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Interstate 87

 

The Thaddeus Kosciuszko Bridge carries motorists along Interstate 87 north across the Mohawk River. The tied arch bridges were built in 1959. Photo taken 07/20/05.

Routing

Eastern New York's main north-south highway, Interstate 87 runs nearly the height of the state from New York City to the Canadian border at Rouses Point. Three distinct sections carry I-87 shields in the state. The interstate follows the Major Deegan Expressway from the Triboro (RFK) Bridge in New York City northward to the Westchester County line and beginning of the New York Thruway. The toll road doubles as Interstate 87 between New York City and Albany (the Capital District), serving Newburgh, New Paltz, Kingston and Catskill along the way. Northward from Albany to the International Border, Interstate 87 follows the Adirondack Northway. The Northway serves Adirondack Park, the North Country and traffic bound for Montreal, Quebec via Autoroute 15.

Exit numbers along the three sections of Interstate 87 are sequential, each with its own numbering system:

  • Major Deegan Expressway - Exit 1 (I-278) through 14 (McLean Avenue)
  • New York Thruway - Exits 1 (Hall Place) through 24 (Northway and I-90 east)
  • Adirondack Northway - Exits 1N/S (Western Avenue / I-87 North) through 43 (U.S. 9 / Champlain)

Interstate 87 has three branch routes: Interstates 287, 587 and 787. Unused numbers presently were originally laid out as follows:

  • Interstate 187 - preliminary number applied to the Westchester Expressway from the New York Thruway east to White Plains in 1958. Renumbered to I-487.8
  • Interstate 387 - preliminary number applied to the New York Thruway from Elmsford west to Suffern in 1958. Renumbered as part of I-287.8
  • Interstate 487 - designation for the Cross-West Chester Expressway. Renumbered as part of Interstate 287 in 1961.
  • Interstate 687 - unconstructed loop linking I-90 at Corporate Woods Boulevard with I-87 (Northway) near Albany International Airport (ALB).

Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement

A cantilevered bridge across the Hudson River between South Nyack and Tarrytown, the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge opened to traffic on December 15, 1955 as part of the New York Thruway mainline between Rockland and Westchester Counties. The crossing accommodated six overall lanes until the mid-1980s, when a narrow asphalt median was removed to allow for a seventh travel lane.6

Looking east at the Tappan Zee Bridge from the northward curve of I-287 ahead of South Nyack. Construction commenced on the bridge in 1952 and the span cost $60 million to build.6 Photo taken June 13, 2005.

The concept of replacing the aging span arose in 2000 after a recommendation by a state task force. It would take another decade however for the replacement to gain backing, and it did by October 2011, leading to a $3.1-billion design and contractor selection by a state review panel and the Thruway Authority.6

The notice to proceed occurred in January 2013, with test piles erected starting in July 2013. Approach superstructure work began in March 2014, with main superstructure work following in June 2014. The eventual westbound cabled stayed bridge is anticipated to open by December 2016. The bridge will handle two-way traffic from February 2017 to November 2017, with overall work completed on the project in April 2018. Total costs for the new bridge top out at $3.9-billion.7 For more information, please see The New NY Bridge web site.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 87 in its entirety is part of High Priority Corridor 47: Interstate 87.

Parallel U.S. Routes

With the exception of the South Bronx in New York City, Interstate 87 follows U.S. 9 for its entire length.

History

The mainline of the New York Thruway was opened to traffic in stages between 1954 and 1957. Opening dates of Interstate 87 from south to north:2

  • New York City to Yonkers (3 miles) - August 31, 1956
  • Yonkers to Suffern (27 miles) - December 15, 1955
  • Suffern to Hillburn (1 mile) - July 1, 1955
  • Hillburn to Harriman (14 miles) - May 27, 1955
  • Harriman to Newburgh (15 miles) - December 22, 1954
  • Newburgh to Albany (88 miles) - October 26, 1954

The Adirondack Northway section of Interstate 87, which is the toll free section from Albany north to the International Border with Quebec, Canada, began construction in 1957. A ten mile stretch opened on May 26, 1961 from U.S. 9 southwest of Glens Falls to Gurney Lane (Exit 20) to the north of Glens Falls. This portion joined the previously opened sections stretching 15 miles between Albany and Clifton Park and the nine mile bypass around Plattsburgh.4 The entire 176-mile Northway was completed and opened to traffic on August 30, 1967 at a cost of $208 million.3,5

Scenes such this one on the Adirondack Northway near Exit 31, Junction New York 9N to Elizabethtown and Westport, set the stage for some of the sweeping views and gorgeous vistas on the northernmost sections of Interstate 87. Photo taken 07/20/05.

