The first northbound shield for I-990 was this assembly preceding milepost 1. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Interstate 990, the highest-numbered Interstate highway, is metropolitan Buffalo’s Lockport Expressway. The commuter freeway connects the greater Buffalo area with the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) and the city of Lockport as part of a four lane corridor using NY 263 and NY 78.
AASHTO approved the designation of Interstate 990 on November 14, 1980 as the first project for the Lockport Expressway started.1 An extension from NY 299 (North French Road) northeast to NY 263 (Millersport Highway) was later approved by AASHTO on April 17, 1993.
Earliest plans for the Lockport Expressway took the freeway north to the Lake Ontario State Parkway or east directly to Rochester.2 Excessive growth projections for eastern Niagara County in the 1960’s redefined the route to end at NY 31 in Gasport.3
The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways Requests on file for additions to the Interstate System on March 30, 1970 included the unconstructed 66.3 mile route linking Niagara Falls with Rochester. The same request designated a 12-mile corridor for the Lockport Expressway. As the lofty population projections for Niagara County never panned out, the route east to Gasport was never fully realized.
Another plan for Interstate 990 had the route overtaking NY 263 (Millersport Highway) northeast from the current end to NY 78.2 With job growth in Lockport accelerating in the 1980s, the Lockport Highway Association advocated the “Four Lanes to Lockport” effort to both enhance accessibility with the rest of the highway network and also attract future investment and jobs.3
The Lockport Expressway opened in the early 1980s as construction got underway for the University of Buffalo – North Campus. The route ended at North French Road in Amherst, with the Four Lanes to Lockport effort focused on extending north to at least Millersport Highway.3
The final section of Interstate 990 opened following a ribbon cutting ceremony held on the morning of December 21, 1990. A two-mile stretch opened from French Road (Exit 4) to NY 263 (Exit 5). The $20 million project included expansion of a mile long section of Millersport Highway to four lanes. The roadway was funded as part of the 1983 Rebuild New York bond issue and included in a “memorandum of understanding” between the governor and state Legislature.4
Subsequent work in the “Four Lanes to Lockport” effort included $13.2 million to reconstruct 3.5 miles of NY 78 (Transit Road) leading north from an expanded NY 263 (Millersport Highway), northeast of I-990. Groundbreaking for the project was held on April 26, 1996. Construction completed in November 1997 wrapped up sixteen years and $85 million in construction to finish the four lane corridor.1