Staten Island Expressway

6.8 miles

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The history of transportation on Staten Island is the history of Staten Island development. As the island expanded from a loosely-settled collection of farming communities to popular resorts, to a thickly settled residential borough, entrepreneurs continually encouraged this expansion with the introduction of new infrastructure, from railway lines to bridges to highways. The Staten Island Ferry system, established in 1736 and expanded over the course of the next 150 years, remains one of the most efficient means of travelling from Staten Island to Manhattan.

In 1816, the Richmond Turnpike was built, spanning the island from Tompkinsville to New Blazing Star (now Travis). The road was promoted as a way to expedite New York-Philadelphia travel. Renamed Victory Boulevard, it remains an important thoroughfare. Continued expansion of the Staten Island population over the century led to increased transportation needs. Railroads opened many parts of the island in the late 1800s, and by the early part of the 20th century, plans for building railroad and automobile bridges such as the Goethals, Bayonne, Outerbridge Crossing, and Verrazano-Narrows were under construction or pending approval.

The Staten Island Expressway was planned before World War II (1939-1945). Arterial Coordinator Robert Moses (1888-1981) set a plan in motion that would construct a series of expressways from Staten Island to New Jersey and mainland New York. Written as early as 1945, the first plans for the construction of the Expressway (then known as the Clove Lakes) were presented to City and State officials by the Joint Study of Arterial Facilities. The plans called for a seven-mile stretch of roadway connecting the Goethals Bridge to the Narrows Crossing (named Verrazano-Narrows in 1964). The unbuilt Willowbrook and Richmond (now Korean War Veterans) Parkways were also proposed as a part of the arterial plan, though they were to be only for automobile traffic.

City officials approved the expressway in April 1957, and construction began in the next year. The highway was completed in 1964 and connected to the upper deck of the new Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, also completed in that year. The six-lane road from Gil Bloom Circle to Fort Wadsworth had taken over five years, $41 million, and the displacement of 3,500 residents to build. The name Clove Lakes Expressway was changed to the Staten Island Expressway by local law in 1964.

A strange feature of the Expressway is its set of “ramps to nowhere.” These ramps begin at exits along the Expressway in the Todt Hill area, but do not connect to any other major roadway. The ramps were created to connect the Staten Island Expressway with a proposed extension of the Korean War Veterans Parkway and with the partially built Willowbrook Parkway (Now the Martin Luther King, Jr. Expressway). Construction jumped the gun, however, and the ramps wait for an extension that was never built. Despite its eccentricities, the Staten Island Expressway remains an important artery for inter and intra-borough commuters. Bus-only lanes open during morning rush hours represent the first step in a long-term effort to reduce congestion on the Staten Island Expressway.

Wednesday, Dec 26, 2001

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