This 2002 photo shows the southbound Whitestone Expressway (I-678) at EXIT 14 (Linden Place) in College Point, Queens. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

A PARKWAY FROM THE BRIDGE TO THE FAIR: Within one year of the opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936, Robert Moses decided that the solution to relieving traffic congestion between the New York City-Long Island area and points north was building another bridge. The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge opened three months ahead of schedule, on April 29, 1939.

It was just in time, because Moses needed people to come to his 1939-1940 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In order to get people traveling from upstate New York and New England to the Fair, Moses built the Whitestone Parkway from the base of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge to Northern Boulevard (NY 25A), where the parkway would meet Grand Central Parkway (via Northern Boulevard). Newspaper articles touting the opening of the fair in April 1939 also described the opening of the new Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.

The original Whitestone Parkway had two 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction. The northbound and southbound roadways were separated by a large grassed median, and stone-arch overpasses were used for all grade separations. Near College Point, a drawbridge was constructed to carry the parkway over the Flushing River.

This 1962 aerial view shows the Whitestone Expressway expansion over the Flushing River. The original four-lane drawbridge over the Flushing River became the northbound lanes of I-678. (The drawbridge was left permanently in the closed position.) A parallel fixed span was constructed for the expressway's southbound lanes. (Photo by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.)

FROM PARKWAY TO EXPRESSWAY: In 1955, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) considered converting the Whitestone Parkway into an Interstate highway that allowed access to all vehicles. The Interstate route was to connect the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge to proposed Interstate corridors along Horace Harding and Astoria boulevards in Queens.

The expressway initially received an I-595 designation in June 1958; it had changed to I-695 two weeks later because it linked two Interstates. The final I-678 designation appeared on the Whitestone Expressway in April 1959, and the original plan called for the designation to continue west through Queens on the unbuilt Astoria Expressway. (The I-678 designation was rerouted south along the Van Wyck Expressway in 1971.)

To comply with Interstate standards, roadways and bridges were rehabilitated and replaced so that commercial vehicles could use the expressway. Under the new expressway configuration, four 12-foot-wide lanes were provided in each direction, acceleration-deceleration lanes were lengthened, and paved shoulders were added. A wide, variable grassy median separated opposing traffic flows.

The Whitestone Expressway connects to the south with the Van Wyck Expressway, which was extended northward from Kew Gardens in the early 1960's. Both the Whitestone and Van Wyck projects were already in Moses' arterial development program, but were expedited in advance of the 1964-1965 World's Fair. The Whitestone Expressway upgrade, which took two years to construct, was completed in 1963 at a cost of $16 million. (However, one part of the expressway upgrade, a new exit for Willets Point Boulevard, never was built.)

In conjunction with the expressway conversion project, a four-lane parallel bridge was built next to the existing Whitestone Parkway drawbridge. Southbound I-678 traffic was diverted to the new span, while northbound I-678 traffic was to use the existing four-lane span. Since reconstruction, the original Whitestone drawbridge has been kept in its closed position.

During the late 1980's, the NYSDOT rehabilitated the northbound and southbound lanes of the expressway at EXIT 14 (Linden Place), as well as the southbound bridge over the Flushing River. Decades later, one vestige from the "Whitestone Parkway" era remains: the stone-arch 14th Avenue overpass in Whitestone. The original bridge was incorporated into the expressway because there is enough clearance for commercial vehicles.

REBUILDING THE WHITESTONE EXPRESSWAY: In February 2003, the NYSDOT began a $200 million reconstruction of the Whitestone Expressway and its connections to other highways. The project is comprised of the following stages:

  • From the Flushing River Bridge north to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the NYSDOT rebuilt the geometry of the main roadways, made improvements to the electrical and sewer systems, installed a new ITS system, and constructed new sound barriers. Four lanes of traffic are being maintained in each direction during construction. Once this stage was completed, new trees were planted along the length of the expressway.

