This 2000 photo shows the eastbound Northern State Parkway at EXIT 35 (NY 106-NY 107) in Jericho. The old cloverleaf design, with its tight loop ramps and absence of acceleration-deceleration lanes, is a chronic source of congestion and accidents. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
COMPETING WITH THE MOTOR PARKWAY: The Northern State Parkway and the Southern State Parkway were planned from the earliest days of the Long Island State Park Commission (LISPC) in 1925. As described in the 1927 LISPC report, "Main Highways and Parkways Provided and Proposed for Long Island" the Northern State Parkway was to be routed "through the highlands in Wheatly (Old Westbury), Manetto (Plainview), Half Hollow and Dix Hills in the northern part of the Island." The stated purpose for the parkway "was to make lands acquired in the suburbs (for parks) accessible to the whole metropolitan population."
The parkway proposed by LISPC commissioner Robert Moses had the support of many in the business community, most notably banker and industrialist Horace Harding. Harding supported the Northern State Parkway plan, but wished to extend the scenic four-lane parkway east to Lake Ronkonkoma, roughly paralleling the route of the old Long Island Motor Parkway. Harding also urged the construction of a boulevard from Elmhurst to Manhasset, one that would later bear his name, to improve access to his Long Island country club.
Not everyone supported the Northern State Parkway proposal. The powerful property owners along Nassau County's North Shore - the fabled "Gold Coast" - feared that the intrusion of the parkway would destroy their ancestral homes. In response, an association of taxpayers that together owned 26 square miles in northern Nassau County organized to stop the right-of-way acquisition by Nassau County.
To defend its position, the association hired H.V. Hubbard, head of the School of City Planning at Harvard University, on the merits of upgrading and expanding the Long Island Motor Parkway, which opened in the opening years of the 1900's but had fallen into disrepair. Although Hubbard's report favored upgrading the existing Motor Parkway, the Long Island State Park Commission, upon the recommendation of engineers, found that it would be impractical to upgrade the old speedway as the Northern State Parkway.
Several notable changes in the route of the Northern State Parkway were made. According to a 1927 LISPC map, the route of the Grand Central Parkway was shown south of, but not connecting to the route of the Northern State Parkway. Plans were subsequently amended so that the two parkways meet. Further east, a plan was devised for a parkway spur to Oyster Bay, where a state park and Theodore Roosevelt memorial were to be constructed. This plan was shelved quickly.
This 1937 photo shows workers constructing the Northern State Parkway through Nassau County. (Photo by New York State Division of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.)
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT IN NASSAU COUNTY: The wealthy property owners would ultimately influence the final route of the Northern State Parkway through Nassau County. In 1928, the same year that the New York State Legislature appropriated funds for the parkway, landowners in East Hills and Old Westbury established a lobbying fund to keep the parkway off their land. After months of acrimonious debate, Governor Alfred E. Smith reached an agreement with the landowners in December 1929. The result was that a two-mile detour, "Objectors' Bend," had to be inserted in the parkway to avoid a group of exclusive residences whose owners wanted the parkway kept as far away as possible.
Construction of the Northern State Parkway began in July 1931 at a ceremony held at the Queens-Nassau border, jointly attended by Moses and Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first section of parkway, which carried the route of the Grand Central Parkway eastward to EXIT 28 (Willis Avenue) in Roslyn, was completed in 1933. Its opening coincided with that of the initial section of the Grand Central Parkway, which extended west to Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens. The route of the Northern State Parkway was extended around "Objectors' Bend" to EXIT 31 (Glen Cove Road) in Carle Place in 1934.
Throughout the route, a 44-foot, undivided pavement of four lanes (two in each direction) was the standard configuration. Mountable concrete curbs edged the turf shoulders that blended into cut slopes. To permit adequate sight distances on curves, graceful coves of lawn were either cut into existing woods or created by planting. Specimen trees, which consisted entirely of indigenous vegetation (except for the red dogwood, a favorite of Moses), accented the lawn areas. The parkway's design took advantage of the rolling hills that marked the southern end of the glacial moraine.
Once the opposing landowners saw the landscaped results of the finished work, they were so impressed that some even complained that the additional two miles they had to travel to get on the parkway was a case of discrimination against them. Although the landowners in Old Westbury offered to contribute land for a two-mile long parkway spur to connect with the parkway, Moses refused their request. (However, this area would be bisected by a later Moses creation, the Long Island Expressway, in the late 1950's.)