The path of the Northway was debated and included discussion about whether to route it east or west of Saratoga Springs and whether to shift it east away from Adirondack Park toward the Vermont state line among other proposals. Three possibilities made it into final consideration:5

  • Routing I-87 northeastward from Albany to Whitehall and Ticonderoga and westward to the current Northway within the Town of Elizabethtown near New Russia. This alignment would have completely avoided Adirondack Park.
  • Routing I-87 northward through the Schroon River Valley and along the west side of Schroon Lake.
  • Routing I-87 north from Saratoga Springs to Lake George via the Town of Queensbury and then shifting slightly west to the west side of Schroon Lake.

The options through Adirondack Park spurned opposition and the formation of a citizens group, Citizens' Northway Committee, in 1958, which advocated redirecting the Northway around the park. They supported an eastern route through the Champlain Valley, with I-87 staying east of its current route from Ticonderoga to Crown Point, Port Henry and Westport through to Keeseville. Ultimately the path of I-87 was decided with public input and a state constitutional amendment passed in 1959.5

Interstate 87 did not follow the entire New York Thruway mainline, including the Tappan Zee Bridge, from Elmsford to Newburgh until 1969. The 1968 Highway Act included legislation that shifted I-87 west onto the New York Thruway. The Interstate was previously routed along the Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) between Elmsford and White Plains, the present alignment of I-684 northward from White Plains to Brewster, and an overlap with I-84 west from Brewster to Newburgh. FHWA approved this relocation on September 11, 1969, followed by AASHTO on October 26, 1969. The same AASHTO meeting included the establishment of Interstate 684.

