West Side Highway


West Side Highway

The West Side Highway (officially the Joe DiMaggio Highway, formerly the Miller Highway or West Side Elevated Highway) is a mostly-surface section of New York State Route 9A (NY 9A) that runs from West 72nd Street along the Hudson River to the southern tip of Manhattan.

As originally built, it was an elevated highway, built as one of the first urban freeways in the world. It served as a prototype for other urban freeways including Boston's Central Artery, and ended up being torn down due to lack of maintenance and changing attitudes about urban planning.

Before the elevated highway was built, the roads under it were known as West Street, 11th Avenue and 12th Avenue; these names are still sometimes used. The part between 23rd Street and 29th Street was once part of 13th Avenue.

Current status

The highway is a six-to-eight lane 'urban boulevard', with the northernmost section, from 57th Street to 72nd Street (where it becomes the Henry Hudson Parkway), elevated above a former rail yard adjacent to tracks still used by Amtrak. Trucks and buses are allowed only on the surface section.

Despite being a surface road, with many at-grade intersections and traffic lights, some of the intersections are given exit numbers:
*Exit 1 - FDR Drive north (southbound only, via Battery Park Underpass; surface road continues south to Battery Place)
*Exit 2 - Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (New York State Route 9A designation begins northbound and ends southbound; Reference Route 907L begins southbound and ends northbound.)
*Exit 3 - Canal Street to Holland Tunnel
*Exit 4 - 14th Street
*Exit 5 - 30th Street to Lincoln Tunnel for passenger cars
*Exit 6 - 40th Street (northbound) and 42nd Street (southbound) to Lincoln Tunnel for trucks and buses
*Exit 7 - 54th Street
*Exit 8 - 57th Street (northbound only; elevated highway begins and all trucks and buses must exit)

The former Exit 9, a northbound-only exit at 72nd Street, was permanently closed on July 8, 2007 to accommodate the extension of Riverside Boulevard between West 71st and West 72nd Streets. [cite web
url = http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pr2007/pr07_54.shtml
title = Henry Hudson Exit Ramp at 72nd Street to be Closed
accessdate = 2008-03-25
publisher = New York City Department of Transportation
] North of 72nd Street, the Henry Hudson Parkway begins, continuing the exit numbers.

On April 25, 1999, the highway was named after Joe DiMaggio; ceremonial signs were placed. This was in the midst of a reconstruction, finished on March 29, 2002, after the September 11, 2001 attacks destroyed part of the road, which was still being rebuilt. There was debate over whether to rebuild this section on the surface or with a tunnel for through traffic. However, Governor of New York George Pataki and a panel agreed to turn that stretch into a boulevard.Fact|date=February 2007

History

Death Avenue

Before the West Side Highway was built, the road along the Hudson River was a busy one, with cross traffic going to docks and ferries. At 22nd Street, most traffic continued north along 11th Avenue, along which the New York Central Railroad's West Side Line ran; it was known by many as "Death Avenue" for the large number of accidents caused by trains and automobiles colliding.

Miller's Elevated West Side Highway

"Main Story: West Side Elevated Highway"

Various proposals circulated in the 1920s to build an expressway on the west side. Among the proposals:
* Rail/Highway Double Decker - The New York Central Railroad proposed building a highway/rail double decked highway from 72nd Street to Canal Street, which would be constructed privately at no cost to the city. It would eliminate 106 grade crossings over 84 blocks. It ran into opposition because of fears that it would create a rail monopoly.
* Hencken's Ten-story Train/Car/Office/People Mover - Engineer John Hencken proposed an exotic ten-story complex with a rail line underground, a road at street level, a people mover built above that, topped by ten stories of apartments and offices. A similar alternative was offered by Benjamin Battin.

Manhattan Borough president Julius Miller said that something had to be done right away and ultimately pushed through the plan for the West Side Elevated Highway, which was to eventually bear his name.