Between 1936 and 1938, the Northern State Parkway was extended to the Wantagh State Parkway (EXIT 33) in Westbury. This section was the beneficiary of changes in the parkway design of earlier years. From "Dictated by Safety" by Sidney M. Shapiro, assistant chief engineer of the LISPC, who published the following in 1938:
Parkways in the New York City Metropolitan area now total one hundred miles in aggregate length, and various sections of the system represent all degrees of efficiency. Those built ten years ago are in some respects obsolete, and even those built last year lack improvement provided on the more recently constructed. In effect, the Parkway System has been a huge research laboratory. The latest conclusions from this research are embodied in the Northern State-Wantagh State Parkway opened this week on Long Island and forming the final link in a 43-mile express road from the Triborough Bridge to Jones Beach. They are conclusions almost solely concerned with one objective - highway safety - and it is for that reason that this obscure (newly constructed) ten-mile stretch of parkway is significant. Its design includes every device and detail that experience has shown to be effective. Included among them are grade-separated crossings, divided lanes, cross-arm lighting standards, dark-colored pavement, accelerating lanes at entrances and exits, funnel entrances, sloping curbs, and wide level shoulders. These details have been used before, extensively or in trial installations. They are all brought together for the first time.
This stretch of the Northern State Parkway, which introduced a nine-foot-wide grass median that separated the opposing roadways, set the design standard for the construction of future parkways on Long Island.
The Northern State Parkway eastbound at EXIT 27 (Shelter Rock Road) in North Hills. This section of the parkway was widened from four to six lanes in the 1960's. The Shelter Rock Road overpass shown in this 1998 photo has since been replaced. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
EXTENDING INTO SUFFOLK COUNTY: The new Northern State Parkway design, which featured two 25-foot-wide, two-lane roadways separated by a variable median measuring as wide as 30 feet, was implemented through eastern Nassau County and western Suffolk County. Utilizing this design, the parkway was extended east to EXIT 40 (NY 110) in 1949, to EXIT 42 (NY 231, Suffolk CR 35 and Suffolk CR 66) in 1949, and to EXITS 44-45 (Sagtikos State Parkway and Sunken Meadow State Parkway) in 1952. The final segment of the Northern State Parkway east to the Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 347-NY 454) junction in Hauppauge, the last parkway segment built on Long Island, was completed in 1965.
Unlike previous sections of the Northern State Parkway, which were designed with a single centerline for the alignment and profile of the roadway, the newer parkway section was designed with two individual roadways separated by a median varying in width from nine to more than fifty feet. The design speed was 75 MPH, which provided superior sight distance across horizontal and vertical curves at an operating speed of 50 MPH. Other design standards, such as 12-foot vertical clearances, wider shoulders, more generous curve and ramp radii, and longer acceleration and deceleration lanes, reflected the more contemporary design standards mandated for roads receiving Federal-aid highway money.
GAS STATIONS ON THE PARKWAY: Two median service areas were constructed along the parkway in Carle Place (just east of EXIT 31A / Meadowbrook State Parkway) and Dix Hills (just west of EXIT 43 / Commack Road) under the original parkway contracts. The two service stations, which were built of stone construction with sloping shingled roofs, were closed in 1985. The Carle Place service station was torn down to make way for a widening project, while the Dix Hills station remains standing (but vacant).
DESIGN CHANGES OVER THE YEARS: The Northern State Parkway experienced, as the Southern State Parkway had before it, a phenomenal increase in traffic volumes and highway speeds in the post-war years, requiring physical separating between opposing traffic streams. In 1952, a 15-inch-high concrete barrier was installed in the four-lane undivided segment between the New York City line and Glen Cove Road. In 1970, completion of a several-years-long widening project in this same segment brought an increase in capacity to six-to-eight lanes, three-to-four lanes in each direction.
In 1977, maintenance of the Northern State Parkway was transferred from the 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 parkway speeds, and to address the accident history, the NYSDOT began to modify the parkway in accordance with federal and state traffic safety guidelines. In the years since, MUTCD-compliant signs and modern high-intensity lighting, concrete "Jersey" barriers and sand-filled impact attenuators have been installed. More recent improvements have sought to further ease congestion on the Northern State Parkway. In the mid-1980's, the parkway was tied into the INFORM traffic management system of roadbed sensors, electronic overhead signs and signaled ramps.