Highway Guides

Southern Terminus - Interstate 278 - Bronx, New York City, New York
Perspective from Interstate 87 south
Interstate 87 curves to the east at its final run, meeting Interstate 278 north of the Triboro Bridge. This diagram guide sign shows the lane allocation for the pending junction, with the two left lanes defaulted eastward onto Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway. There are three exits between here and the Interstate 278 split. The right two lanes transition onto westbound Interstate 278/Triboro Bridge. Of course, the billboard is larger than the guide sign ... a common occurrence within New York City. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway reaches Exit 3, East 138th Street and Madison Avenue Bridge. The next exit is Exit 2, Willis Avenue and Third Avenue Bridge. Photo taken 08/29/05.
With the lift bridge in the background, traffic for Exit 3 diverts from southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway. The Major Deegan Expressway, with its urban characteristics, has varied exit and entrance ramps with narrow medians and next to no shoulders, such as here. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Passing under East 138th Street, Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway has a sharp turn to the southeast before meeting Interstate 278. The final two local interchanges serve Exit 2, Willis Avenue/Third Avenue Bridge and Exit 1, Brook Avenue. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Immediately after Exit 3, East 138th Street/Madison Avenue Bridge, is the final Interstate 87 reassurance shield. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The next exit along southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway is Exit 2, Willis Avenue/Third Avenue Bridge. Use Exit 1, Brook Avenue to the Hunts Point Market. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Passing over Lincoln Avenue, the final three exits on southbound Interstate 87 are: Exit 2, Willis Avenue/Third Avenue Bridge; Exit 1, Brook Avenue; Junction Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway east, and Junction Interstate 278/Triboro Bridge southwest. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway reaches Exit 2, Willis Avenue/Third Avenue Bridge, followed by Exit 1, Brook Avenue. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Immediately thereafter, southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway reaches Exit 1, Brook Avenue. From here, southbound motorists will have a choice of either Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway east or Junction Interstate 278/TriBoro Bridge southwest Photo taken 08/29/05.
Southbound Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway ends as the freeway divides into Interstate 278 east and west. This interchange also represents the western end of the Bruckner Expressway portion of Interstate 278. Photo taken 08/29/05.
There is no END sign or shield assembly for Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway south. The left two lanes depart to Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway east, while the right two lanes connect to the toll Interstate 278 Triboro Bridge connection to Manhattan, the Grand Central Parkway, and the continuation of Interstate 278 via the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). Photo taken 08/29/05.
Perspective from Interstate 278 west
Skewing above the housetops in southern Bronx, three lanes of Interstate 278 press westward towards the split with Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway north. Exit 47/Interstate 87, is the last exit before Interstate 278 turns southward across the tolled Triboro Bridge system. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Prior to meeting Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway at Exit 44, the intervening offramp connects Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway with Exit 45, East 138th Street. Photo taken 08/29/05.
This set of guide signs for Interstate 278 westbound Exit 47 features the alternative control point of Upstate for Interstate 87 and also displays the Interstate 278 connections with FDR Drive and Grand Central Parkway to the south. As an unwritten rule, anything north of New York City metro and Long Island is designated Upstate. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Interstate 87 northbound splits at the Major Deegan Expressway while Interstate 278 turns southward to cross the tolled Triboro Bridge system into Queens, thus ending the Bruckner Expressway. The bridge system itself is designated the Triboro Bridge because it features a connection to East River Drive into northern Manhattan, thus connecting three of the five New York City boroughs. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway west and Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway north split at Exit 47. Interstate 278 continues southwest via the Triboro Bridge to connect to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). A four-mile stretch of Interstate 87 separates Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway from Interstate 95/Cross-Bronx Expressway. Traffic staying with Interstate 278 westbound will enter Queens in the vicinity of La Guardia Airport. The airport is named after a former mayor of New York City that was known for his fiery attitude. The same mayor was also institutional in Robert Moses's rise to power in the city. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Perspective from Interstate 278 east
Now traveling northeast on Interstate 278/Triboro Bridge, the first exit is for the connection to Manhattan. Shortly thereafter is the connection to Interstate 87 north through the Bronx to Upstate New York. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Passing under the second suspension tower of the Triboro Bridge, eastbound Interstate 278 approaches the split between the Triboro Bridge spur to Manhattan and the continuation of Interstate 278 east to Interstate 87 north and the Bronx. Photo taken 08/09/04.
All traffic on eastbound Interstate 278/Triboro Bridge must pay a toll; use the left lanes to connect to Interstate 87 north. Photo taken 08/09/04.
After the suspension portion of the Triboro Bridge, eastbound Interstate 278 approaches the connection to Manhattan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Drive. This sign is also the first appearance of Interstate 87 north signage. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Interstate 278 eastbound as it crosses the Triboro Bridge to the south of Interstate 87. One of the control points for the western bridge into Manhattan is Randalls Island. This island is to some significance to fans of the Robert Moses roads and bridges area of New York City. The island was home to one of his toll facility headquarters, leaving the building itself in the shadow of the Triboro Bridge above. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The Triboro bridge system is composed of three bridges that span waterways between the boroughs of Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, all connected by ramps, one of which is the official Triboro. The official Triboro connects Wards island to Queens. Wards island is within the borough of Manhattan (New York County).1 Interstate 87 basically launches north from the northern approach of the bridge. Photo taken 08/09/04.
A pair of state name shields are posted on the overhead guide sign for Interstate 87 north and Interstate 278 east to the Bronx. The right lanes depart here for the connection to Manhattan. Ahead, all lanes stop to pay toll. Photo taken 08/09/04.
