Interstate 678 in New York
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Interstate 678 or I -678 is an Interstate Highway in the U.S. state of New York. The highway is located entirely in New York City and connects John F. Kennedy Airport and The Bronx. The highway is also called Van Wyck Expressway and Whitestone Expressway. The highway is 23 kilometers long.
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The Bronx Whitestone Bridge.
I-678 begins in the heart of John F. Kennedy Airport and 2×3 lanes are already available from the starting point. It passes under some taxiways and crosses the Belt Parkway on the north side of the airport, which forms a partial ring road around Queens and Brooklyn. North of this junction is a train connection raised above the central reservation. This double course of transport modalities ends in the Jamaica district. In the Forest Hills neighborhood, one comes to a major interchange, where one intersects the Grand Central Parkway and the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Next to the junction is a shunting yard for the metro. One passes by the immense Cedar Grove Cemetery, a graveyard. After this one crosses the Interstate 495, the Long Island Expressway.
At Shea Stadium, the Van Wyck Expressway becomes the Whitestone Expressway, named after the Whitestone neighborhood in the far north of Queens. In this district one crosses the Belt Parkway, which is also called the Cross Island Parkway here. It then crosses the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, a 1939 toll bridge. It is a suspension bridge, with the toll plaza on the mainland in The Bronx. The highway ends at the Bruckner Interchange complex, where it intersects Interstate 95, Interstate 295, Interstate 278, and the Hutchinson River Parkway. The last highway goes straight ahead.
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I-678 at Queens.
I-678 at Flushing.
In 1936 the Triborough Bridge opened between Queens, Bronx and Manhattan. A year later, Robert Moses decided that a parallel bridge should be built for traffic from the Bronx to Queens. On April 29, 1939, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge opened, 3 months ahead of schedule. This was in time for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair at Corona-Flushing Meadows Park. At the same time, the Whitestone Parkway was built between the Bronx and Northern Boulevard in Queens. In 1939, a total of 6 kilometers of highway opened.
In 1941, a plan of expressways was first unveiled in New York. These had to be opened to all traffic, unlike Robert Moses ‘ parkways which were not open to trucks and buses. One of the plans was to convert Queens Boulevard, Woodhaven Boulevard and Cross Bay Boulevard to highways. However, the plans were not immediately implemented due to the Second World War. In 1945 Robert Moses rejected the proposed route, and wanted a route further east over Van Wyck Boulevard. Via a junction in Kew Gardens, a direct connection was to be made via the Grand Central Parkway between Mid Manhattan and the John F. Kennedy Airport.
Construction began on the southern section between JFK Airport and the Grand Central Parkway in the late 1940s. Construction predated the Interstate Highways and also failed to meet the Interstate Highway design requirements set years later. The highway was immediately given 2×3 lanes, emergency lanes and a stone central reservation. Most of the Van Wyck Expressway has been sunk, and Moses also built parks and playgrounds along the route. Robert Moses had to raise one of the busiest commuter train routes, between the Long Island Rail Road yard and Jamaica Terminal, where as many as 1,100 trains a day passed. Moses built the highway under the shunting yard.
The first section was completed in 1950, spanning 2 kilometers between John F. Kennedy Airport and the Belt Parkway. In 1952, the rest of the southern section opened up to the Grand Central Parkway at Kew Gardens. Construction cost $30 million. Air traffic also increased sharply in the 1950s, with the highway quickly becoming congested.
In 1955 it was decided to convert the Whitestone Parkway between Bronx and Northern Boulevard into an expressway, allowing all types of traffic. In June 1958, the highway was renumbered I-595, and two weeks later I-695. In April 1959, the definitive number I-678 was assigned.
In preparation for the World’s Fair at Corona-Flushing Meadows Park in Queens from 1964-1965, a plan was drawn up to improve New York’s highway network. One of the proposals was to extend the Van Wyck Expressway north to Northern Boulevard, to connect with the Whitestone Expressway to the Bronx. This section started construction in 1961 and opened in 1963 over 4 kilometers at a cost of 40 million dollars. From there, the highway continues as the Whitestone Expressway.
Between 2012 and 2022, the Kew Gardens Interchange with the Grand Central Parkway and the Jackie Robinson Parkway was reconstructed in four phases. The project cost $700 million, the portion comprising I-678 was completed on December 23, 2016. Within the project, I-678 has been widened to the north, the viaduct originally had two lanes and no emergency lane, but has been widened to 3 lanes with an emergency lane. The roadway of I-678 has also been reconstructed in the vicinity of the interchange.
Given the capacity, the intensities are quite high, with around 140,000 vehicles per day in Queens. 108,810 vehicles cross the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge daily.
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I-678 at Flushing.
The Van Wyck Expressway is the fourth largest congestion bottleneck in the United States, with a loss of 690,000 hours per mile in 2010. It is the country’s 69th most costly traffic jam with an annual loss of $47 million.
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