About Route 287
It’s a love-hate thing really. Sometimes it’s really helpful in getting to your destination quickly. Other times it’s a thorn in your side.
Some history for the highway dorks among us.
Interstate 287 (I-287) is an auxiliary Interstate Highway in the US states of New Jersey and New York. It is a partial beltway around New York City, serving the northern half of New Jersey and the counties of Rockland and Westchester in New York. I-287, which is signed north-south in New Jersey and east-west in New York, follows a roughly horseshoe-shaped route from the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) in Edison Township, New Jersey, clockwise to the New England Thruway (I-95) in Rye, New York, for 98.72 miles (158.87 km). Through New Jersey, I-287 runs west from its southern terminus in Edison through suburban areas. In Bridgewater Township, the freeway takes a more northeasterly course, paralleled by U.S. Route 202 (US 202). The northernmost part of I-287 in New Jersey passes through mountainous surroundings. After crossing into New York at Suffern, I-287 turns east on the New York State Thruway (I-87) and runs through Rockland County. After crossing the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge, I-287 splits from I-87 near Tarrytown and continues east through Westchester County on the Cross-Westchester Expressway until it reaches the New England Thruway.
A bypass around New York City had been planned since the 1950s and would become a part of the Interstate Highway System and receive the I-287 designation. The Cross-Westchester Expressway, which was originally designated as Interstate 187, opened in 1960 as Interstate 487 before later becoming part of I-287. The New York State Thruway portion of I-287, which included a crossing of the Hudson River, opened in 1955. In New Jersey, the proposed I-287 had originally been designated as FAI Corridor 104 and incorporated what was planned as the Middlesex Freeway. The New Jersey section of I-287 between the New Jersey Turnpike in Edison and US 202 in Montville opened in stages between the 1960s and 1973; the remainder opened in 1994. The aging Tappan Zee Bridge is due to be replaced with a new span — construction started in 2013, with opening scheduled for 2017. In addition, a proposed tunnel across the Long Island Sound between Rye and Oyster Bay on Long Island would link the eastern terminus of I-287 to New York State Route 25 (NY 25) and NY 135 in Syosset.
As the freeway continues into South Plainfield, it passes near several business parks and comes to a partial interchange with Durham Avenue which only has a northbound exit and southbound entrance At this point, the road starts to turn more west before it comes to a full junction with CR 529. Here, the road enters Piscataway Township and reaches an interchange with CR 665 (Washington Avenue). Continuing near more business parks, I-287 comes to the exit for South Randolphville Road. Following this interchange, the road heads west more before it turns to the southwest and comes to the Possumtown Road interchange. After Possumtown Road, the freeway comes to the CR 622 (River Road) exit.
From here, the road continues north past suburban residential areas, with the northbound direction narrowing to 2 local lanes, before entering Bedminster Township. Here, I-287 intersects I-78 at the Vincent R. Kramer Interchange, where the local-express lane configuration ends. Access from eastbound I-78 to southbound I-287 is only to the local lanes. Meanwhile, the express lanes of northbound I-287 provide access to westbound I-78 while the local lanes provide access to eastbound I-78. Following I-78, I-287 heads north with four northbound lanes and three southbound lanes into more wooded surroundings, reaching another interchange with US 202/US 206. At this point, the freeway median widens again as it turns northeast before continuing more to the east and entering Far Hills. Within Far Hills, the road passes under CR 512 before the northbound direction narrows to three lanes and the wide median ends. Entering Bernards Township, I-287 runs east-northeast to an interchange with CR 525. After the CR 525 interchange, the road gains a wide median that narrows again before the road runs under New Jersey Transit’s Gladstone Branch, heading more to the northeast. Before leaving Bernards Township, there is an exit for North Maple Avenue.
