This 2005 photo shows the northbound Sheridan Expressway (I-895) approaching the overpass for Westchester Avenue. The reconstruction project along this section was just completed when this photo was taken. (Photo by Alex Nitzman, www.aaroads.com.)
PLANNING, DESIGN, AND CONSTRUCTION: In 1941, the New York City Planning Department proposed a short expressway spur connecting the "Bronx Crosstown Highway" (Cross Bronx Expressway) to the north with the "Southern Boulevard Express Highway" (Bruckner Expressway) to the south. The proposed expressway was to serve vehicles that could not travel on the Bronx River Parkway, whose extension into the Bronx was in the design stages at the time.
Four years later, when he developed the city's postwar arterial development program, New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses proposed a "Bronx River Expressway" along roughly the same route. The proposed expressway was renamed after Arthur V. Sheridan, the chief engineer of Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons and a staunch ally of Moses who was killed in an automobile accident, in 1956.
Construction of the Sheridan Expressway began in 1958 as part of the elevated Bruckner Expressway project. The 1.2-mile-long Sheridan Expressway was constructed with two 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction, but like other early-Interstate era expressways in New York City, had inadequate shoulders and short acceleration-deceleration lanes. In February 1963, the $9.5 million expressway was opened to traffic.
INTERSTATE DESIGNATIONS CHANGE: From the early days of construction in 1958 until 1972, the Sheridan Expressway had several different Interstate designations. These designations were as follows:
June 1958 to December 1958: I-695 December 1958 to April 1959: I-895 (reused in 1972) April 1959 to 1972: I-278 1972 to present: I-895
An elevated section of the Sheridan Expressway (I-895) awaits completion in this 1962 photo. (Photo by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.)
REBUILDING THE SHERIDAN: In 1998, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced a long-range safety and operational improvement plan to better serve the approximately 45,000 vehicles that use the expressway each day. The multi-year project, which began in 2001, included the following improvements:
pavement and bridge rehabilitation along the entire length of the expressway
rehabilitation of interchanges - including operational, geometric and safety improvements - with the Bruckner Expressway (I-278) and the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95)
The $200 million Sheridan Expressway reconstruction project was completed in 2005. During reconstruction, roadway capacity is being reduced to one lane in each direction.
LONG-RANGE PLANS: State and city officials have considered the following long-term plans for future construction:
The NYSDOT is considering a possible extension of the Sheridan Expressway south of the Bruckner Expressway to connect directly to Edgewater Road and the Hunts Point Market. The elevated roadways, which primarily would serve truck traffic, have been proposed in various forms since the late 1980s. The plan has the support of former Bronx borough presidents Adolfo Carrion and Fernando Ferrer, two former Bronx borough presidents, both of whom contend that an improved and extended expressway relieve congestion and air pollution through neighborhoods. Construction of the $400 million project awaits a 2012 decision.
The NYSDOT plans to rehabilitate the Westchester Avenue bridge over the expressway. Construction of the $28 million project is scheduled to begin in 2016, with completion slated for late 2018.
EXPRESSWAY TO BE CONVERTED INTO PARK? Beginning in the late 1990's, anti-highway groups pressured local and state officials to have the Sheridan Expressway demolished and converted into a 28-acre riverfront park. Since it was not extended to connect with the Bronx River Parkway and the New England Thruway, the Sheridan Expressway has fallen short of traffic projections. In addition to demolishing the expressway, these groups are seeking transit alternatives for the area.
One group called "Nos Quedamos" (Spanish for "We're staying") favors tearing down the expressway, saying that exhaust from the expressway contributed to health problems, including an increase in asthma among nearby residents.
Countering these protests, Peter King, planning and development supervisor for the NYSDOT, defended the agency's decision to upgrade the expressway as follows:
You're talking about 45,000 vehicles. That may not be a lot compared to the Cross Bronx Expressway, but where are these vehicles going to go? (Shifting Sheridan Expressway traffic to the Bronx River Parkway) would be putting a lot more traffic a lot closer to more residential areas.
In his book 13 Projects for the Sheridan Expressway, Jonathan D. Solomon, who teaches architectural design at the City College of New York, devised a compromise solution that calls for the Sheridan Expressway to be converted into a 24-foot-wide, controlled-access "greenway" for vehicular use. The remaining expressway right-of-way would be used for vegetation and multi-use trails.
This 1998 photo shows the northern termimus of the Sheridan Expressway (I-895) at the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95). Original plans called for the Sheridan Expressway to be extended north to the New England Thruway (I-95), in the area of Co-Op City. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
THE SHERIDAN EXTENSION: The proposed extension of the Sheridan Expressway actually derived from a 1941 plan to convert a section of nearby Boston Post Road (US 1) between Pelham Parkway and the city line into an expressway. The plan was described as follows:
Boston (Post) Road Express Highway: The conversion of this section of Boston Road into a true express highway would be highly desirable. The Borough President of the Bronx estimated that this section of Boston Road could be widened to 140 feet at a cost of about $7,000,000. In addition to this, its conversion to an express highway would require the construction of grade separation structures at major cross streets, and the construction of center mall closing off access to minor streets.