The proposal immediately ran into stiff opposition. The City Club and New York City Mayor James J. Walker objected to the highway on the grounds that it would block waterfront-bound freight traffic. They believed that the plans should wait until the surface railroad tracks were removed in the area, at which point the elevated highway might not be necessary. Many objected that it would be ugly.

Construction started in 1929 and the section between Canal Street and West 72nd Street was completed in 1937 with a "Southern Extension" to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel completed in 1951.

Robert Moses proposals

The elevated road began before master builder Robert Moses came on the scene.

However, Moses built massive projects extending from the north and south ends of the West Side Highway.
* Henry Hudson Parkway - The West Side Highway becomes the Henry Hudson Parkway just north of 72nd Street thanks to efforts by Moses called the "West Side Improvement." The parkway does not permit trucks. The parkway is partially an elevated highway over the rail tracks (now used by Amtrak).
* Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel - The highway hooks into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel at its southern end. Moses had proposed to create the "Brooklyn-Battery Crossing Bridge" but federal intervention obliged Moses to use a tunnel instead.
* Battery Park Underpass connects to FDR Drive.

In the 1960s, Moses proposed straightening and widening the West Side Highway and constructing both the Lower Manhattan Expressway and the Mid-Manhattan Expressways, connecting routes that would have stretched across Manhattan. None of these projects were ever built. Later, in his 80s, he was consulted on the Westway project, but by that time his ideas weren't taken seriously. Rather than constructing a below-grade interstate highway, Moses proposed merely straightening and rebuilding the West Side Highway south of 59th Street. Between 59th and 72nd streets, the site of the former Penn Central 60th Street rail yard, he proposed bringing the highway to grade and moving it eastward to allow for a waterfront park and some housing at the southeast corner of the rail yard. This was the nucleus of the ideas that led to the plan for Riverside South.

1973 collapse

The highway was obsolete almost from the beginning. Its lanes were considered too narrow and it could not accommodate trucks. Sharp "S" exit ramps proved hazardous.

On December 15, 1973, the northbound lanes between Little West 12th Street and Gansevoort Street collapsed under the weight of a dump truck, which was carrying over 30 tons (27,000 kg) of asphalt for ongoing repairs of the highway. A four-door sedan followed the truck through the hole; neither driver was seriously injured. The day after, both directions were 'indefinitely' closed south of 18th Street. Ironically, this not only closed off the oldest section (between Canal Street and 18th Street), but also the newest sections (south of Canal Street), because of the placement of ramps to prevent northbound traffic from entering and southbound traffic from exiting south of Canal Street.

Westway

"Main Story: Westway"

In 1971, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) proposed turning the highway to Interstate standards as Interstate 478. The UDC plan, the "Water Edge Study," called for the highway to be routed along the ends of the then mostly abandoned piers on the Hudson River and the addition of convert|700|acre|km2 of land for parks and apartments, all to be constructed on concrete platforms between the bulkhead and the pierhead lines. It was championed by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsay. Renamed "Westway" in 1974, the final plan called for burying the highway in new landfill south of 40th Street, placing the accompanying development on land instead of on platforms.

Hugh Carey who was to become governor, and Ed Koch who was to become mayor, both campaigned against the plan saying it would be a waste of government funds and would be to windfall for private developers. After the two were elected they reversed position and supported the plan.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan and the United States Army Corps of Engineers were onboard for the construction with a 1981 price tag of $2.1 billion.

In 1982, Judge Thomas Griesa of the U.S. District Court blocked the permit saying the road would harm striped bass.

On September 30, 1985, New York City officially gave up on the project allocating 60 percent of its interstate highway funds to mass transit and setting aside $811 million for the "West Side Highway Replacement Project."

West Side Highway Replacement Project

Construction of the West Side Highway Replacement Project was completed in August 2001.

The period between the 1973 collapse and the 1985 demise of Westway was a chaotic time for drivers as the original elevated highway was dismantled (finally in 1989) and traffic was rerouted to temporary highways.