RECENT IMPROVEMENTS: More recent projects have improved the safety and efficiency of the parkway. In 1992, a four-year project to reconstruct the Northern State Parkway-Meadowbrook State Parkway interchange was completed. The NYSDOT constructed a new "semi-directional T" interchange at this location. The next part of the Nassau County improvement plan, a three-year project that saw the widening of the Northern State Parkway between EXIT 31A (Meadowbrook State Parkway) and EXIT 33 (Wantagh State Parkway), was completed in July 1998.
The following highlights marked the 1995-1998 widening project through Westbury:
The widening to three travel lanes in each direction, plus a 10-foot-wide shoulder on the right, a seven-foot-wide shoulder on the left, a four-foot-wide median, and improved acceleration and deceleration lanes at intersections were accomplished within the existing 350-foot-wide right-of-way. Instead of turf shoulders with mountable concrete curbs, the shoulders were paved with mountable curves at the outer edge of the shoulder to collect storm drainage and the shoulders extended fully through the bridges.
The widening necessitated the removal of the existing elliptical arch bridges that did not have the required 13'-9" clearance. The original rigid-frame concrete bridges were replaced with six precast, prestressed concrete-arch bridges. To minimize disruption, the bridges were constructed offsite in New Jersey and transported to the site during the overnight periods when the parkway was closed. To replicate the appearance of the original bridges, stone was salvaged from demolished bridges, and new stone was obtained from the original quarries. The architecture of the bridges was modified slightly from bridge to bridge to make each more distinctive and visually recognizable.
To buffer residents from the visual and noise impacts of the parkway, a "natural-design" noise barrier was installed along the 2.5-mile stretch of the widened parkway. Natural vegetation shields the barrier from both residents and motorists.
Further east, the NYSDOT opened EXIT 46 (New Highway) in 1988 to serve the nearby Hauppauge Industrial Park. Construction of the EXIT 46 ramps (eastbound exit, westbound entrance) was financed entirely by businesses in the industrial park.
This 2000 photo shows the eastbound Northern State Parkway just east of EXIT 31A (Meadowbrook State Parkway). A massive project completed in 1998 brought new replica overpasses to the widened six-lane parkway. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS: According to the NYSDOT, the Northern State Parkway handles approximately 150,000 vehicles per day (AADT) through western Nassau County, approximately 90,000 vehicles per day through eastern Nassau County, and approximately 70,000 vehicles per day through western Suffolk County.
To accommodate heavy traffic loads safely, the NYSDOT and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council have scheduled the following projects along the parkway:
The NYSDOT resurfaced the Northern State Parkway from EXIT 33 (Wantagh State Parkway) east to EXIT 37A (I-495 / Long Island Expressway). The $9 million project, which included a new drainage system to address chronic flooding along this section, was completed in November 2002.
The NYSDOT plans to spend $11 million on studies for improving traffic flow on the parkway through Nassau County. The design studies, which cover 6.5 miles from the Queens-Nassau border to EXIT 31A, and 5.8 miles from EXIT 33 to EXIT 37A, may recommend a mix of mainline widening, ramp reconstruction, and other safety and operational improvements.
In Melville, the NYSDOT plans to redesign EXIT 40 (NY 110) to address safety and capacity issues. The outmoded cloverleaf interchange will be replaced with a five-ramp, modified "diamond" interchange. In addition, the Northern State Parkway bridge over NY 110 will be widened to accommodate wider shoulders, and possibly a third lane in each direction. The exit reconstruction project, which is scheduled to begin in 2008 following the conclusion of design and environmental impact processes, is slated for completion two years hence.
Toward the eastern terminus in Hauppauge, the NYSDOT plans to add westbound exit and eastbound entrance ramps to EXIT 46 (New Highway), making the exit a full interchange. The improvement, which is part of an overall project to alleviate congestion on the NY 347-NY 454 corridor, is slated for completion before 2012.
During the late 1990's and early 2000's, the NYSDOT studied various plans to relieve congestion on the Northern State Parkway in its long-range "LITP 2000" study. After studying plans to convert the parkway into an HOV-only facility during rush hours, and a variation ("HO/T 2+") that would allow single-occupancy vehicles to travel on the parkway by tolling these motorists, the NYSDOT ultimately dropped both plans, and instead called for the construction of HOV lanes from EXIT 29A (I-495 / Long Island Expressway) east to EXIT 37A (I-495 / Long Island Expressway). The Northern State Parkway HOV lanes are expected to handle the new "Long Island Rapid Commute" (LIRC) vehicles envisioned by the "LITP 2000" plan. According to the NYSDOT, the LIRC articulated vehicles would travel on dedicated new and existing HOV lanes on controlled-access highways, as well as on existing arterial roads.
