West Side Highway

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West Side Highway
Joe DiMaggio Highway
Route information
Length:5.29 mi[1] (8.51 km)
Existed:2001 – present
Major junctions
South end: FDR Drive in Manhattan
North end: Henry Hudson Parkway / West 72nd Street in Manhattan
Highway system
 
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West Side Highway
Joe DiMaggio Highway
Route information
Length:5.29 mi[1] (8.51 km)
Existed:2001 – present
Major junctions
South end: FDR Drive in Manhattan
North end: Henry Hudson Parkway / West 72nd Street in Manhattan
Highway system

The West Side Highway (officially the Joe DiMaggio 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. It replaced the West Side Elevated Highway, built between 1929 and 1951, which was shut down in 1973 due to neglect and lack of maintenance, and was dismantled by 1989. The term "West Side Highway" is often mistakenly used, particularly by the news media traffic reporters, to include the roadway north of 72nd Street which is properly known as the Henry Hudson Parkway.

The current highway, which was completed in 2001, but required some reconstruction due to damage sustained in the 9/11 attacks, uses the surface streets that existed before the elevated highway was built: West Street, Eleventh Avenue and Twelfth Avenue. A short section of Twelfth Avenue still runs between 129th and 138th Streets, under the Riverside Drive Viaduct.

Contents

Route description

Roadside Shrine II art installation by Janet Echelman

The highway is a six-to-eight lane urban boulevard, with the northernmost section, from 59th 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.

In an outdoor installation for the Armory Show, American artist Janet Echelman affixed her sculpture Roadside 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.[2]

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

Various proposals circulated in the 1920s to build an expressway on the west side. Among the proposals:

The last elevated portion of the West Side Highway by Trump Place apartment complex

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. At the time, West Street exhibited a "daily avalanche of freight and passengers in traffic", and was "walled by an unbroken line of bulkhead sheds and dock structures"[3] blocking the view not only of the river, but even of the ships being serviced, and the commerce carried out on those piers and slips was vital to the economic health of the city. 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 Robert Moses came on the scene.

However, Moses built massive projects extending from the north and south ends of the West Side Highway.

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 opposed 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 idea that led to the plan for Riverside South.

1973 collapse

The old elevated highway, collapsed at 14th Street

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 next day, 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

In 1971, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) proposed bringing the highway up to Interstate standards and making it 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 700 acres (2.8 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.

Protesters demonstrating against the Westway project in New York City

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 both reversed their position and supported the plan.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan and the United States Army Corps of Engineers were on board 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. His order was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[4]

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

The least leafy portion of the new boulevard is the part by the midtown piers between 34th and 59th Street. This shows the West Side Highway at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The bike path is in the foreground.

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. Together with the northern Henry Hudson Parkway, it creates a leafy boulevard along the Hudson River from the northern tip to the southern tip of Manhattan.

Donald Trump and Riverside South

During the period, debates raged about what to do with the section from West 72nd Street and 59th Street. Donald Trump, who had an option on the property, seized on Robert Moses' proposal to relocate the highway to grade as a way to facilitate a 12,000-unit residential development. The State Department of Transportation, however, rejected his ideas and proposed instead to renovate the elevated section between 59th and 72nd Streets.

A subsequent development project, "Lincoln West", accepted the elevated highway, but that project failed to obtain financing. Later Trump proposed Television City, a design based on a massive 13-block-long podium to hide the elevated highway. When a deal with NBC fell through, he revised his plans slightly and renamed the project Trump City.

Six civic organizations opposed to Trump City proposed a plan that would bury the highway in conjunction with a much smaller development. Trump eventually agreed to this plan, known as Riverside South. After city approval in 1992, work began on the new apartment complex, although the debate still rages, even as Trump has sold his interest to the Carlyle Group and Extell Development Company.

Burying this section has always been politically complicated because in the 1990s $70 million was spent to straighten, widen, and reinforce the elevated highway. Nevertheless, in June, 2006, the new developer began construction of a tunnel for the relocated highway between 61st and 65th streets.

Hudson River Park

Legislation in June 1998 followed an agreement by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki to create the Hudson River Park on the west side of the highway from West 72nd to the Battery. The park consists of 550 acres (2.2 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.

Joe Dimaggio Highway sign on the elevated portion of the highway

Signs bearing the new, ceremonial name of the highway were erected on April 25, 1999. 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. As of May 2006, there is only minimal signage for the new name while "West Side Highway" signs abound.

Some[who?] have 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.

September 11

The World Trade Center towers as viewed from the highway before the attacks.

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. Emergency 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 injured patients.[citation needed]

There was debate over whether to rebuild the damaged section of the road as a surface street or a tunnel. 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 had planned 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 New York Governor George Pataki to cancel the tunnel project in favor of a boulevard.[5] The boulevard approach was also recommended by a panel.[who?][citation needed]

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.

Major intersections

Despite being a surface road, with many at-grade intersections and traffic lights, some of the intersections are given exit numbers.

LocationMile[1]kmExitDestinationsNotes
Battery Park City0.000.001 FDR Drive north
0.000.002Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel (I-478) to I-278 – Brooklyn
Tribeca3Canal Street to I-78 / Holland Tunnel
Greenwich Village2.433.91410th Avenue
Chelsea3.325.345West 30th Street to Lincoln Tunnel (NY 495; for cars)
Hell's Kitchen6West 40th Street (northbound) / West 42nd Street (southbound) to Lincoln Tunnel (NY 495; for trucks and buses)
4.667.507West 56th Street / West 57th Street (northbound)
Upper West Side8West 59th Street / Ship Terminal (northbound)
5.298.51West 72nd Street
5.298.51 Henry Hudson ParkwayContinuation beyond 72nd Street

See also

References

External links