Gowanus Expressway, New York

By | December 15, 2022


Get started Verrazano Narrows Bridge
End Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel
Length 6 mi
Length 9 km
Verrazzano Narrows Bridge

17 Belt Parkway → JFK Airport

17 92nd Street

18 Fort Hamilton Parkway

19 86th Street

20 65th Street

21 3rd Avenue

22 Belt Parkway

23 38th Street

24 Prospect Expressway

26 → Manhattan

Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

According to allcitycodes, the Gowanus Expressway is part of Interstate 278 in New York. The highway runs through Brooklyn on Long Island. The road begins at the end of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge and runs to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The highway is 9 kilometers long.

Travel directions

At the end of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn, the Gowanus Expressway begins. One then crosses the Belt Parkway, but due to the difference in height from the bridge there is no direct junction with it, but one has to return to the Belt Parkway from the south with left-wing exits. The highway then has 2×3 lanes and is sunken. It crosses several roads in the Fort Hamilton, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge neighborhoods. A few miles away ends the Shore Parkway, part of the Belt Parkwaydirectly on the Gowanus Expressway. The Gowanus Expressway then runs elevated 2×3 lanes through Brooklyn. 3rd Avenue runs under the highway. Due to the difference in height, there is only one incomplete turn. The Prospect Expressway begins in the Park Slope neighborhood and enters Brooklyn Short Highway. The road then has 2×4 narrowed lanes and still runs elevated, right next to buildings. The Gowanus Expressway then terminates at the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, continuing north, while the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ( I-478 ) continues straight to the southern tip of Manhattan.


First instance

Construction began on the Gowanus Parkway in 1939 under the supervision of Robert Moses, raised on the pillars of an old railroad track above 3rd Avenue. Because the Gowanus was built on top of an existing structure, Moses needed little effort to get the plans approved. However, the Gowanus Parkway was wider by four lanes than the old railroad, and along 3rd Avenue, the necessary homes and businesses had to be demolished to allow for the highway and connections. The elevated section above 3rd Avenue was completed on October 1, 1941. When the highway was opened it was part of the Belt Parkwayaround Brooklyn and Queens. At the time, a drawbridge also existed over the Gowanus Canal, a narrow canal in Red Hook. In 1950, the New York City Board of Estimate approved a high, six-lane viaduct over the canal to replace the drawbridge. In 1955, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and the Federal Bureau of Public Roads recommended widening the four-lane Gowanus Parkway to six lanes and opening the highway to freight traffic, for a future Interstate Highway. The Parkway was also to become an Expressway, connecting to the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island.


For the widening, another 200 buildings along 3rd Avenue had to be demolished, and a number of connections were also removed to allow the widening from 4 to 6 lanes. A little further south, the extension to the Belt Parkway opened at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The original plans for this section included 4×3 lanes connecting to the never-built Cross-Brooklyn Expressway. However, there were major protests from residents in Bay Ridge, which the highway was supposed to run through, and the plans were reduced from 12 lanes to 6 lanes. Plus minus 800 buildings had to be demolished and 7,000 residents relocated for the construction of this section of the Gowanus Expressway and the embankments of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.

The widening of the Gowanus Expressway and construction of the section through Bay Ridge was completed in 1964 at a cost of $100 million. Despite the modification, the Gowanus was clearly pre-Interstate Highway era and did not meet Interstate Highway design requirements. There is a lack of emergency lanes, tight entrances and exits, poor visibility and sharp bends.

Later developments

The condition of the elevated section of the Gowanus Expressway deteriorated rapidly, the intensities were higher than calculated and the proportion of freight traffic to Long Island was high. In the 1990s, 175,000 vehicles drove daily on the Gowanus Expressway, prompting the New York State Department of Transportation to implement HOV lanes on the Gowanus. The HOV lane runs between the Belt Parkway and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and has been a success so far, especially the use of buses allowed the Gowanus Expressway to carry more people. The average occupancy of the HOV lanes was 9.1 people, which means that buses use them a lot.


Between 2005 and 2016, the bridge deck of the elevated section on viaducts was replaced over a length of 10 kilometers. The work was carried out in five phases and was completed on 18 February 2016. This is called a ‘temporary measure’ that could extend the life of the highway by 15 to 20 years until a definition solution such as a tunnel is ready. The renovation cost $246 million. During the renovation, the HOV lane from the 1990s was transformed into a fully-fledged alternating lane with jersey barriers.


The condition of the current elevated highway is poor, and requires continuous repairs. The bridge deck was replaced between 2005 and 2016. The New York State Department of Transportation plans to renew or completely replace the Gowanus Expressway. There is also a tunnel alternative to improve urbanity and improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods through which the highway now runs. The tunnel alternative includes 6 kilometers of new tunnel, just west of the current Gowanus Expressway. Connections and the interchange with the Prospect Expressway will take place underground. The number of lanes will probably not be expanded, so it will not solve traffic jams. This is especially a problem because the connectingVerrazano Narrows Bridge can handle much more traffic with 2×6 lanes than a 2×3 lane tunnel. In addition, the Gowanus Expressway is a crucial link between other highways in the area.

Traffic intensities

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge handles 195,000 vehicles per day. The Gowanus Expressway itself is somewhat less crowded, with 104,000 at Fort Hamilton to 134,000 for the Prospect Expressway. The stretch between the Prospect Expressway and I-478 counts 170,000 vehicles per day. The Gowanus Expressway therefore experiences quite a bit of traffic congestion during the day.

Exit Location 2008
16 Belt Parkway 190,000
17 92nd Street 190,000
18 Fort Hamilton Parkway 100,000
20 65th Street 110,000
21 3rd Avenue 125,000
24 Prospect Expressway 133,000
26 Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel 168,000

Gowanus Expressway, New York