This 2002 photo shows the southbound West Shore Expressway (NY 440) approaching EXIT 2 (Korean War Veterans Parkway) on Staten Island. (Photo by Jon Lebowitz.)
STATEN ISLAND'S "OTHER" EXPRESSWAY: The West Shore Expressway connects the Staten Island Expressway (I-278) with the Korean War Veterans Parkway and the Outerbridge Crossing approaches, and provides the only north-south express route that extends the length of the island.
First planned by Robert Moses in 1930 as the "West Shore Parkway" in the Staten Island arterial development plan, the expressway was among the last new highway projects to be built in New York City. The West Shore Expressway was recommended in the 1955 Joint Study of Arterial Facilities as follows:
In order to facilitate usage of the Narrows Bridge, it would be imperative that the Federal-State-City highway program includes the construction of the West Shore Expressway along western Staten Island between the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing. The New Jersey State Highway Department plans a new direct route from the Outerbridge crossing to US 22 in the vicinity of Dunellen. This new route (the forerunner to today's NJ 440 and I-287) would have interchanges at the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, US 1, and other principal roadways.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: Although not signed as an Interstate, NY 440 is one of the few controlled-access highways within the five boroughs of New York City to meet Interstate design standards. Designed for an ultimate capacity of 65,000 vehicles per day (AADT), the West Shore Expressway is comprised of two 40-foot-wide carriageways (accommodating two 12-foot-wide concrete lanes, a 12-foot-wide right shoulder and a four-foot-wide left shoulder) in each direction, separated by a 40-foot-wide median. An additional two lanes (one in each direction) could be accommodated within the median. Bridges were of composite steel beam construction with solid abutments and brick-faced wingwalls, following the expressway bridge construction convention of the era. The expressway is flanked by service roads through developed areas.
The expressway viaduct over Fresh Kills was completed in 1959. Three years later, the proposed interchange at the Korean War Veterans Parkway was redesigned to accommodate a newly planned route: the Shore Front Drive. Beginning at that interchange, the Shore Front Drive, a controlled-access parkway that was to be restricted to passenger cars, was to extend the route of the West Shore Expressway south to a point just past Hylan Boulevard, then veer east along the South Shore coastline to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Moses scheduled the opening of the $41 million West Shore Expressway for 1966. In anticipation of its completion, the New York City Planning Department proposed industrial parks along the length of the expressway. However, for more than a decade, this completed section stood isolated, and some wondered if the expressway would become part of the unbuilt legacy of Moses.
PICKING UP WHERE MOSES LEFT OFF: The West Shore Expressway proposal moved forward when Arthur Palmer, the successor to Moses as New York City arterial coordinator, recommended construction of the expressway in 1966. Final approval of the remainder of the West Shore route by the New York City Board of Estimate came in 1967, and construction crews resumed work in 1969.
The first section of the West Shore Expressway, between the Outerbridge Crossing approach and EXIT 4 (Arthur Kill Road), opened to traffic in December 1972. The remainder of the expressway - the last section finished in the New York area during Moses' lifetime - was completed in November 1976. Work on this northern section, which provided a link to the semi-directional "T" interchange at the Staten Island Expressway (I-278), included a reconstruction of the Fresh Kills bridges that had stood unused since 1959.
This 2008 photo shows the southbound West Shore Expressway at the Meredith Avenue overpass, alongside the Con Edison railroad right-of-way to the right. First started in 1959 and completed in 1976, the West Shore Expressway was Robert Moses' final highway project. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS: According to the NYSDOT, the West Shore Expressway carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day (AADT). The NYSDOT completed the following projects in recent years to improve flow on the West Shore Expressway:
In September 2001, the NYSDOT completed new ramps at EXIT 9 (Glen Street) to serve the Staten Island Corporate Park.
In 2003, the NYSDOT opened a new park-and-ride facility just south of the interchange between the West Shore Expressway and Korean War Veterans Parkway. The $9 million Pleasant Plains park-and-ride facility, which has a capacity of 150 vehicles (but can be expanded to 250 spaces), may be incorporated into a rebuilt interchange (for which design work may begin after 2016) between the two highways. In addition, connections are planned between the park-and-ride lot and the MTA Staten Island (SIRT) rail line.