This 2002 photo shows the Northern State Parkway approaching its eastern terminus at Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 347 and NY 454) in Hauppauge. (Photo by Jon Lebowitz.)
EASTERN EXTENSION PLANS: In 1936, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) recommended the construction of an expressway and parkway network covering the entire New York metropolitan area. One proposal in this network called for the extension of the Northern State Parkway east to Orient Point State Park, at the eastern end of Long Island's North Fork. A spur of the Northern State Parkway extension was to extend north into Wildwood State Park in Wading River. The proposed eastern extension of the Northern State Parkway to Orient Point was never officially mapped by the LISPC.
In 1963, Suffolk County Executive H. Lee Dennison proposed to the LISPC that an extension of the Northern State Parkway be constructed east to Smithtown at Caleb Smith State Park. The extension was to permit access to the former Wyandanch Preserve, a 543-acre parcel that had recently been purchased by New York State. A connection to NY 25 (Jericho Turnpike) was to be provided at the vicinity of Old Willets Path (Suffolk CR 108) in Smithtown.
Continuing east, the proposed Northern State Parkway Extension would have continued east along the Smithtown Greenbelt to the intersection of NY 111 (Hauppauge Road) and Mount Pleasant Road, where an interchange would be provided. At this point, the parkway would have veered to the south, just east of the Mount Pleasant Road-Blydenburgh Road alignment, through Hauppauge and Islandia. Interchanges would have been provided at NY 347 (Veterans Memorial Highway), I-495 (Long Island Expressway, between EXIT 57 and EXIT 58) and NY 454 (Veterans Memorial Highway).
The Northern State Parkway Extension was to continue south along the western edge of Connetquot State Park (the former Sportsmen's Preserve), where a new entrance to the park was to be constructed from the parkway. The parkway extension was to terminate at the Heckscher State Parkway between EXIT 43A (Suffolk CR 17-Carleton Avenue) and EXIT 44 (NY 27-Sunrise Highway) in Islip Terrace.
During the mid-1960's, county officials and the RPA amended their parkway extension plans. The county recommended that the Northern State Parkway Extension terminate at NY 25 (East Main Street) in Village of the Branch (Smithtown), between NY 111 and Terry Road (Suffolk CR 16). The RPA plan went even further, extending the parkway 12 miles east to the intersection of NY 25 and NY 112 in Coram.
In the early 1970's, the NYSDOT conducted a feasibility study for the Northern State Parkway Extension. The increasing cost of land, the rapid development of central Suffolk County, environmental concerns and local opposition forced state transportation officials to abandon the parkway extension.
The Northern State Parkway six-lane widening project should be continued east to the its terminus at Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 347-NY 454) in Hauppauge. As part of the widening project, some of the older, tighter cloverleaf interchanges should be converted into four-ramp diamond interchanges. Others, such as those at EXIT 35 (NY 106-NY 107) and EXIT 40 (NY 110), should be converted into single-point-urban-interchanges (SPUI's). Additionally, the eastbound EXIT 34 (Brush Hollow Road) should be eliminated (access would be obtained from the southbound Wantagh State Parkway).
SOURCES: "Freeways Are Now Urged," The New York Times (12/13/1936); Northern State Parkway Extension," Suffolk County Planning Department (1963); "Expressway Plans," Regional Plan Association News (May 1964); "LI Parkway Link Will Be Widened" by Joseph C. Ingraham, The New York Times (11/29/1965); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); Public Works: A Dangerous Trade by Robert Moses, McGraw-Hill (1970); 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); Robert Moses: Single-Minded Genius by Joann P. Krieg, Heart of the Lakes Publishing (1989); "Major Road Projects Wish List," Newsday (2/22/1990); "On the Roads: Things Looking Up" by Sylvia Adcock, Newsday (5/22/1998); "Ask Dr. Conehead" by Kim Nava, Newsday (9/26/1999); "The Northern State Parkway: Living with Change" by Domenico Annese and Jaime Vasquez, National Trust for Historic Preservation (2000); "Seeking Ways To Uncork the 110 Bottleneck" by John Valenti, Newsday (6/11/2000); "Route 110 Plan Worries Some Merchants" by Linda Saslow, The New York Times (9/02/2006); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; S. Berliner, III; Daniel T. Dey; Vince Fitzgerald; Fred Hadley; Ralph Herman; Nick Klissas; Nathan W. Perry; Jim Wade.
Northern State Parkway shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman. HOV sign by C.C. Slater. Map by Suffolk County Planning Department.