These 2004 photos show the New York Connecting Railroad at Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village (left photo), and at 57th Avenue in Elmhurst (right photo). The right-of-way for the freight line was to be used for the Queens-Interboro Expressway (I-695). Photos by Kevin Walsh, www.forgotten-ny.com.)
THE 1941 PLAN: First proposed by the New York City Planning Department in 1941, the Queens-Interboro Expressway was to connect southern Brooklyn with the Triborough and Bronx-Whitestone bridges. Combined with the Cross Brooklyn Expressway, it was to be part of a circumferential route for traffic seeking to bypass Manhattan.
The original route was comprised of two parts, which were described as follows:
Middle Brooklyn-Queens Highway: This highway would form part of a circumferential route through the middle of Brooklyn and Queens. At its northerly end, it connects with the Grand Central Parkway via the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway (Expressway). At its southerly end, it connects with the Belt Parkway system at Canarsie via the proposed Canarsie Connection, and at Owl's Head via the proposed Cross Brooklyn Express Highway (Expressway). It is proposed that the route be located over or in the vicinity of the New York Connecting Railroad. At this location, a minimum of grade separating structures would be required, since it would not be necessary to make provision for the crossing of streets that are already cut off by the railroad. It would tend to strengthen the industrial areas served by the railroad by providing them with express service for trucks. Preliminary studies by the Planning Department indicate that the cost of this improvement from the Connecting Highway at Roosevelt Avenue to the proposed Cross Brooklyn Express Highway at Linden Boulevard would be about $21,000,000.
Canarsie Connection: A connection is proposed between the Middle Brooklyn-Queens Highway (Queens-Interboro Expressway) and the Belt Parkway at Canarsie. It would form a link in a through express highway route from LaGuardia Airport to Floyd Bennett Field.
THE 1955 PLAN: In 1955, New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses proposed the "Ridgewood-Maspeth Expressway" in place of the 1941 proposal. As proposed in the Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, the expressway was to begin at the intersection of the Long Island and Brooklyn-Queens expressways in Maspeth, Queens. After traversing the Queens communities of Maspeth and Ridgewood, the expressway was to have intersected the Interborough (now Jackie Robinson) Parkway in the area of Highland Park. The proposed expressway was to have ended at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue, Conduit Boulevard, and the (unbuilt) Bushwick Expressway in East New York, Brooklyn.
Combined with the Long Island Expressway, the Ridgewood-Maspeth Expressway would have provided a direct route from midtown Manhattan to Idlewild (now JFK) Airport.
THE 1963 PLAN: In the mid-1960's, Moses also considered a spur connecting the Bushwick Expressway with the Queens approach to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, in conjunction with the construction of a third tunnel tube (which was never constructed). Two possible routes were proposed as follows:
Beginning at the tunnel approach, the first alternative would have continued southeast along Newton Creek, and cut through the Bushwick community before joining the Bushwick Expressway mainline.
Beginning at the tunnel approach, the second alternative would have continued east along the LIRR Long Island City (Hunters Point Avenue) Branch to Glendale, then continued south along the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Branch to the Bushwick Expressway-Nassau Expressway junction in Howard Beach.
However, because the proposed route went through densely populated neighborhoods, Moses ultimately selected a less-disruptive alternate routing along a little-used freight rail connecting line.
THE 1967 PLAN: According to 1967 state and city plans, the Queens-Interboro Expressway was to become the northern extension of the Cross Brooklyn Expressway. The "QIE" designation was to begin at the never-built interchange between the Cross Brooklyn Expressway, Bushwick Expressway and Jackie Robinson (Interborough) Parkway in East New York, Brooklyn. It was to continue north along the New York Connecting Railroad (now a freight line used by the LIRR) to the intersection of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278) and Northern Boulevard (NY 25A) in Woodside, Queens. The combined Queens Interboro and Cross Brooklyn expressways were to serve as a north-south relief route for the Brooklyn-Queens, Gowanus and Van Wyck expressways.
THE 1969 PLAN: In December 1969, the proposed route of the Queens-Interboro Expressway was revised to one similarly proposed in 1941. Under the new proposal, the expressway was to begin at the Belt Parkway near Pennsylvania Avenue in the Starrett City section of Brooklyn. Between Flatlands Avenue and Linden Boulevard (NY 27), two east-west expressways were to meet the Queens-Interboro Expressway. The first, the Nassau Expressway Extension (I-878), was to intersect near Flatlands Avenue. A second "future east-west expressway," the Cross Brooklyn Expressway (redesignated as I-878), was to split off from the Queens-Interboro Expressway near Linden Boulevard. North of Linden Boulevard, the "QIE" was to continue north along the route of the New York Connecting Railroad to its northern terminus at the "BQE" (I-278) in Woodside.
