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November 2000


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 27 Nov 2000 17:08:04 -0500
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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Don Rittner <[log in to unmask]>
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That was a great summary.  I would also add that the section that ran
through Albany dissected the Albany Pine Barrens, locally called The Pine
Bush, a unique pine barrens region in the western part of the city.  This
area, which contains numerous endangered species, became the focal point for
the environmental movement in the 70's, and the Thruway was cursed for its
negative effect by creating barriers to natural migrations of the barrens
unique flora and fauna. It also led the way, by example, for the development
of other roads through the area (The Northway, Washington Ave, Ext, etc. ).

> From: William Ringle <[log in to unmask]>
> Reply-To: "A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State
> history." <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000 11:39:03 -0000
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: NYS Thruway
> As a reporter who covered many aspects of  the Thruway construction in
> Central and Western New York from
> 1950 until its completion, I read, of course, others'  contemporARY
> accounts. The best of these, on the construction and some of the logrolling
> involved, were by David H. Beetle for the Gannett News Service (who covered
> allaspects of the construction) and Joseph C. Ingraham  of The New York
> Times
> (ditto).
> I'd be amazed if, after more than half century,  if there aren't many books
> on the building of
> the Thruway. It caused enormous social, political, economic and
> auto-traffic-handling changes in the state, as well as altered techniques
> of, and attitudes toward, roadbuilding. But I'd be less amazed to learn that
> Beetle's and Ingraham's chronicles had been ignored, though they should be
> primal sources. Beetle's account of the intricacies of the Tappan Zee bridge
> construction was typical of his reports.
> Another good source might be John Ten Hagen, a retired state Department of
> Public Works engineer, who, I assume, is still alive and, I'd guess, in his
> late 60s now. Not only did he, as a young engineer, work on the later
> aspects  of the Thruway construction (and thus worked every day with the
> older engineers -- Elmer G. H. Youngmann John Larsen, Robert Sweet, Normal
> Krapf and Dominic Massucci -- who had done much of the regional grassroots
> planning and execution of it) but his father, Henry Ten Hagen, an elegant
> man, was chief engineer for the state during much of that period. I'd guess
> that many or all of the principals in the DPW & its district engineers'
> offices are now dead.
> Each district engineer's office produced extensive published studies
> of the anticipated economic, social and even geological  effects of the
> Thruway  in its
> region. Those should be available in the State Library or in the records of
> the state agency (Department of Transportation, is it?) that is the DPW's
> successor. I seem to recall that the reports pertinent to various
> communities were deposited in local public libraries.
> The DPW also conducted extensive public hearings in the late 1940s and early
> 1950s to drum up support and to allay public resistance and skepticism.
> People had a difficult time, for example, accepting
> the notion that they'd be able to drive non-stop at 55 or 60 mph for long
> periods (for an article in The Rochester Times-Union, I recall soliciting
> the opinions of leading Detroit auto designers on whether driving at a
> mile-a-minute without letup would damage one's engine. They said, of course,
> that it
> wouldn't. And I recall at a 1950 or 1951 hearing on the Thruway's likely
> impact on the Mohawk  Valley a spindly, aged resident of Fonda, one Erastus
> Corning Davis, asking, "How do I know, if I drive 60 miles an hour, some
> damned trooper won't arrest me?").
> Though the Thruway idea was generally popular, it encountered sectors of
> spirited resistance. It took or segmented valuable farmland. It bypassed
> communities which valued the cross-state traffic that passed through them.
> Because it did not enter many cities (Rochester, Rome, Syracuse) directly,
> the placement of long connecting roads became controversial. It  ruined many
> businesses along parallel conventional roads (like Routes  5 & 20).  It took
> out the center of some villages (like Fultonville). It ignored entire
> regions (the Southern Tier & the North Country), although politicians saw to
> it that they, too, eventually got expressways. It offered what amounted to a
> low-cost freightway that  competed with the tax-paying railroads.
> Advertisers (and the farmers who rented space to them) didn't like the idea
> of the restrictions on billboards.
> And it proved to be a major contributor to the decline of downtowns in many
> middle-sized cities ( why should a shopper settle for the higher prices and
> limited selections in his home town when, in a few minutes. he could shop in
> the nearest metropolis? Why should a traveling salesman stay overnight in
> the local hotel when he could drive back home in an hour or two?).
> The financing of the Thruway also caused some public concern. It was built,
> of course, with borrowed money (the state issued bonds which, like any state
> debt, had to be OK'd by the voters) which was to be paid off by the tolls
> paid by drivers.  When the bondholders were paid off, the voters of that
> time were assured, the Thruway would be absorbed into the state's free
> highway system. But when the bonds were finally retired, that agreement was
> abrogated and the Thruway continues as a  toll road and a source of money
> for non-Thruway projects (some of it even going to the Barge Canal).
> Originally, the Thruway was to have been a free limited-access road.  So
> some early interchanges were designed "cloverleaf" style -- that is, with
> four whorls, or access roads, connecting to intersecting highways.
> But with the decision to support it with tolls, interchanges of that time
> became impractical. For if the Thruway had four toll booths, operating round
> the clock, at every interchange, the costs in toll-collectors' salaries,
> heat and light would be prohibitive.
> So, "trumpet-style" interchanges -- where all of the traffic to and from the
> access road is channeled through one toll "island" -- were decreed. As a
> result, at least one completed "cloverleaf" (at Victor) was dug up and
> replaced by a "trumpet-style."
> A great wellspring of information, I'd assume, would be the papers of
> Bertram D. Tallamy, who was the mover & shaker in the construction (though,
> of course, Gov. Dewey was the guy who really pushed it). During the
> Eisenhower Administration he became the federal commissioner of public
> roads.
> If  R. Burdell Bixby is still alive he would be a great wellspring of
> information. He was a counsel and young lieutenant  of Dewey's and later
> became chairman of the Thruway Authority.
> At the time it was under construction, the professional engineers' and
> contractors'  magazines carried extensive articles on the problems the
> Thruway builders were meeting and the methods they used to
> solve them.
> William Ringle.