Interstate 990 New York
The highest numbered Interstate highway, I-990 is the Lockport Expressway in the Buffalo, New York metropolitan area. Located wholly within the town of Amherst, the commuter freeway connects Tonawanda, Cheektowaga and the 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.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved the designation of Interstate 990 on November 14, 1980 along the first project for the Lockport Expressway.1
The Lockport Expressway, Part I (I 290 interchange to North French Road) is scheduled for completion in 1982. Although this segment is only 4.2 miles long, the completed expressway will extend to the City of Lockport in the future. The inclusion of the Lockport Expressway in the Interstate System was proposed in 1979 by Senator Daniel P. Moynihan and subsequently approved by the FHWA as a spur to Interstate Route 290 in the Town of Amherst, Erie County, New York. It will serve the new State University of New York campus complex in Amherst and will eventually proceed northerly as expansion occurs in the rapidly developing Buffalo-Lockport urban corridor.
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) application to AASHTO further added that the eventual extension to Lockport was nine plus miles. The temporary end point was at a half diamond interchange with NY 299 (N French Road).
Opened to traffic in December 1990, the 2.04 mile long extension from NY 299 (N French Road) northeast to NY 263 (Millersport Highway) was approved as part of Interstate 990 by AASHTO on October 23, 1993. The extension was previously authorized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on July 28, 1993 under 23 U.S.C. 139(a). A letter from NYSDOT to FHWA on April 7, 1993 recommending lengthening the I-990 designation cited:
This section of highway, which has been constructed by New York State without any Interstate funds, clearly meets the Guidance Criteria for the selection of Interstate routes and has been functioning as such a route since 1991.
This section is an extension of the Lockport Expressway (IR 990) and many motorists assume that the extension is part of IR-990. We believe that the addition of the highway extension to the Interstate System and its signing as such would have an overall benefit to the motoring public.
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
Source: December 31, 2021 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-990 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Vehicles per day||Location|
|58,940||I-290 to Exit 1|
|52,134||Exits 1 to 2|
|50,455||Exits 2 to 3|
|43,810||Exits 3 to 4|
|24,100||Exits 4 to 5|
Source: 2018/19 AADT – NYS Traffic Data Viewer
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 long 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). Paid for with federal and state funds, 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) beyond I-990. Groundbreaking for the project was held on April 26, 1996 with anticipated completion in November 1997. Efforts to construct the four lane corridor to Lockport commenced in 1980 at a cost of around $85 million.1
North End – Millersport, New York
South End – Amherst, New York
The first of several guide signs for I-990 on I-290 east precedes Exit 3 for U.S. 62 (Niagara Falls Boulevard). I-990 was the last of the branch routes established for I-90 within the Empire State. Because of that, it is out of sequence with the rest starting with I-190 at Buffalo to the west and I-890 in Schenectady to the east. 08/23/21
- “Final Phase Begins in ‘Four Lane to Lockport’ Project.” Buffalo News, April 27, 1996.
- “Re: Was I-990 originally supposed to run east of NY 263?” online posting by cl94, AARoads Forum, August 9, 2014.
- “Four Lanes has enabled Lockport’s continued growth.” Buffalo News, December 27, 2015.
- “New Link in Lockport Route to Open 4-lane Highway to Buffalo Only 2 – Miles Shy of Goal.” Buffalo News, December 20, 1990.
Page updated June 14, 2022.