There is an ongoing $14 million study to redesign the interchange between the West Shore Expressway and the Staten Island Expressway (I-278). Ultimately, the ("semi-directional T") interchange may be reconstructed so that the stream from both expressways will be made more favorable to the predominant traffic flow. According to Peter King, supervisor of planning and development for the NYSDOT, the left two westbound lanes of I-278 at the SIE-West Shore interchange would be directed toward the West Shore Expressway, while the right two lanes will be directed toward the Goethals Bridge. The interchange also may be reconfigured to provide a high-speed truck link directly to the Howland Hook Marine Terminal.
Long-range plans also call for the construction of new entrance and exit ramps to the former site of the Fresh Kills landfill. The existing roadways within the landfill (Park Drive South, Park Drive East, Park Drive West and Victory Boulevard Extension) will likely be mapped as city streets, and would be linked to the new West Shore Expressway entrance and exit ramps. The former dump, which closed in July 2002 after more than five decades of continuous operation (and later, ten months of recovery efforts from the World Trade Center site), will be converted into city parkland. A mix of active and passive uses is planned for the new Fresh Kills Park.
REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR: In 1999, Governor George Pataki designated the Staten Island highway the "Pearl Harbor Memorial Expressway." The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) provided for the installation and maintenance of ceremonial green signs. To avoid confusion and any possible disruption in commerce, the designation was ceremonial and the official name of the West Shore Expressway was not changed.
This 2008 photo shows the southbound West Shore Expressway (NY 440) at the left-hand exit for the Korean War Veterans Parkway (EXIT 2). This exit was to also lead to the Shore Front Drive, another part of the unbuilt Moses legacy. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
The current Route 440 - the West Shore Expressway, the Outerbridge Crossing, and the Middlesex Freeway Extension - should be re-designated Interstate 395. In addition, the West Shore Expressway mainline should be widened to six lanes, and a four-lane controlled-access spur should be constructed south to Hylan Boulevard. Finally, a second Outerbridge Crossing span should be considered in long-range plans.
Some posters in misc.transport.road have suggested that Route 440 in New York and New Jersey should become part of an extended I-287 beltway. However, in the words of nycroads.com contributor William F. Yurasko, doing so would create a "dyslexic nightmare." For its part, the I-395 designation is not used in either New York or New Jersey.
Finally, the "Loretto Spur," a four-lane controlled-access highway, should be constructed along the Shore Front Drive (Loretto property) right-of-way from the West Shore Expressway / Korean War Veterans Parkway interchange south to Hylan Boulevard. Ramps should be constructed in the vicinity of Amboy Road to connect the Loretto Spur with the Pleasant Plains park-and-ride lot.
SOURCES: Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, The Port of New York Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1955); "Shore Front Drive," New York State Council of Parks (1962); "A Tour of Staten Island Improvements, and the Next Steps," Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); "Four of Moses' Roads Get City Priority" by Joseph C. Ingraham, The New York Times (7/14/1966); "The Ocean Drive," Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1966); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); "West Shore Expressway Nears Completion," The New York Times (5/23/1975); "State Weighs Several Fixes To Help Expressway" by Michael Wagner, The Staten Island Advance (8/01/2000); "From Garbage Dump to Ski Jumps?" by Alysha Sideman, The Staten Island Advance (4/17/2001); "Work Begins on New Highway Ramp" by Karen O'Shea, The Staten Island Advance (6/05/2001); "Park-and-Ride Wrapping Up" by Angie Mangino, The Staten Island Register (7/15/2003); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; Phil Case; Hank Eisenstein; Steve Gottesman; Ralph Herman; Raymond C. Martin; Nathan W. Perry; Alexander Svirsky; William F. Yurasko; David Zarkewicz.
NY 440 and I-395 shields by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Jeff Saltzman.