RIP New York’s elevated West Side Highway

If you pine for the days of an edgier New York, then you would have loved the city’s “express highway,” as the back of the 1940s postcard below called it.

This was the elevated West Side Highway, which ran above West Street and 12th Avenue from Lower Manhattan to Riverside Drive.


But most drivers hated it. Built between 1929 and 1951, the freeway officially called the Miller Highway was supposed to make the avenues below safer for pedestrians and less congested.


Unfortunately it was poorly designed, too narrow for trucks and with sharp turns at exit ramps. It was also poorly maintained.

westsidehighwaygansevoortstWeakened by years of salt and pigeon poop, a chunk of the highway (left) actually fell into Gansevoort Street in 1973. (Above, at 14th Street, with a piece missing)

Today, a few sections of the elevated remain, but most of it was dismantled in the 1980s—to the dismay of some sun worshippers, bicyclists, and urban adventurers, who enjoyed having the crumbling roadway all to themselves in New York’s grittier days.

[Top photo, Wikipedia; third photo: Preservenet]

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4 Responses to “RIP New York’s elevated West Side Highway”

  1. John Lynch Says:

    It was a piece pf crap that should never have been built in the first place. Having said that it definitely made for an interesting and darkened world beneath.

  2. robert dowling Says:

    drove the highway many many times, esp at that time i lived in west 60s (now lincon center) and then upper west side100s. as said poorly designed and maintained if it was ever really maintained. great road as far as iron work, lamposts, cobblestone pavement, views, convenience, etc. remember lowwer part where old trade center use to be, when they built overpass from const site to take out dirt from the bathtub site, overpass was over west street but actually under est side hwy. dont see much pics or read much about this overpass. estheticall y when opened great but functionality a zeor as years went on. just have to put in the hwy not withstanding this is when nyc had flavor, now sometimes too squeaky clean.

  3. yorkvilleresident Says:

    It was really only good for a ride all around Manhattan Island. Down the East river drive and down the West side highway. At sunset, magnificent. Second best ride was the ride through Central Park. Alas, both gone now.

  4. karel van Aggelen Says:

    I used to fly kites , juggle and party on a stretch above 44 st . The arrival of the USS Intrepid really spoiled the view . But a great place to drink and make out .

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