In 1945, Moses called for a combination of "Bronx River" and "Boston Road" express highways from the city's earlier plan into a unified route. A decade later, the Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, a joint effort of various planning agencies that Moses headed, advocated swift construction of the route. The Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) added the entire length of the route - from the Bruckner Expressway to the New England Thruway - to the proposed Interstate highway network.
The 4.0-mile northern extension of the Sheridan Expressway, which was mapped as an extension of I-278, was estimated in 1962 to cost $60 million. By that time, the alignment of the proposed route had been altered somewhat. Starting at the present-day northern terminus, the extension was to continue north from the Cross Bronx Expressway through Bronx Park, along the route of the IRT #5 elevated line to the New England Thruway (I-95) at EXIT 12 (Baychester Avenue), in the area of Co-Op City. Completion of the extension was scheduled for 1972.
According to nycroads.com contributor Daniel T. Dey, an elaborate interchange may have been constructed at the expressway's northern terminus with the New England Thruway, the unbuilt east-west City Line Expressway (NY 164) and the unbuilt north-south Central Corridor Expressway (NY 125). However, no official plans for this interchange were developed.
Although the Sheridan Expressway extension had the support of both Moses and Governor Nelson Rockefeller, residents and civic leaders in the Pelham Parkway and Baychester communities vehemently opposed it, as did benefactors of the nearby Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens. After a decade of heated protests, Rockefeller switched his position, and on March 24, 1971, he killed plans for the extension, along with those for several other unbuilt Interstate highways throughout New York City.
Later, the state proposed a northerly extension of the Sheridan Expressway along a 30-foot-high viaduct over East 177th Street, paralleling the Cross Bronx Expressway two blocks to the north, and ending at the Bronx River Parkway. Southbound motorists from the Bronx River Parkway would avoid one traffic light along East 177th Street. Northbound motorists from the Sheridan Expressway would avoid a circuitous, dangerous route around both the eastbound and westbound Cross Bronx service roads. Owing to community opposition, this state shelved this extension in the 1990s.
At its current terminus, there are a few hints that the Sheridan Expressway was to continue northward. One of these hints - concrete piles that were to support a ramp to the northbound Sheridan Expressway - was torn down in the early 1990s. Another hint of a possible northern extension is space for an extra carriageway at the Cross Bronx Expressway underpass.
ON EXTENDING--NOT REMOVING--THE EXPRESSWAY: The Sheridan Expressway should be extended south along Edgewater Road to the Hunts Point Market. The extension would take truck traffic off local roads, improving both traffic circulation and air quality, while the demolition alternative would worsen congestion on the Bruckner and Major Deegan expressways, as well as local roads. Moreover, the removal of the Sheridan Expressway likely would hasten a move of the wholesale produce business away from the Hunts Point Market to New Jersey, where better access to highways would be a key selling point for the move. For these reasons, any plan to tear down the Sheridan Expressway thus would be a non-starter, and the NYSDOT should reconsider plans to extend the expressway north along East 177th Street to the Bronx River Parkway to remove a bottleneck on the Cross Bronx Expressway.
One of the arguments for removing the expressway is that it is aesthetically unpleasant, and that turning the right-of-way into a park would remedy this. However, there is no mention of removing the Metro-North tracks, which share the right-of-way with the Sheridan Expressway, and forms just as much as a barrier between the Bronx River and nearby communities.
SOURCES: "Master Plan: Express Highways, Parkways and Major Streets," New York City Planning Department (1941); Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, The Port of New York Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1955); "Expressway Named in Honor of Sheridan," The New York Times (8/21/1956); "Elevated Road To Open in the Bronx," The New York Times (10/14/1962); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Lower Manhattan Road Killed Under State Plan" by Francis X. Clines, The New York Times (3/25/1971); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); "Dreaming of a Park on the Sheridan Expressway" by Heather McRea, The Bronx Beat (4/05/1999); "Exit Strategies" by Clara Hemphill, Newsday (10/03/1999); "Boondoggle Highway: $420 Million for Highway to Nowhere" by Tom Topousis, New York Post (10/02/2000); "Hunts Point Growing Pains" by Bill Egbert, New York Daily News (3/17/2002); "Bruckner-Sheridan Interchange and Commercial Access to Hunts Point Peninsula," New York State Department of Transportation (2002); 13 Projects for the Sheridan Expressway by Jonathan D. Solomon, Princeton Architectural Press (2004); "New Jersey Lures Hunts Point Market" by Meredith Melnick, New York Daily News (12/10/2008); "Local Traffic Would Worsen Without Sheridan, Study Shows" by Sam Dolnick, The New York Times (7/13/2010); "End of Sheridan: The Great Highway Unbuilders of the Bronx" by Katharine Jose, CapitalNewYork.com (10/20/2010); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Daniel T. Dey; David J. Greenberger; Ralph Herman; Scott Oglesby; Jeff Saltzman; Tom Scannello; Stephen Summers; Douglas A. Willinger.
I-895 and I-278 shields by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman.