Interchange of the Week
Monday, 29 December 2003
New York State Thruway - Exits 29A, 30 & 31, Little Falls-Utica
A full-size image (188 KB) is also available.
Exit 29A

Orientation: Interstate 90, the New York State Thruway, runs from left to right at bottom; NY 5S runs across the center. NY 169 enters at top and ends at NY 5S, center.

Exit numbers: Thruway Exit 29A is for NY 169 to Little Falls and Dolgeville.

The interchange: The trumpet interchange at Exit 29A has an unusually long stem that crosses over NY 5S and forms a through route with NY 169 to and from the north. NY 169 proper makes a right angle at the end of the Thruway connector, and has its southern terminus at NY 5S. The stub from NY 169 at upper left is part of the pre-Thruway alignment of this route.

This interchange is striking because the ramps on the eastbound side are cut deeply into the black rock of the valley wall. By contrast, the westbound lanes of the Thruway look out over the plains, sloping toward the City of Little Falls on the Mohawk River.

Exit 30

Orientation: The New York State Thruway (I-90) runs from left to right on the north side of the Mohawk River through Herkimer. NY 5S follows the south bank, running west from here through Mohawk, Ilion and Frankfort. NY 28 runs from bottom to top across the river. At top is the CSX mainline.

Exit numbers: Exit 30 is for NY 28 to Herkimer and Mohawk.

The interchange: Exit 30 is situated just west of where the New York State Thruway crosses the Mohawk River and Erie Canal. The usual complement of Thruway Authority facilities is found at the interchange. It intersects NY 28, which acts as a connector between NY 5S in Mohawk, to the south, and NY 5 in Herkimer, seat of its namesake county, to the north. NY 28 runs south from Mohawk to Cooperstown and Oneonta. It also runs north by a circuitous route to Old Forge, although Exit 31 is the recommended exit for that area. To the west, the Thruway climbs the north slope of the Mohawk Valley, offering a grand view of Ilion, although by the time it reaches Utica the valley flattens out.

A full-size image (578 KB) is also available.
Exit 31

Orientation: The Thruway enters at top left, on the inner pair of roadways, and runs to bottom right. Interstate 790 and NY 5, overlapping, enter on the outer roadways at top left. I-790 ends where the outer roadways do, at Leland Avenue. NY 5 turns north on this and then east on Herkimer Road. To the west, Herkimer Road feeds into the Northside Arterial, which continues toward top left just north of the Thruway. Genesee Street (reference route 921C) enters at bottom left and ends at the Northside Arterial; Trenton Avenue (old NY 12) and Coventry Avenue (old NY 8) continue the route northwards.

Exit numbers: Exit 31 on the Thruway is for I-790, NY 8 and NY 12 to Utica. (NY 5 is not mentioned, because all Mohawk Valley interchanges provide a nearby connection to this route.)

The interchange: This bizarre interchange, which provides an indirect connection between I-790 and its parent route I-90, is the result of a rather haphazard evolution of highways in the Utica area. The first iteration was a simple trumpet connecting to Genesee Street, which at the time carried NY 5, NY 8 and NY 12 through the city; they were soon rerouted onto the North-South Arterial (see Week 17 and Week 40). Subsequently, in the early 1960s, I-790 was built as a two-way, undivided highway along the Thruway's south side. At the same time, NY 5 was moved onto the Northside Arterial, newly built as a relief route for Riverside Drive along the Thruway's north side. I-790 fed directly into the Thruway interchange, and a partial interchange with Genesee Street was constructed.

Finally, in the 1980s, I-790 and NY 5 were moved onto new roadways flanking the Thruway. These end abruptly at Leland Avenue, causing I-790 to have its terminus at an arbitrary location, rather than at another Interstate. The old, undivided I-790 became a connector to Genesee Street and the Thruway; as a result, the westbound lanes of old I-790 were removed, and three ramps were added to the Genesee Street interchange. It is ironic that the old I-790, while not meeting Interstate design standards, had a better connection to the Thruway than does its present-day descendant. Much thought continues to be given to possible solutions to this problem.

Still, the present configuration, which includes one ramp from Herkimer Road, provides full connections in all directions. The old interchange, shown at right, allowed no access between Genesee Street and points west via I-790, the Northside Arterial being used instead.

Peter Naughton writes:
"I-790 is peculiar because it has no exit numbers, it has no reassurance shields, and it's pretty vague about where exactly it begins and ends.  In fact...locals rarely refer to it as '790' but rather as '5,' '8' and/or '12,' or simply 'the arterial.'  That's because 790 is a multiplex highway for its entire length, and the other routes are through routes which do not terminate.  It's easier to give directions such as 'Take 5 west to 12 south' as opposed to 'Take 5 west to 790 west to 12 south.' I...suggest that the 790 numbering be reassigned to the finally-completed Utica-Rome expressway (State Route 49), provides a direct non-stop connection between Utica and Rome."
New York State Thruway Authority official site.
The map image used is taken from the NYSDOT 1978 Utica East quadrangle, downloaded from New York State GIS. These maps are in the public domain.

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