New York Steals Roads from its Neighbors!

On April 18, 2010 · 6 Comments

I learned some interesting facts from our prior exercise, specifically that there are several extremely short U.S. Interstate highway segments that just barely clip the corners of various states. In the course of that journey I also uncovered a startling revelation. New York is stealing roads from its neighbors. I’d write it off as an aberration if it was a single instance. However it appears that it’s happened at least twice and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were additional examples waiting to be discovered.

It’s not beyond the citizens of New York to wrangle land from adjacent jurisdictions. Precedence traces back to 1879 when New York finally completed the absorption of Fishers Island fully within its territory. Clearly it should have gone to Connecticut by nature of geography. Two miles from Groton, and somehow New York manages to snag it?



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I’d thought this type of boorish behavior was a Nineteenth Century artifact, something that couldn’t possibly happen during modern times when borders are much more clearly established, defined and marked. I was wrong.

Once again I tip my keyboard to Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest. He blew the whistle on a new-to-me border incursion. He’s still fighting mad about Fishers Island, not to mention the Southwick Jog that Massachusetts stole. On his behalf, I’m not going to let this provocation go lightly. Connecticut is already too small to hand over additional chunks of its territory.

I’d consulted him about a tiny sliver of Interstate 684 that passed through Connecticut territory, and of course he knew all about it. He added that I should take a look a little further south. Here’s the result.



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Notice anything odd? The road just east of Westchester County Airport is clearly in Connecticut but it’s labeled New York 120A. I’d seen it on the map earlier but I figured it was a typical Google Maps typo. Sometimes the labeling is a little wrong. Sometimes the borders are off by a couple hundred feet. I’d discounted it as an obvious error. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Google got it right. The map is correct. This is a segment of New York state highway running through Connecticut territory.

Steve referred me to the ultimate online authority, Kurumi’s Connecticut Roads: "King Street in Greenwich; forms a loop with NY 120. This is a funny one: Route 120A spends most of its time in Connecticut… but isn’t signposted in that state. Connecticut’s state highway log, a list of all numbered routes it maintains, does not include Route 120A, and I doubt it ever has." Wikipedia provides additional coverage: "NY 120A proceeds into Connecticut, staying within the town of Greenwich, Connecticut, for about 3.6 miles (5.8 km). This portion of the road is still maintained by the New York State Department of Transportation, even though it is outside the state of New York."

It that’s not odd enough, the road reputedly has different speed limits depending upon the direction being driven. Steve has placed this anomaly on his visit list. He promises an on-the-ground report when he finally makes it down to this westernmost point in Connecticut, and when he does I’ll provide a link to the appropriate page on his website.

Connecticut is not alone. Pennsylvania has also experienced a border incursion from its pushy neighbor. Regular readers Greg and Kandice both referenced the Southern Tier Expressway in comments they posted to the original story. It barely clips Pennsylvania at South Waverly and it’s signed Interstate 86, or New York 17, or both depending on the current status of efforts to convert the expressway to Interstate standards.



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Here we find the same issue. New York state Highway 17 crosses into Pennsylvania. Notice the exit numbers in the little green circles along the roadway. Exit numbers are tied to states but these exit numbers remain in sequence with the New York numbering even where the road passes through Pennsylvania. Ordinarily I would consider that a matter of convenience and a means to avoid confusing travelers. Now I’m growing suspicious. The strange truth goes much deeper.

Reviewing the GribbleNation website and one of its Highway Features of the Week, I found a smoking gun:

New York State Route 17, the ‘Southern Tier Expressway’ across southern upstate New York take a curious turn here, dipping into Pennsylvania for a very short distance. It is a fluke of geography that caused this anomoly [sic.]. While passing from the Chemung River valley to the Susquehanna River valley (going eastbound), NYSDOT tried to keep the highway entirely in New York, with the right-of-way abutting the state line for several miles/km (it curves north just off the map to both the left and right). However, they were unable to keep the highway in New York at Waverly, this due to the presence of the Norfolk Southern (ex Conrail) ‘Southern Tier’ line (which hugs the state line in Waverly, NY) and the urbanized parts of the city across the tracks to the north. The going was easier in South Waverly, PA, and the highway was built through an old industrial/railroad section there… NYSDOT maintains all of NY 17 in this area. [emphasis added]

