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 New York 263 and 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 New York 299 (North French Road) northeast to New York 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 1960s redefined the route to end at New York 31 in Gasport.3
Another plan for Interstate 990 had the route overtaking NY 263 (Millersport Highway) northeast from the current end to New York 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 New York 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 New York 78 (Transit Road) leading north from an expanded New York 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
Southern Terminus - Interstate 290 - Amhurst, New York
Perspective from Interstate 990 south
Attached to a pedestrian overpass, this overhead on Interstate 990 south is the first signage for the pending conclusion of the short freeway spur. This panel shows the lane allocation for directional T interchange with Interstate 290 (Power Line Expressway). Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Interstate 990 south comes to an end as the freeway splits at the junction with Interstate 290. Interstate 290 serves the northern suburbs of North Tonawanda and Tonawanda to the west and Amherst to the south. The New York Thruway (Interstate 90) is four miles to the east. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Perspective from Interstate 290 west
Leaving the full cloverleaf interchange with New York 263, I-290 (Powerline Expressway) quickly approaches Exit 4 with Interstate 990 north. Photo taken by Chris Elbert (07/06).
A second look at the half mile sign for Interstate 990 north to Lockport and the University of Buffalo North Campus on I-290 west. The left three lanes continue west on Interstate 290 to Interstate 190. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Interstate 290 west passes under Maple Road as Exit 4 departs for I-990 (Lockport Expressway) north. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Two lanes leave I-290 (Youngmann Expressway) west for I-990 north just beyond the Sweet Home Road underpass. Interstate 990 runs between a number of apartment complexes just west of the UB campus. I-290 extends west to a commercialized interchange with U.S. 62 (Niagara Falls Boulevard). Photo taken by Chris Elbert (07/06).
Perspective from Interstate 290 east
First of many guide signs for Interstate 990 (Exit 4) posted on Interstate 290 eastbound. I-990 was the last of the branch routes for Interstate 90 signed within the Empire State. Therefore the Interstate is out of order in the west to east flow of numbering (Interstates 190 and 290 in Buffalo and 890 in Schenectady). Photo taken by Douglas Kerr (11/10/01).
Interstate 290 east enters the three-quarter cloverleaf interchange (Exits 3A/B) for U.S. 62 *Niagara Falls Boulevard) just a half mile ahead of Interstate 990. The U.S. highway receives a significant amount of traffic as it traverses residential areas and retail areas of north Buffalo. Photo taken by Douglas Kerr (05/06/02).
Exit 3B loops away from I-290 (Youngmann Expressway) east for U.S. 62 north. Four lanes advance east to the adjacent directional T interchange (Exit 4) with Interstate 990 (Lockport Expressway). Photo taken by Douglas Kerr (10/20/02).
Interstate 290 expands to five lanes in anticipation of the split with Interstate 990 north. The ensuing exits from both I-990 north and I-290 east serve the adjacent State University at Buffalo (UB) campus.
Sign changes made for Exit 4 made by 2007 reference the North Campus of UB. Photo taken 05/27/00.
Interstate 290 east at Exit 4 (Interstate 990 north). The I-990 control point of Lockport is approximately 15 miles to the north via New York 263 and New York 78. Photo taken 05/27/00.
Northern Terminus - New York 263 - Millersport, New York
Perspective from Interstate 990 north
Interstate 990 veers northeast from French Road to end at New York 263 (Millersport Highway) in 0.75 miles. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
The final quarter mile of I-990 north takes Lockport Expressway east along side CrossPoint Business Park and below Hopkins Road. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Exit 5 takes all remaining traffic along I-990 north to New York 263 (Millersport Highway). Concrete barriers shunt traffic onto the off-ramp ahead of a roadway stub left over from the aborted plans to extend Interstate 990 north closer to Lockport. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Interstate 990 ends at a half diamond interchange with New York 263 (Millersport Highway). New York 263 continues three miles northeast to a terminus with New York 78 at Millersport. Downtown Lockport, the county seat of Niagara County, is nine miles away. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
Perspective from Interstate 990 south
The first reassurance marker for Interstate 990 south stands along the mainline just west of New York 263 (Millersport Highway). Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (07/01/07).
"Final Phase Begins in 'Four Lane to Lockport' Project." Buffalo News, April 27, 1996.