Following this interchange, the freeway becomes six lanes, with three in each direction as it continues into more wooded areas and reaching an exit with access to US 46 and US 202/CR 511. In this area, the highway runs to the west of the Jersey City Reservoir and immediately to the east of US 202/CR 511. I-287 comes to the Intervale Road exit, which carries US 202 and CR 511. The freeway enters Boonton, where it turns northeast, with New Jersey Transit’s Montclair-Boonton Line located a short distance to the northwest. In Boonton, there is another interchange with US 202/CR 511. From here, I-287 curves more to the east, with US 202 running immediately to the north of the road. Along with this stretch, there is an exit for US 202 and Vreeland Avenue. Upon entering Montville, the freeway draws away from US 202 as it passes near wooded residential areas before coming to another interchange with US 202. I-287 continues northeast from this point, crossing under New Jersey Transit’s Montclair-Boonton Line before running north-northeast through more woodland as the terrain starts to get more mountainous. The freeway runs through Kinnelon, where the northbound direction has four lanes, and Pequannock Township before entering Riverdale. In Riverdale, there is an interchange with Route 23. A short distance later, I-287 reaches the CR 694 interchange which provides access to CR 511 Alternate.
Passaic and Bergen counties
Here, there are a couple of businesses near the road before the interchange with Skyline Drive. Following this, the road crosses the Ramapo River before passing near neighborhoods and reaching a junction with US 202. After US 202, I-287 turns southeast and closely parallels the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway line to the southwest before entering Franklin Lakes and coming to an interchange with the northern terminus of Route 208. Past this interchange, I-287 narrows to four lanes and turns northeast as the railroad line draws away. The freeway passes wooded residential neighborhoods prior to turning north and entering Mahwah Township, where it continues near more wooded suburban areas as well as the Campgaw Mountain Reservation to the west of the road. After passing to the east of the Ramapo College of New Jersey campus, I-287 passes over US 202. The freeway crosses the Ramapo River again before reaching an interchange with Route 17. At this point, Route 17 forms a concurrency with I-287 and the road widens to six lanes as it passes between the Ramapo Mountain Reservation to the west and business parks to the east.
New York State Thruway
Past NY 303, I-87/I-287 turns to the east-southeast and passes near wooded areas as well as suburban neighborhoods of Central Nyack. It comes to another interchange with NY 59 that also provides access to US 9W. At this point, the New York State Thruway widens to eight lanes and turns to the south-southeast into the Village of Nyack in the Town of Orangetown, crossing over US 9W prior to passing near residential areas in the Village of South Nyack as it runs to the east of US 9W, descending The Palisades. The last interchange in Rockland County is with US 9W and has no southbound exit. From here, the New York State Thruway crosses the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge east into the Village of Tarrytown in the Town of Greenburgh in Westchester County. After passing over the river, the road crosses over Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line before coming to an eastbound toll plaza. After this, the freeway comes to the exit for US 9 that also serves the western terminus of NY 119. I-87/I-287 continue east past woodland and business parks, leaving Tarrytown before coming to an interchange where the two routes split, with I-87 continuing south on the New York State Thruway and I-287 heading east on the Cross-Westchester Expressway. This interchange also has access to and from the northbound Saw Mill River Parkway and NY 119.
Following this exit, the road becomes eight lanes again and crosses over the Bronx River Parkway, the Bronx River, and Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line. Here, the road crosses into White Plains and reaches an interchange with NY 22. Past NY 22, I-287 makes a sharp curve to the south as it narrows to six lanes and runs near inhabited neighborhoods. The road has a westbound exit and eastbound entrance with the Central Westchester Parkway, a road that provides access to the Taconic State Parkway by way of NY 22. The freeway runs past commercial areas to the east of downtown White Plains as it encounters Westchester Avenue, which connects to NY 119, NY 127, and Anderson Hill Road as well as The Westchester shopping mall in the downtown area. Within this interchange, the Cross-Westchester Expressway turns east along the border between Harrison to the north and White Plains to the south. Westchester Avenue becomes a frontage road for I-287 as the road passes corporate parks to the north and populated neighborhoods to the south.