After the Triboro bridge toll plaza, an older sign points to the Major Deegan Expressway (Interstate 87) north to Interstate 95/George Washington Bridge west to New Jersey and the New York Thruway, which begins at the north end of the Major Deegan Expressway where Interstate 87 leaves New York City and enters Yonkers. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Use the left lanes to Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway north to Upstate New York. The right lanes carry Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway northeast to Interstate 95/New England Thruway en route to New Haven and Providence. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Interstate 278 east and Interstate 87 split at Exit 47, Junction Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway north. Note the long-distance control points of Albany for Interstate 87 and New Haven for Interstate 278 (via Interstate 95). Interstate 278 begins its Bruckner Expressway designation, carrying the name through the Bronx to Interstate 95 where Interstate 278 ends. The designation Bruckner Expressway however, continues northward to the Westchester County line via Interstate 95. Nearly lost in the mix of the freeway to freeway connection is the Exit 48 off-ramp to East 138th Street. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Perspective from Interstate 87 north
Transitioning from Interstate 278/Bruckner Expressway west to Interstate 87/Major Deegan Expressway north, the first exit is Exit 2, Willis Avenue and Third Avenue Bridge in the Bronx. Photo taken 08/09/04.
This is the first reassurance shield for Interstate 87 north. Interstate 87 will follow the Major Deegan Expressway north through the Bronx, then shift onto the New York Thruway for the ride north to Albany. At Albany, Interstate 87 departs the thruway and follows the Adirondack Northway from there north to the Canadian border. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Some distance north, Interstate 87 prepares to leave New York City and enter Yonkers. At this point, Interstate 87 departs the Major Deegan Expressway at Exit 14 (McLean Avenue) and shifts onto the New York Thruway, the first exit of which is Exit 1, Hall Place. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The Major Deegan Expressway ends and the nascent New York State Thruway begins as Interstate 87 north passes through this concrete canyon. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Reaching Exit 1 (Hall Place), northbound Interstate 87 transitions directly from the Major Deegan Expressway to the New York State Thruway. A small sign after Exit 1 reads, Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway. Interstate 87 leaves the Bronx (New York City) and enters Yonkers. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Northern Terminus - Canadian International Border - Champlain, New York
Perspective from Interstate 87 north
The last overhead pull-through sign for Interstate 87 north is this one at Exits 38S-N, Junction New York 22 and New York 374 near Plattsburgh about 18 miles south of Champlain and Rouses Point. Photo taken 07/20/05.
About 14 miles north, these signs advise that northbound Interstate 87 will connect to Canada via the customs station. At that point, Interstate 87 ends and Quebec Autoroute 15 begins. Photo taken 07/20/05.
The final three exits along northbound Interstate 87/Adirondack Northway are: Exit (Sortie) 42, Junction U.S. 11 to Champlain and Rouses Point; Exit (Sortie) 43, Junction U.S. 9 to Champlain; and Junction Quebec Autoroute 15, Customs/International Border Crossing to Canada. Photo taken 07/20/05.
To Champlain, use either Exit 42, Junction U.S. 11 to Champlain and Rouses Point or Exit 43, Junction U.S. 9 to Champlain. To Vermont via U.S. 2, use Exit 43. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Northbound Interstate 87/Adirondack Northway reaches Exit 42, Junction U.S. 11 to Champlain and Rouses Point. Services are available at this interchange, and signs for Autoroute 15 are posted alongside Interstate 87 along U.S. 11. The next (and final) exit along northbound is Exit 43, Junction U.S. 9 to Champlain. Photo taken 07/20/05.
U.S. 9 ends at Exit 43 on the eastern frontage road of Interstate 87. It does not cross the international border into Canada, but U.S. 11 does (north of Rouses Point). END U.S. 9 signage can be seen on the frontage road north of Exit 43 near the point where the freeway approaches the customs station. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Exit 43, which serves U.S. 9 to Champlain, is the final U.S. exit along northbound Interstate 87. Note the use of bilingual signage. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Interstate 87 northbound at Exit 43/U.S. 9. This ramp takes traffic to the adjacent U.S. 9 (Main Street) towards the village of Champlain. U.S. 9 itself once was the connection into Canada for Montreal bound travelers. Now the highway unceremoniously concludes at a cul-de-sac adjacent to the customs station of Interstate 87. The last one-half mile of U.S. 9 (Main Street) northbound constitutes the frontage road on the eastern side of Interstate 87. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Continuing northward on Interstate 87 is this sign bridge for U.S. export control and the upcoming customs checkpoint. Many area signs in the north country feature bilingual signs in both English and French. Vidcap taken 05/95.
The customs booths in view, Interstate 87 ends and Quebec Autoroute 15 begins ahead. Although once a tolled facility, Autoroute 15 provides direct access into downtown Montreal via the Champlain Bridge crossing of the Saint Lawrence River. The drive northward into the city is approximately 60 kilometers from the U.S./Canada Border. Vidcap taken 05/95.
Perspective from Interstate 87 south
Southbound Interstate 87 travelers see this sign bridge for Exits 43 and 42 just south of the U.S. port of entry. U.S. 9 (Main Street) parallels Interstate 87 closely from Champlain southward to Plattsburgh. U.S. 11 meanwhile crosses Interstate 87 in an east-west fashion between Rouses Point and Mooers. Photo taken 07/95.
Peering at the Exit 43 sign bridge from U.S. 9 (Main Street) across the northbound carriageway of Interstate 87. Drivers using the Exit 43 off-ramp utilize the West Service Road south 0.4 miles to Main Street. Photo taken 07/20/05.
After the U.S. 9 interchange/northern terminus (Exit 43), the next exit is Exit 42, Junction U.S. 11 to U.S. 2 east to Vermont. Photo taken 07/20/05.
A speed limit conversion sign for the difference between Metric and English units for 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) is provided shortly before the junction with U.S. 11. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Southbound Interstate 87/Adirondack Northway reaches Exit 42, Junction U.S. 11 to Champlain and Rouses Point as well as U.S. 2 east to Vermont. From here, Interstate 87 travels south to Plattsburgh, passes through scenic Adirondack Park, and continues south to Albany and New York City. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Perspective from West Service Road
A look at the southbound Interstate 87 on-ramp from West Service Road at Exit 43. U.S. 9 motorists emanating from Main Street must travel underneath Interstate 87 to this ramp. Otherwise U.S. 9 traffic can utilize the Exit 42 diamond interchange with U.S. 11 to the south. Photo taken 07/20/05.
West Service Road southbound at the first U.S. entrance point to Interstate 87 southbound. West Service Road carries U.S. 9 trailblazers, but is not officially part of U.S. 9. The road ends at a cul-de-sac to the west of the Interstate 87 customs house at an industrial park. Photo taken 07/20/05.
Perspective from U.S. 11 north
Traveling north on U.S. 11, a left turn (at the traffic signal ahead) connects the two-lane highway with the Interstate 87/Autoroute 15 freeway north to Montreal. Interstate 87 is signed as To Autoroute 15 on this particular shield assembly on northbound U.S. 11. Photo taken 07/20/05.
At the traffic signal, U.S. 11 meets Interstate 87 north to Autoroute 15 to Montreal. U.S. 11 continues north to Rouses Point, connects to U.S. 2 east, and ends at the international border crossing north of Rouses Point. Photo taken 07/20/05.