The exits on the Queens-Interboro Expressway were to be as follows:
Under this plan, no provision was made for the Bushwick Expressway (I-78), an expressway that Robert Moses fought for, but the city opposed and ultimately killed. The Federal government approved the new I-695 designation for the Queens Interboro route in 1970 (the state had listed this expressway as an unmarked state route as a prior to that time).
The Queens-Interboro Expressway was to have four lanes between the Belt Parkway and Nassau Expressway Extension, eight lanes between the Nassau Expressway Extension and the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and six lanes between the Jackie Robinson Parkway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. With this scheme, the "QIE" was to have a design capacity of 130,000 vehicles per day (AADT). In addition, allowances were to be made in the center median for a dual-track relocation of the L subway (Canarsie BMT) line from its existing elevated structure in Brooklyn, as well as for continuation of the freight rail line in the center median through Brooklyn and Queens.
The benefits of the Queens Interboro Expressway were stated in the Vollmer Associates consulting report as follows:
HIGHWAY BENEFITS: The Queens Interboro Expressway will serve areas of Queens (approximately 23 square miles, 700,000 people) and Brooklyn (approximately 18 square miles, 800,000 people) not presently provided with expressway facilities. It will provide relief to the presently overloaded Brooklyn-Queens, Van Wyck and Long Island Expressways, as well as offer another bypass of the Manhattan core. Through a westward extension of the Nassau Expressway, the Queens Interboro Expressway will provide a new connection to John F. Kennedy International Airport from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and points north of the Triborough Bridge. It will remove trucking, with its noise and fumes, from neighborhood streets and provide a truck route to the Triborough Bridge. Through better street improvements and extensions, the expressway will provide better local access in Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood and Glendale.
SUBWAY SERVICE: Relocation of the Canarsie BMT (L line) into the expressway right-of-way will improve and permit extension of service to Twin Pines Village, Spring Creek and Lynwood.
BUS SERVICE: Redevelopment of Broadway Junction in East New York in accordance with the recommended scheme would permit interchanging facilities between several bus routes converging on that hub, the three subway stations, and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). It would also improve bus routing and reduce delays through the improved street and road system in the area.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AND RELATED JOB OPPORTUNITIES: The expressway would provide excellent transportation service to the Flatlands Industrial Park, the industrial area (Central Brooklyn East) planned for expansion between Atlantic, Pennsylvania, Van Sinderen and Sutter Avenues, the new industrial area planned at Metropolitan Avenue, and all others near the route. Improved transportation to and from the markets of these developments would contribute to the long-range stability of these industrial areas and increase job opportunities. The expressway and the service road will remove through traffic, permitting the closing of streets and the creation of "super-blocks" for larger industrial plants with increased job opportunities.
AREA REDEVELOPMENT: Redevelopment of the residential and industrial areas between Atlantic Avenue and Linden Boulevard is underway. More is planned and sorely needed. Except for newly built housing, residences in the area are not attractive. Junkyards, auto body shops, the Canarsie elevated line and a conglomeration of unsightly and deteriorating facilities line the railroad cut. Construction of the highway and subway relocation in the railroad right-of-way will do much to clean up the area. Removal of the elevated line is a key to upgrading and eliminating the oppressive atmosphere. Recent changes in policy permit the use of Interstate highway funds for construction of some elements of air-rights development. This will help reduce the cost of covering below-grade expressway sections.
The total cost of the 10.5-mile Queens Interboro Expressway was estimated at $322 million (1973 dollars), with an additional $52 million allocated for land acquisition. As part of the right-of-way acquisition, the expressway would have required relocation of 40 families in Queens and 471 families in Brooklyn. Completion of the expressway was scheduled for 1980.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE? Even with the attention paid to mass transit and community development issues in the proposal, community opposition was strident, particularly in the Queens communities through which the expressway was to pass. By the end of 1973, officials permanently shelved the Queens Interboro Expressway proposal. Soon thereafter, Interstate highway funds were transferred to the Westway (I-478) project and other upstate projects. In 1986, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) transferred the I-695 designation to the Throgs Neck Expressway in the Bronx.
SOURCES: "Master Plan: Express Highways, Parkways and Major Streets," New York City Planning Commission (1941); Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, The Port of New York Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1955); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); "Linear City and Cross Brooklyn Expressway: Plan for Planning Report," Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky and Lamb (1967); "US Agrees To Aid Lindsay Proposal for Linear City" by Richard Madden, The New York Times (6/29/1968); "Description of Touring Routes in New York State for the Interstate, Federal, and State Route Number Systems," New York State Department of Transportation (1970); "Queens Interborough Expressway: Planning Report," Vollmer Associates (1973); "Highway Hopes That Faded by Sidney C. Schaer, Newsday (11/05/1999); David Golub; Ralph Herman; Scott Oglesby; Tom Scannello; Kevin Walsh.
I-695 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Jeff Saltzman.