. Such a link was last considered in the early 1970's, when there was discussion talk in the newspaper articles about this proposal, combined with the issue of allowing trucks on the CCP. However, much of this would have required a new swath through older neighborhoods with large old homes and big trees, perhaps crossing under Lincoln Avenue about a block or two west of Webster Avenue in New Rochelle. 

Therefore, I do not see this much needed link happening, unless it constructed largely as a bored tunnel, thus taking advantage of the high topography to achieve this highway link without an entirely new surface swath.

Evidence of the proposed eastern extension can be found at the intersection of the southern spur of the Cross County Parkway and the Hutchinson River Parkway in Bronxville. In addition to carrying the westbound lanes, the overpass spanning the Hutchinson River Parkway carries a two-lane roadway for what would have been the eastbound lanes for the extension. This currently unused roadway was once used, as nycroads.com contributor David Jackino described below:

The unused eastbound section was once used during the late 1960's and early 1970's, when the Cross County Parkway section between EXIT 9 (Hutchinson River Parkway southbound) in Mount Vernon and the Hutchinson River Parkway northbound junction in Bronxville was being reconstructed. The eastbound lanes of the overpass were used as a detour to the northbound Hutch during reconstruction. When that section of the Cross County Parkway was finally reopened, the eastbound lanes went back to their "natural" state. However, for many years after the project was completed, the annoying barricades stayed up along where the CCP and Hutch northbound meet. (I am amazed I remember this, never mind what years it happened).

AND A WESTERN EXTENSION TO YONKERS? In the late 1960's, the Tri-State Transportation Commission advocated a western extension of the Cross County Parkway as part of a northern bypass that would have extended west across the Hudson River through Bergen County, New Jersey. This northern bypass, which was designated as a long-range proposal for completion by 1985, was to terminate at the intersection of I-80 (Bergen-Passaic Expressway) and NJ 19 (Paterson Peripheral) in Paterson. In 1970, the states of New York and New Jersey submitted this link as a proposed addition to the Interstate highway system, but the Federal Highway Administration rejected this proposal.

In recent years, Armand D'Amore, a former village trustee in Elmsford, New York, has advocated reviving both the eastern and western extensions of the Cross County Parkway, and by bringing the route to Interstate highway standards, would permit trucks and buses to use the route. To the west, the route would connect to a northern extension of the New Jersey Turnpike through Bergen County. According to D'Amore, the route would not only relieve congestion on the Tappan Zee and George Washington bridges, but also because of its geographic location between the two bridges, provide another bypass route between New Jersey and New England.

This 1999 photo shows the ramp from the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway to the westbound Cross County Parkway in Pelham. Through the trees and to the left of the westbound ramp, one can see the unused eastbound lanes that were to be part of an eastern extension. (Photo by Douglas A. Willinger.)

SOURCES: Reports of the Westchester County Parks Commission (1926-1935), Westchester County Parks Commission (1935); "Westchester Gets Parkway Plans" by Merrill Folsom, The New York Times (1/18/1955); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program," Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate (1970); "East Hudson Parkway Authority: Annual Report," East Hudson Parkway Authority (1977); "Pioneering in Parks and Parkways: Westchester County, New York (1895-1945)" by Marilyn E. Weigold, Public Works Historical Society (February 1980); Al Brecken; Alexander Boyle; Armand D'Amore; Ralph Herman; David Jackino; Scott Oglesby; Nathan W. Perry; Nelson Ricardo; Douglas A. Willinger.

  • Cross County Parkway shield by Ralph Herman.
  • Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman.




  • Cross County Parkway exit list by Steve Anderson.


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