Sources:

  1. Triboro information courtesy Bill Mitchell
  2. New York Thruway Factbook http://www.thruway.state.ny.us/factbook
  3. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  4. "Governor to Cut Ribbon on Northway Link." The Warrensburg News, May 25, 1961.
  5. "A few facts, controversies, and quirks from the Northway's history." All Over Albany, May 27, 2015.
  6. Tappan Zee Bridge, The Journal News.
  7. About the Project - The New NY Bridge, project web site.
  8. Interstate system route numbering web site http://www.nwindianahwys.homestead.com/INTER_MAIN.HTML, Stephen Summers.

Page Updated June 11, 2015.

Mileage

State New York
Mileage 333.49
Cities New York City, Newburgh, Kingston, Albany, Saratoga Springs, Glenn Falls, Plattsburgh
Junctions Interstate 278, Interstate 95, Interstate 287, Interstate 287, Interstate 86, Interstate 84, Interstate 587, Berkshire Connector, Interstate 787, Interstate 90
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Interstate 87 Annual Average Daily Traffic

State Location AADT Composite Year
New York Bronx 137,100 2002
New York Yonkers 101,300 2002
New York Tappen Zee Bridge 137,800 2002
New York Suffern 91,400 2002
New York Coxsackie 35,500 2002
New York Albany 121,900 2002
New York Saratoga Springs 59,300 2002
New York Glens Falls 45,900 2002
New York Plattsburgh 19,100 2002
New York Champlain 6,600 2002
Source: NYSDOT 2002 Traffic Volume Report
Complete Interstate 87 AADT data.
Hudson Valley, New York - 1967.
Portions of Interstate 84 and 684 were opened to traffic by 1967 when both served as the mainline of I-87 between White Plains and Newburgh.
Adirondack Park, New York - 1963.
Interstate 87 was completed north from the Plattsburgh bypass to Canada and south from New York 9N near Lake George to Albany in 1963.
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