Long Island Expressway

Queens Boulevard to Nassau County Line

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

The Long Island Expressway was built with the idea of easing traffic flow throughout the borough of Queens, and connecting New York City to Nassau County and the rest of Long Island more effectively. The Expressway was the project of Robert Moses (1888-1981), head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. Moses carved this 8.5-mile stretch of the Expressway, from Queens Boulevard to the Nassau County line, using existing parkways and boulevards in Queens, including Horace Harding Boulevard.

Harding Boulevard (the L.I.E.’s service road) and Harding Expressway (which rapidly became known as the Long Island Expressway) are named after Horace J. Harding (1863-1929), a prominent banker with a devotion to transportation issues. Harding directed the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, and the New York Municipal Railways System. He supported a Long Island State Park Commission plan in the 1920s to build a scenic parkway from Queens to Nassau County, and also urged the construction of a highway from Shelter Rock in Nassau County to Queens Boulevard, a road eventually named after him.

The crucial figure in the construction of the Long Island Expressway was Robert Moses, who held a number of city positions, including Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In this latter capacity, Moses was instrumental in building the Triborough Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and 416 miles of highways and 11 bridges. In 1953 Robert Moses proposed plans for a six lane “Central Motor Expressway” to run from Manhattan to the Eastern end of Long Island. Moses felt that such a highway was the only way to improve traffic conditions that were deteriorating due to rapid population growth in Long Island. The plan called for the incorporation of several sections including an upgraded Horace Harding Expressway, which would follow the Horace Harding Boulevard from Queens Boulevard to the Nassau County line. Additionally, a completely new stretch of highway would have to be built from the Nassau County line, through Suffolk County, all the way to Riverhead near the island’s eastern end.

In March 1954 Governor Thomas E. Dewey (1888-1981) approved the construction plans, at a cost of $500 million to be provided by matching state and Federal funds. By 1958, construction on the Horace Harding Expressway was finished, and even before the extensions into Nassau and Suffolk counties were completed, traffic jams led many to dub the Expressway “the world’s largest parking lot.” Since then serious efforts have been made to ease the traffic flows, notably the introduction of minimum and maximum speeds, park and rides, bus lanes and streetlights. Today the Long Island Expressway remains the major thoroughfare for the City’s most populated suburbs.

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2001

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