Overview of the Thruway System
The Thruway System
The Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway, built in the early 1950s, is one of the oldest components of the National Interstate Highway System and one of the longest toll roads in the nation. It set the standard for modern highway geometric design with safe roadway characteristics including: smooth curves, wide medians, and unobstructed driver sight distance.
For more than 60 years, the Thruway System has been essential for commerce and travel in the Northeast. About one-third of all vehicles using the Thruway are from out of state. The Thruway System also plays a vital role in New York State's economy. This 570-mile superhighway, with 817 bridges, 118 interchanges, 11 toll barriers, and 27 service areas, connects New York's principal cities, rural areas, and tourist destinations.
The mainline of the Thruway extends 426 miles, from New York City to Buffalo (I-87 and I-90). Other elements of the system include the New England Thruway (I-95), the Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287), the Garden State Parkway Connector, the Berkshire Connector (I-90), the Niagara Thruway (I-190), and the Erie Section (I-90).
The original 2,840 lane mile Thruway roadway system was constructed between 1949 and 1960 and is one of the oldest components of the national Interstate Highway System. In 1991, State legislation made the Authority additionally responsible for the operation and maintenance of 11 miles of I‐287 Cross‐Westchester Expressway. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) remains responsible for capital improvements to this roadway. The Thruway System is now over 570 total miles in length and includes 134 interchanges. The various sections of roadway currently maintained by the Authority are listed in the table below.
|THE MAINLINE (New York - Buffalo)||426 miles|
|ERIE SECTION (Buffalo - Pennsylvania Line)||70 miles|
|NIAGARA SECTION I-190 (Buffalo - Niagara Falls)||21 miles|
|BERKSHIRE SECTION (Selkirk - Massachusetts Line)||24 miles|
|NEW ENGLAND SECTION (I-95) (Bronx - Connecticut Line)||15 miles|
|GARDEN STATE PARKWAY CONNECTION (Spring Valley - New Jersey)||3 miles|
|CROSS WESTCHESTER EXPRESSWAY (I-287) (Mainline I-87 in Tarrytown - I-95 in Rye)||11 miles|
The Authority has maintenance responsibility for 817 bridges that carry local roads and state highways over the Thruway System. The structural characteristics of these bridges vary: about 15 percent are concrete structures, either pre‐stressed girder, arch, rigid frame or box culverts. The remaining 85 percent of the bridges are steel structures with asphalt overlaid, reinforced concrete decks. As with the roadway, an overwhelming majority of the structures date back to the original opening of the Thruway System in the 1950s and require continual and significant repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction investments to prevent deteriorating conditions.
By far, the largest bridge on the Thruway System is the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, located approximately 20 miles north of New York City. The 3.1 mile state-of-the-art, twin-span bridge fully opened to traffic in September 2018, and is the first cable-stayed bridge across the Hudson River. The bridge replaced the former Tappan Zee Bridge, which was in operation from 1955-2017. The fully completed project will consist of eight general traffic lanes, emergency shoulders, a dedicated bus lane in each direction, and a bicycle and walking path.
Besides the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Thruway consists of seven other major bridge structures. These include the Castleton‐on‐Hudson Bridge across the Hudson River on the Berkshire Section; the four Grand Island Bridges spanning branches of the Niagara River north of Buffalo; the mile long Niagara Viaduct, and the Byram River Bridge on the New England Section.
Original Construction Cost
The Thruway cost about $1 billion to build. Costs were relatively low through upstate farmland and higher in heavily populated areas. The cost per mile from New York City to the Pennsylvania line was $1,547,000; with the exception of the 15-mile New England Section, which cost an average of $6,210,000 per mile; and the 21-mile Niagara Section, which cost an average of $5,738,000 per mile.
Thruway Service Areas
The Thruway's 27 Service Areas, many of them award-winning facilities, offer a variety of restaurants and other services designed to serve Thruway visitors for years to come. In addition, staffed tourism information centers are located at several Service Areas (and some interchanges).
The Service Areas are fun and memorable places to stop, with buildings reflecting New York State architecture such as Adirondack lodges, Shaker meeting halls and Hudson River Valley train stations. The Thruway Service Areas offer a wide variety of food as well as competitive fuel prices. In addition, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available, as are tourist information centers and kiosks, gift shops, Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi), travel safety information, and up-to-date weather and traffic conditions. All of the Service Areas offer family-assist restrooms, allowing people with special needs to get help from a traveling companion in total privacy. Service Areas are now fully accessible to travelers with special needs. Also, parents will find diaper changing areas in both men's and women's restrooms.
Service Areas are strategically located about every 30 to 40 miles along the Thruway. All gasoline stations at Thruway Service Areas have self-service islands. Upon request, people with disabilities and other travelers who so desire may receive full-service assistance at self-service pumps at self-serve prices.
There are three Welcome Centers located along the NYS Thruway.
New York State’s Welcome Centers serve as gateways to the State’s unique regions, highlighting their diverse communities and tourism assets. Each of the Welcome Centers feature a Taste NY Market offering locally-made and produced food and beverages and interactive I LOVE NEW YORK kiosks for visitors to discover the area’s local attractions and tourism destinations. By promoting the State's unparalleled natural beauty, rich history and culture, and breadth of recreational opportunities, New York's Welcome Centers allow travelers to see for themselves what makes New York State the Empire State.
Rest Areas/Park and Ride Lots
There are conveniently located parking areas along the Thruway System where travelers are invited to stop and rest during their trips. There are emergency call boxes at these rest areas that connect directly to the Thruway Statewide Operations Center, located in the Thruway Headquarters Building.
The Thruway Authority does offer several commuter Park and Ride lots across the System. Parking at these commuter lots is posted for a maximum stay of 16 hours, and are not designated for multiple day stays. There are no overnight or long-term parking facilities on the System.
For a complete listing of Park and Ride lots, please visit our traveler's section.
The History of Toll Collection on the NYS Thruway