The road begins to turn southeast as it comes to a directional interchange with the southern terminus of I-684. The I-287 freeway heads south along the White Plains/Harrison border before turning east and fully entering Harrison, where there is a cloverleaf interchange with the Hutchinson River Parkway. At this interchange, the Westchester Avenue frontage road serves as a collector/distributor road. The Cross-Westchester Expressway turns southeast again past wooded areas of development, with NY 120 coming onto the Westchester Avenue frontage road. I-287 reaches an interchange where the frontage road ends as Westchester Avenue heads east as NY 120A and NY 120 continues to the south. Here, the freeway enters the Village of Rye Brook in the Town of Rye as it continues southeast. The Cross-Westchester Expressway comes into the Village of Port Chester, where the road runs near more dense suburban development as it intersects US 1. At this point, the road has ramp access to and from the southbound direction of the New England Thruway (I-95). From here, the mainline I-287 narrows to four lanes and enters the City of Rye, where it passes over the Northeast Corridor before merging into northbound I-95 about a half-mile (800 meters) west of the Connecticut state line.
In the 1950s, a limited-access highway was proposed to bypass New York City. This planned beltway would be incorporated into the new Interstate Highway System. The proposed beltway in New Jersey was designated as FAI Corridor 104 and later received the I-287 designation in 1958. The southern segment of I-287 was planned in the 1950s as the Middlesex Freeway, which was to run from the Outerbridge Crossing to Staten Island and follow the Route 440 corridor to Edison, where it would connect to the New Jersey Turnpike before continuing west to I-78. From here, the freeway would parallel US 202 north to the New York border. The anticipated cost of building I-287 in New Jersey was $235 million. The southernmost part of I-287 in Middlesex County was to be cosigned with I-95; this never happened due to the cancellation of the Somerset Freeway. By the mid-1960s, I-287 had been completed between the New Jersey Turnpike and Bedminster Township and from US 46 in Parsippany to US 202 in Montville. More of I-287 in New Jersey had been finished by 1969, with the sections from US 46 south to Route 10 in Hanover Township and from Bedminster Township north to Maple Avenue in Bernards Township opened. The segment of the highway between Maple Avenue and Route 10 opened in 1973, making I-287 a continuous road between the New Jersey Turnpike in Edison and US 202 in Montville.
Permits allowing construction to begin on this segment were issued in 1988 by the Army Corps of Engineers. Officials in Rockland County, New York filed a lawsuit on November 19, 1993, hours before the highway’s official ribbon-cutting, seeking to block its opening. They claimed the incomplete interchange with the New York State Thruway was inadequate to handle the additional traffic. That interchange was not complete until 1994, but the highway opened as planned on November 19 in a ceremony held on the Wanaque River bridge, where New Jersey Governor Jim Florio cut the ribbon. This moment marked the completion of a bypass around New York City that had been planned for decades. The portion of I-287 between the US 202 interchange in Oakland and the Route 208 interchange in Franklin Lakes overtook the westernmost portion of Route 208, truncating that route to its current location.
The completion of I-287 in New Jersey had significant effects on traffic and development patterns in the area. Several towns along the highway, such as Wanaque and Montville, saw increases in development. In addition, as the road was a bypass, it saw a significant increase in truck traffic wishing to bypass congested roads closer to New York City. The road also increased truck traffic on other north-south corridors, such as Route 31, from truckers wanting to bypass the New Jersey Turnpike by using these surface roads to get between the I-287 bypass of New York City and I-95 south to Pennsylvania. On July 16, 1999, Governor Christine Todd Whitman banned oversize trucks from using roads that are not part of the National Highway System, such as Route 31. Trucks were therefore forced to use I-287 and the New Jersey Turnpike to travel across the state. In the 1990s, high-occupancy vehicle lanes were built along I-287 between Bedminster and Parsippany. These HOV lanes, along with the ones that had been built on I-80, were opened to regular traffic in 1998 due to lack of usage, and the state did not have to repay the federal government the $240 million to build the lanes. In 2011, a small section of the northbound side of the highway in Boonton collapsed into the Rockaway River due to Hurricane Irene. Near the end of that year, five people and a dog were killed when a small SOCATA TBM 700 airplane en route to Georgia crashed on the highway near exit 33 in Morris Township.
