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Grand Central Parkway - New York

The Grand Central Parkway begins at the Triboro Bridge (Interstate 278) in the Astoria section of north Queens. The parkway initially carries Interstate 278 southward from the Triboro suspension bridge to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). Interstate 278 turns southward onto the BQE toward Brooklyn while the Grand Central Parkway (GCP) ventures east to La Guardia Airport and Flushing.

At Flushing and East Elmhurst, the GCP turns southward parallel to Interstate 678 (Van Wyck Expressway) through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to the Kew Gardens and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens. The two routes provide the major entry point to JFK International Airport. In fact, the junction between the Van Wyck Expressway, GCP, and Jackie Robinson Parkway is one of the more congested interchanges within New York City. There traffic partitions from JFK Airport for Manhattan via the GCP north and northern suburbs via Interstate 678 north.

East of Jamaica, the Grand Central Parkway travels to Utopia, Hollis, and Queens Village en route to its symmetrical-stack interchange with Interstate 295 (Clearview Expressway). The parkway travels below grade for a time on this stretch, giving the route an expressway feel. After traveling the top deck of the junction with Interstate 295, the GCP continues east to meet the Cross Island Parkway before exiting the city as the Northern Parkway at North New Hyde Park.

Constructed began on the Grand Central Parkway in July 1931 at the Queens and Nassau County line. By July of 1933, nine miles of the roadway opened to traffic between Kew Gardens and Glen Oaks with a direct transition onto the Northern State Parkway. Extension of the parkway northward through Flushing to the Triborough Bridge followed with a July 1936 opening. Part of the highway was built along fill at Flushing Bay. A cloverleaf interchange opened further south at the cross roads with Horace Harding Boulevard by 1939.1

Expansion of the GCP occurred in the 1960s with widening of the parkway from four to eight lanes between the Triborough Bridge and Kew Gardens, and from four to six lanes from Kew Gardens east to Glen Oaks. The $40 million project was completed by 1971. A proposal to upgrade the Grand Central Parkway to freeway standards followed in 1971. Touted briefly as Interstate 478, the GCP would be upgraded to a ten lane freeway with four lanes for trucks/busses between Interstate 278 (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) and Interstate 678 (Whitestone Expressway). Heated opposition resulted in then Governor Nelson Rockefeller withdrawing his proposal after just two months. A later change followed in 2003 with the permitting of small trucks (three axles or less) on the Interstate 278 portion of the GCP between the Triboro Bridge and BQE.1.