  • The northbound exit ramp at EXIT 14 (Linden Place) - just north of the Flushing River Bridge - is being redesigned to address inter-lane weaving that has contributed to an accident rate twice the statewide average at that interchange. New U-turn lanes also were built at Linden Place.

  • The northbound Whitestone Expressway bridge over the Flushing River was replaced with a new fixed-span bridge in mid-2006. The existing bascule span, which was built in 1936, was part of the original Whitestone Parkway. It currently is being used for traffic from eastbound Astoria Boulevard to the northbound expressway while a new connector is built.

  • The NYSDOT is rebuilding the elevated roadways connecting the Whitestone Expressway to the Van Wyck Expressway. In the late 1980's, the state and city performed emergency work on the viaducts as one of the spans was discovered to be on the edge of collapse. The work entails replacing 76 spans and rebuilding roadways to accommodate Interstate-standard lane and shoulder widths.

  • The NYSDOT is making minor operational improvements at EXIT 15 (20th Avenue) and EXIT 16 (Cross Island Parkway). This work includes the rehabilitation of ramps and overpasses.

The state had offered an incentive of $21.6 million to contractors to complete the project by September 2005, nearly one year head of the original schedule. However, the project was pushed beyond the originally scheduled completion date of 2006 because of delays associated with shipments of American-made steel, which is mandated by the project parameters. The project now is scheduled for completion by November 2009.


According to the NYSDOT, the eight-lane Whitestone Expressway handles approximately 160,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

This 2004 photo shows the stone-arch overpass carrying 14th Avenue over the Whitestone Expressway (I-678). With its distinctive style, the 1939 overpass is the only remaining vestige of the "Whitestone Parkway" era. The photo also shows the new overhead signs that were installed as part of a recent reconstruction project. (Photo by David Golub.)

At the junction of the Whitestone Expressway and the Van Wyck Expressway in Flushing, additional lanes should be constructed to connect the two highways, since they both form part of I-678. Just north of the junction, a new exit ramp should be constructed for EXIT 14 (Linden Place) such that motorists from the elevated Grand Central Parkway / Northern Boulevard connector do not have to swerve over two lanes (or more) of traffic.

Further north, at EXIT 15 (20th Avenue) in College Point, extended exit-only lanes should be constructed. Since the completion of a nearby shopping and office complex in the late 1990's, delays from the exit have frequently backed up onto the main roadway. The extended exit-only lanes would help relieve this congestion.

SOURCES: "City Obtains Land for Link," The New York Times (7/22/1937); "Parkway Link to Bridge, Fair Opens," The New York Times (2/01/1939); Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Committee (1962); "New Expressway Link Opens in Queens," The New York Times (12/12/1963); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); "Community Board 7 OK's Whitestone Expressway Bridge in Marathon Session" by Victor Ross, The Queens Courier (6/30/1999); "Whitestone Expressway Work Progresses As Travel Continues" by Liz Rhoades, The Queens Chronicle (7/15/2004); "Lane Closures Continues As Work Progresses on Expressway" by Liz Rhoades, The Queens Chronicle (11/17/2005); "Whitestone Roadwork Delayed Once Again" by Liz Rhoades, The Queens Chronicle (5/03/2007); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; New York State Department of Transportation; Ralph Herman; Vasos Panagiotopoulos; Jeff Saltzman; Stephen Summers.

  • I-678 shield by Ralph Herman.
  • Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman.

WHITESTONE EXPRESSWAY LINKS:

WHITESTONE EXPRESSWAY VIDEO LINKS:

WHITESTONE EXPRESSWAY CURRENT CONDITIONS:

THE EXITS OF METRO NEW YORK:

  • Whitestone Expressway exit list by Steve Anderson.

VIEW OR SUBMIT YOUR RATING TO RATETHEROADS.COM:

  • Whitestone Expressway (I-678)

Back to The Roads of Metro New York home page.

Site contents © by Eastern Roads. This is not an official site run by a government agency. Recommendations provided on this site are strictly those of the author and contributors, not of any government or corporate entity.