The new highway permits trucks, which the old elevated did not. When combined with its northern Henry Hudson Parkway, it has accomplished the seeming impossible — creating a leafy boulevard along the Hudson from the northern tip to the southern tip.

Donald Trump and Television City

During the period debates still raged on whether to bury the section from West 72nd Street and 59th Street. During this time Donald Trump bought the New York Central rail yards on the Hudson south of 72nd Street. Trump first announced plans for Television City to locate the headquarters of NBC and a 152-story building to be designed by Helmut Jahn, which would have been the world's tallest. When that deal fell through, he revised his plans slightly and renamed the project Trump City.

Trump eventually agreed to a plan that would bury the Highway in conjunction with development. This plan, known as Riverside South, was proposed by six civic organizations opposed to Trump City. After city approval, work began on the new apartment complex, now renamed (for the third time) Trump Place. The debate still rages — even as Trump has sold his interest — although in the 1990s the highway was reinforced.

Burying this section has always been complicated, because the Henry Hudson Parkway itself is elevated over the rail lines. In June, 2006, the state began construction of an enclosure for the relocated highway between 61st and 67th streets.

Hudson River Park

Legislation in June 1998 followed an agreement by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki to create Hudson River Park on the west side of the highway from West 72nd to the Battery. The park consists of convert|550|acre|km2 and is the biggest park construction in the city since Central Park. A bicycle path running the length of the highway to Battery Park City was one of the first additions. Piers are currently being refurbished and the project is to be completed in 2008.

Joe DiMaggio Highway

Even though the highway has had two other official names, the official names have never stuck. The first official name was the Miller Highway, in honor of the city council president who pushed for the highway. On March 30, 1999, at the urging of Rudolph Giuliani, the highway was renamed for Yankee great Joe DiMaggio, who had just died. Legislation to rename the highway had been introduced before DiMaggio died.

Governor George Pataki had favored renaming the Major Deegan Expressway, which actually goes to Yankee Stadium. However, that posed a thorny political issue because it would take away the name from somebody else (William Francis Deegan).

Others speculated Giuliani championed the name change because the highway would have been the approach to the proposed West Side Stadium at the highway and 32nd Street. DiMaggio lived on Manhattan's east side.

As of May 2006, there is only minimal signage for the new name while "West Side Highway" signs abound.

eptember 11

The highway, which runs just west of the World Trade Center, played a major role in the September 11, 2001 attacks and its aftermath.

The famous flag raising photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of the Bergen Record took place by the highway on the northwest corner of the site.

In addition, three chunks of the tower that crashed into the highway were used in iconic pictures of the day.

Emegency personnel went down the West Side Highway and were greeted by cheering crowds at Christopher Street on their return.

Virtually all the debris from the Center traveled up the West Side Highway to be shipped off by barge. For the last half of the month, out of town ambulances waited on the highway for a chance to help injury patients.

Art Initiative

In an outdoor installation for the Armory Show, American artist Janet Echelman affixed her sculpture "Road Side Shrine II" to the underside of West Side Highway's piers 90 and 88. The vinyl-coated polyethylene mesh cones were illuminated at night, fluttering in the wind as visitors flagged down taxis.

Reconstruction

As a master plan was developed for Ground Zero, plans initially called for the West Side Highway to be buried in a tunnel between the site and Battery Park City that was expected to cost $1 billion.

Goldman Sachs, which plans to build its headquarters in Battery Park City, announced its intention to cancel those plans because of concerns about the traffic pattern and long-term construction disruptions. This prompted Gov. Pataki to cancel the project in favor of a boulevard approach [ [http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=55264 Goldman Sachs Breaks Ground Across From Trade Center Site] , NY1, September 26, 2006] .

In 2004, the police announced concerns that the proposed Freedom Tower would be too close to the West Side Highway and thus vulnerable to car bombs. This prompted a total redesign of the tower and the relocation of its site away from the highway.

References

External links

* [http://www.nycroads.com/roads/west-side/ NYCroads.com - West Side Highway (NY 9A)]


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