A view of West
Street, at Canal Street. The elevated West Side Highway once stood
at this location. The Holland Tunnel stands in the background.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway (nicknamed LOMEX) was to begin at the West
Side Highway and Canal Street.
Building New York City's Infrastructure in the days of Urban Highway Development:
Like most cities in the late 1950's to early 1960's, New York City planned to grow its road infrastructure system. With the advent of the passing of the Interstate Highway bill in 1956, the Federal government would contribute 90% financing for Interstate highway projects. With such lucrative funding, many states and cities jumped on the promise of curing their transportation woes via highway construction, and local officials started to build highways at a rapid pace.
Building Interstate highways in urban areas required a different mindset then building highways in undeveloped areas. Many cities, such as New York, already had a sizeable infrastructure to contend with before the first line was drawn on a highway engineers map. Logistically and politically speaking, building a highway through a developed city would give urban and highway planners much to contend with. The philosophy of just building a highway and worrying about the details after the road was built would not work to well in urban centers. The residents and that lived along the future right-of-way of the highway would not be bulldozed in to giving up their neighborhood for the new road. New issues emerged, such as noise and air pollution, helped to galvanize public efforts to derail urban highway projects. Various building landmark commissions and community activists groups vowed that highway planners could not simply tear-down old buildings for the sake of new roads.
The Lower Manhattan Expressway was one of the most interesting urban highway projects to go down in defeat. As you will see when you take the tour, LOMEX was designed to cut through the heart of Lower Manhattan. Highway planners had wanted to connect the Holland Tunnel/West Side Highway combination to the west to the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges to the east. LOMEX was led by one of the most interesting and respected highway planners in history. Then New York City arterial coordinator Robert Moses, who was also in charge of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority at the time, floated several proposals for the LOMEX throughout the course of his tenure. Aided by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and Port of New York Authority's Joint Study of Arterial Facilities report in 1955 and the Tri-State Transportation Commission's 1966 report, Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Moses made everyone aware that the need for the Lower Manhattan Expressway was great. Unfortunately for Moses, his timing could not have been worse. Both political and community support for urban highways had faded in the mid 1960's, during which time the expressway was to have been built. The LOMEX was cancelled in 1971.
Like OldNYC.com's Virtual Tour of the Proposed Cross-Brooklyn Expressway, Steve Anderson's excellent nycroads.com site was utilized for many of the facts that are presented within the Lower Manhattan Expressway Virtual Tour. In order to see the history behind the LOMEX, click on the following link to read about the LOMEX on Steve's site, nycroads.com.
Let's continue with our tour...
West Street, looking south. The Traveler's building (the one with the red umbrella sign), the World Trade Center, and the World Financial Center loom in the background.
From nycroads.com: "The expressway would begin at the West Side Highway
as a six-lane elevated roadway. It would follow Canal Street about
two blocks, then curve north and cross over the Holland Tunnel entrance
West street, looking north.
An interesting characteristic of the highway would have been the interchange with the West Side Highway and the LOMEX elevated roadway at Canal Street. One would have to figure that engineers would have allowed for the following exits:
* southbound West Side Highway to eastbound LOMEX
* northbound Wes Side Highway to eastbound LOMEX
* westbound LOMEX to southbound West Side Highway
* westbound LOMEX to northbound West Side Highway
Taking in to account that the entrance for the Holland Tunnel is only
about a quarter to a half a mile from this location, an enormous amount
of land would have to be used for the two interchanges. I wonder
if engineers would have designed one large interchange complex for the
West Side Highway and the Holland Tunnel interchange, rather than two separate interchanges serving each facility.
Canal Street, looking east. Canal Street is fairly wide in this area, but one would have to wonder if some of the buildings on either the north side or the south side of the right-of-way would need to be razed in order to make room for the highway.
Another view of Canal Street, looking east. This is only a couple of yards away from the previous picture location. The Holland Tunnel entrance is located a half a block away from the traffic lights.
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