New York State Thruway
The E-ZPass electronic toll collection system was first introduced on this segment of the Thruway at the Spring Valley and Tappan Zee Bridge toll plazas in 1993. The same year, an interchange in Suffern opened providing access to the newly opened New Jersey portion of I-287. In 1997, tolls for cars were eliminated at the Spring Valley toll plaza, with tolls remaining for trucks and other commercial vehicles. The I-87/I-287 interchange split near Tarrytown began a $187 million reconstruction in 2001 in order to add additional lanes and rebuild overpasses and underpasses. Reconstruction in this area was completed in May 2004.
I-287 was to continue past I-95 in Port Chester and was to cross Long Island Sound via the unbuilt Oyster Bay–Rye Bridge. On Long Island, the route would run along the Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135). Then, I-287 was again to be extended into Jones Beach by merging with the Wantagh State Parkway in Merrick. The plans for the bridge, and the I-287 extension onto Long Island, were dropped in 1973 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller as a result of community opposition and environmental concerns.
Ownership of the Cross-Westchester Expressway was transferred from the New York State Department of Transportation to the New York State Thruway Authority in 1990 to help relieve the state’s budget issues. On July 27, 1994, a propane truck crashed into an overpass on the Cross-Westchester Expressway in White Plains and exploded, killing the driver. The fire from the explosion spread into adjacent neighborhoods and injured 23 people. In the mid-1990s, a reversible high-occupancy vehicle lane was proposed for the Cross-Westchester Expressway in order to alleviate congestion at a planned cost of $365 million. In addition, a Metro-North Railroad line and a guided busway were considered to serve the I-287 corridor in Westchester County as alternatives to the HOV lane. The proposed HOV lane was cancelled in 1997 by Governor George Pataki out of the fear it would have negative effects on the area in trying to solve traffic. Since 1999, the Cross-Westchester Expressway has been under construction in order to reduce congestion and improve safety for the motorists who use the highway. The final phase of the project, a reconstruction in the area of exit 8 in White Plains, was completed in December 2012, nine months ahead of schedule.
Tappan Zee replacement
Due to the congestion along I-87/I-287 and the aging and decay of the over fifty-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge, talks have begun regarding the possibility of replacing the bridge. A variety of transportation improvements are currently being considered, including a Metro-North Railroad commuter rail system or a bus rapid transit system that would link the western shore of the Hudson River with Westchester County and New York City. In addition, several alternatives are being considered for traffic management on the bridge, including high-occupancy toll lanes, park and ride lots, ramp meters, and congestion tolling at peak times. Several designs for the new bridge, which is to be north of the existing structure, included suspension, cantilever, and cable-stayed spans. Construction on the new bridge began in 2013, with opening targeted for 2017.
Improvements in New Jersey
NJDOT started the I-287 (Middlesex Freeway) Rehabilitation Project in August 2007 to resurface the pavement between exit 5 in South Plainfield and I-95/New Jersey Turnpike in Edison Township, which is used by about 150,000 vehicles daily. Some of the bridges and overpasses had deteriorated to such a state that they needed to be replaced. On September 16, 2009, NJDOT announced the start of another rehabilitation and repaving project from exit 5 in Piscataway to the area of exit 10 in Franklin Township. This project, which is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is to cost $29 million and is expected to be finished later in 2011.
Proposed crossing to Long Island
In 2008, a private firm, Polimeni Associates, proposed to construct a more than 16-mile-long (26 km) tunnel across Long Island Sound between Rye and Oyster Bay. This proposed tunnel would be the longest highway tunnel in the world, with its length exceeding that of the Lærdalstunnelen in Norway by a mile. It would start at the junction with the Cross Westchester Expressway and the New England Thruway in Rye and end at NY 135 and NY 25 in Syosset. Estimated to cost approximately $10 billion, it would feature three tubes: the outer tubes would have three lanes of vehicular traffic each and the inner tube would be used for maintenance. The proposed tunnel, which is to be operated by a private firm, is still awaiting approval to begin construction.