Grand Central Parkway eastbound
No photos at this time
Grand Central Parkway westbound
After departing the symmetrical stack interchange with Interstate 295 (Clearview Expressway), the Grand Central Parkway quickly encounters a full-cloverleaf interchange with Francis Lewis Boulevard (Exits 20A/B). Francis Lewis Boulevard crosses paths with the GCP at Cunningham Park near the Hollis and Queens Village communities of east Brooklyn. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exit 20A leaves the GCP westbound for Francis Lewis Boulevard northbound through Cunningham Park. The north-south arterial meets a folded-diamond interchange with a park road just north of the GCP and south of the intersection with Union Turnpike. The park grounds continue north to Interstate 495 (Long Island Expressway). Photo taken 08/29/05.
A loop ramp carries drivers onto Francis Lewis Boulevard southbound from the GCP westbound toward the Hollis neighborhood of Queens. Francis Lewis Boulevard travels south to New York 25 (Hillside Avenue), Jamaica Avenue en route to St. Albans and Springfield Gardens. Beyond the Exit 20B ramp departure is one of two Grand Central Parkway service plazas. The plaza features a gas station and is positioned within the median of the six-lane parkway. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Grand Central Parkway continues west to intersect 188th Street at Exit 19. 188th Street joins the parkway with communities of Hollis to the south and Fresh Meadows to the north. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exit 19 consists of a partial-cloverleaf interchange between the GCP and 188th Street. A frontage street system begins here and travels west along the parkway to Union Turnpike and the Kew Gardens interchange with Interstate 678 and Jackie Robinson Parkway. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Westbound at the Exit 19 ramp departure to 188th Street on the GCP. 188th Street, also known as Saul Weprin Street, travels north-south between Hollis and Jamaica Avenues to Union Turnpike and 73rd Avenue within a mile of the parkway. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exit 17 provides the primary route to Interstate 678 (Van Wyck Expressway) south to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the GCP west. Since there is no direct connection between the GCP and Van Wyck Expressway southbound at the Kew Gardens interchange, drivers must use the Grand Central Parkway westbound frontage street to Main Street south for its on-ramp to Interstate 678 at Queens Boulevard. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The next westbound off-ramp joins the westbound lanes of the GCP with the parallel frontage street ahead of its intersection with 168th Street. 168th Street heads north from the confluence of Liberty Avenue and Merrick Boulevard to the GCP at St. John's University. Photo taken 08/29/05.
A slip ramp connects the GCP westbound with its frontage street at Exit 17. The Grand Central Parkway westbound frontage street intersects 172nd Street at St. John's University before crossing paths with 168th Street next. 168th Street continues north from the GCP to the Utopia neighborhood of Queens. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The Grand Central Parkway dips below the adjacent neighborhoods between Exits 17 and 15. 168th Street, 164th Street, and Parsons Boulevard pass overhead as the GCP travels by Queens Hospital Center. Photos taken 08/29/05.
Advance notice is given to westbound drivers of the impending split of the Grand Central Parkway with the Jackie Robinson Parkway at Exit 13. The two parkways part ways within the Kew Gardens interchange with Interstate 678 (Van Wyck Expressway). The GCP remains below grade with Main Street traveling across the roadway ahead. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Westbound travelers curve underneath the Main Street stone arch bridge toward the Exit 15 ramp departure onto Union Turnpike for New York 25 (Queens Boulevard). Union Turnpike enters the scene from Kew Garden Hills and Utopia to the east and becomes the frontage street system of the Jackie Robinson Parkway west to Metropolitan Avenue. New York 25 follows Queens Boulevard northward from Jamaica and Kew Gardens to Rego Park and Elmhurst to the west. A small proclamation sign posted ahead of the Main Street over crossing indicates the name change of the Interboro Parkway to the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play Major League Baseball. He broke the color barrier in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exit 15 leaves the GCP westbound ahead of its partition with the Jackie Robinson Parkway (Exit 13). Union Turnpike westbound meanders through the Kew Gardens interchange and emerges at the Queens Boulevard (New York 25) over crossing of the Jackie Robinson Parkway. A westbound off-ramp carries motorists onto New York 25 westbound there. The parkway and Union Turnpike otherwise continue west to Forest Park and their respective junctions with Metropolitan Avenue. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The split of GCP west with Jackie Robinson Parkway west at Exit 13W. If you think that the bridge clearances and lane widths on the Grand Central Parkway are below standard, the ones on the Jackie Robinson Parkway leave no room for error! The former Interboro Parkway spurs west through Forest Park to Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn. Interchanges are along the parkway are numbered sequentially from 1 to 7. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Grand Central Parkway westbound travelers pass underneath Interstate 678 (Van Wyck Expressway) at the Kew Gardens interchange. Here the parkway turns northward to parallel the Van Wyck Expressway through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Motorists departing JFK International Airport join the GCP from Interstate 678 en route to the Triborough Bridge and Queens Midtown Tunnel (Interstate 495). Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exits 10 & 9E provide direct access into the grounds of Flushing Meadows and Corona Park. The parkland is home to the USTA National Tennis Center (Arthur Ashe Stadium) and Shea Stadium (home of the New York Mets baseball franchise). Use Exit 10 to College Point Boulevard or Exit 9E directly onto Meridian Road for the park. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The next interchange joins the GCP with 69th Road and Jewel Avenue adjacent to Willow and Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. 69th Road & Jewel Avenue form a one-way street couplet from the GCP west to New York 25 (Queens Boulevard) in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Nearing the Exit 11E/W ramp departure on Grand Central Parkway northbound. 69th Road & Jewel Avenue merge onto a two-way street east of the GCP and ahead of the Interstate 678 under crossing. Jewel Avenue continues east toward Queens College, Utopia, and Fresh Meadows. Photo taken 08/29/05.
A collector/distributor roadway facilitates the movements to Jewel Avenue and 69th Road at Exits 11E/W. The six-ramp partial-cloverleaf interchange utilizes the southbound side frontage street for the movements on the GCP eastbound. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Eight lanes of the Grand Central Parkway travel underneath stone arch overpasses for Jewel Avenue and 69th Road. One of the new variable message signs along the GCP installed in 2005 exists along westbound at Exit 11. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The Exit 11 c/d roadway returns to Grand Central Parkway westbound ahead of the full-cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 495. Interstate 495 (Long Island Expressway) features the control points of the Queens Midtown Tunnel for westbound and Riverhead for the eastern terminus. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Travelers bound for the tourist destinations of Queens Zoo and the New York Hall of Science should use Exit 10W (Interstate 495 west) for the connection to Horace Harding Expressway (I-495 frontage street) westbound to 108th Street. Exit 10W joins a westbound c/d roadway with connections to 108th Street and Interstate 495 west to Manhattan. Photo taken 08/29/05.
A second on-ramp joins Grand Central Parkway westbound from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near Meadow Lake one quarter mile south of the Exit 10E collector/distributor roadway for Interstate 495 (Long Island Expressway). Interstate 495 constitutes a major east-west corridor through Queens, New York, beginning at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and ending at Riverhead in eastern Long Island. Photo taken 08/29/05.
One of two types of trailblazers used for the Grand Central Parkway resides along the westbound approach to Interstate 495 (Exits 10E/W). Other shields display "GCP" in an oval. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Nearing the Exit 10 c/d roadway departure on Grand Central Parkway westbound. The full-cloverleaf interchange between Interstate 495 and the GCP resides next to the directional interchange of the L.I.E. with Interstate 678. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Grand Central Parkway westbound at the Exit 10 c/d roadway split for Interstate 495 (L.I.E.). Interstate 495 eastbound travels to the Fresh Meadows and Oakland Gardens neighborhoods before departing the city at Little Neck. Westbound travelers progress through Rego Park to junction Interstate 278 and Maspeth. Photo taken 08/29/05.
Exit 10E quickly departs the GCP c/d roadway for Interstate 495 eastbound. Motorists using this ramp merge onto the Long Island Expressway c/d roadway for Interstate 678 with options to Interstate 495 east, Interstate 678 south and north, and College Point Boulevard. Interstate 495 ends 63 miles to the east at Riverhead. Photo taken 08/29/05.
The Exit 10 c/d roadway continues toward the Exit 10W loop ramp onto Interstate 495 west to Manhattan. The Queens Midtown Tunnel ends the path of Interstate 495 7.5 miles west at 37th Street and 2nd Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Up next along the GCP mainline is the Exit 9E/W interchange with New York 25E (Northern Boulevard) and the northwesterly turn to La Guardia Airport. Photo taken 08/29/05.

Sources:

  1. Grand Central Parkway @ NYCRoads.com.

Page Updated December 2, 2005.