Edges of the City

West Side Highway (NY 9A)

Designer: Robert Moses

Constructors: James Stewart & Co.

Elevated highway from Canal St to 72nd St.

Length: 4 miles 

Cost: $4,547,449.60

Its elevated structure allowed trucks to travel between the piers to the factories and warehouses to the east, while a different pace was exerted by motorists over head.

The sharp bends of the highway that allowed its structure to weave in and out of existing buildings, it’s access was limited to motorists who cared to stroll along the scenic route at speeds under 40mph from Battery to Westchester County.

1927 – 1931

  • The highway from West 72nd Street south to Chambers Street was constructed.

1945 – 1948

  • Extended south from Chambers Street to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach


  • Deterioration of Highway reported, first of six studies on the bridges deterioration published by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority
  • Suggested: Three lanes in each direction, re-align highways reverse “S” curves, new interchanges to Holland and Lincoln Tunnel approaches


  • Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, the Tri-State Transportation Commission made recommendation for highway which the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) declined to make because of its $88 million cost.
  • Governor Nelson Rockefeller and MAyor John Lindsay proposed using Interstate Funds in order to build the “Wateredge” hihgway in order to replace the deteriorating original West Side Highway. This replacement would have been built on piles rather than on landfill.


  • December 16th, 1973 a sixty foot section of the original northbound roadway collapsed at Gansevoort St.
    • Entire Highway shutdown from Battery north to West 57th st.
  • John Zuccotti chairman of the New York City Planning Commission re-named reconstruction project Westway.
1973 – 1977
  • Temporary highway constructed.
  • Governor Hugh Carey and Abraham Beame approved one of six proposed alternative roadways soon to be named Westway
  • Modified Outboard alternative approved: an extension of the I-478 designation along the Henry Hudson Parkway north of West 59th St.


  • Demolition of the original elevated highway began.
  • Mayor Ed Koch joined in support of the modified outboard proposal.
  • Army Corps of Engineers granted a landfill and dredging permit in order to begin process of modified outbound proposal
  • President Ronald Regan joined support of Westway, writing a $85 million dollar check to city and state officials
  • Transportation officials and fiscal conservatives joined together in order to protest outboard proposal
  • Judge Thomas Griesa of the U.S. District Court blocked the 1981 Landfill permit due to the assumption that Army Corps of Engineers had undermined the detrimental impact the proposed landfill would have had on the striped bass in the Hudson River.


  • The abandoned roadway found multiple uses ranging from a popular running and bicycling path, as

well as a staging area for concerts. (nycroads)

  • Torn down in stages, the rotting stretch from 40th st. – 57th st. lingered for years


  • Highway Design Firm Vollmer Associates was commissioned to develop alternative roadway, submitting four new proposals


  • Demolition of the elevated highway ended
  • Seven years after the four proposals for an alternative highway were submitted by Vollmer Associates, alternative three was approved.
    • At the cost of $380 million this highway gain the name “Lessway” due to the low cost compared to alternative proposals.
  • Construction begins to bring “Lessway” to life with additional reconstruction of the entirety of NY9A
  • “Lessaway” construction completed
  • The impact of the September 11th attacks caused the roadway to be closed for six months while the section from Brooklyn – Battery tunnel north to Chambers St. was reconstructed.

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