Naturally my post is fairly tongue-in-cheek. Nobody really believes that New York is employing these tactics as a slow-motion form of "squatters rights" to expand its state borders. Right? There are plausible explanations and I’m sure that both Connecticut and Pennsylvania don’t mind the taxpayers of another state footing the bill, which by the way, also benefit the citizens of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. I just found it odd that two instances came up wholly by coincidence while discussing an article of a totally different subject.

I wonder if there are similar situations elsewhere? The Spanish road to Llivia is one example and it seems to make sense because it exists exclusively to tie an exclave to its homeland, i.e., it’s a travel corridor to a populace that would otherwise be "stranded" (well, maybe not so much anymore with the Schengen Agreement but you get the idea). I’m wondering though about instances where this happens more as a matter of geographic convenience like the New York situations.

On April 18, 2010 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “New York Steals Roads from its Neighbors!”

  1. Ethan says:

    Oh, don’t forget Minnesota Highway 23 near Duluth/Superior, MN/WI.
    The highway crosses into Wisco without signage and is maintained by MnDot.
    Map: http://tinyurl.com/y5nnquj

    • Great contribution, Ethan. Here’s an imbedded image of the map:



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      And here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: "A Minnesota Highway in Wisconsin. Minnesota Highway 23 has the rare distinction of being a state highway that passes through another state. At 133rd Avenue West, the southern edge of Duluth, Highway 23 crosses the Saint Louis River into Wisconsin for half a mile before re-entering Minnesota. On some maps, this section is designated “WISC-23”, despite there being another Highway 23 in southern Wisconsin. There is no signage, however, along the highway that indicates the brief route across state lines. Nearby is the junction of Highway 23 with State Highway 210 and Jay Cooke State Park."

  2. Greg says:

    There’s a great oddity around the OK/AR/MO tripoint: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=36.446971,-94.590569&spn=0.16874,0.264015&z=12

    OK route 20 and AR route 43 run together along the state line until just south of the tripoint where the road enters Oklahoma for about a mile. During this time, AR route 43 is in Oklahoma and is signed concurrently with an OK route. The road then re-enters Arkansas for a very short time still signed concurrently, so now OK 20 is in Arkansas. This Street View shot is from within Missouri looking into Oklahoma: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=36.499641,-94.617691&spn=0,0.00825&z=17&layer=c&cbll=36.499499,-94.617684&panoid=ud6LY3NhDkyA-BmisLN53Q&cbp=12,200.98,,1,2.3

    It’s blurry, but you can see the Oklahoma welcome sign along with route markers for both states. (Bonus: the tripoint marker is about 90 degress clockwise from that view.) So both states steal the other state’s road for a time. Here’s a page about it with better pictures: http://roads.tulok.net/roads/u-a43.html

  3. Rhodent says:

    Georgia Highway 246 crosses briefly into North Carolina twice as it navigates the straight border across mountain switchbacks. It then crosses into North Carolina for good, becoming NC Highway 106. The only state crossing that is noted is the one where the highway changes numbers, and the two “detours” into NC are maintained by Georgia DOT. There are no highway markers on GA-246 when it’s in North Carolina.

  4. Lowell says:

    New Mexico Highway 28 enters Texas for about 1,300 feet before reentering New Mexico northwest of Canutillo, Texas. This is where the state line follows a meandering 1850 channel of the Rio Grande that is now perfectly dry land over a mile from the river. That Texas segment is maintained by New Mexico, and there are no highway signs of any sort on it.

  5. David says:

    While it isn’t a land route, I always thought it was interesting that the BC Ferries route from Tsawwassen (on the mainland south of Vancouver) and Swartz Bay (on Vancouver Island north of Victoria) briefly clips a corner of U.S. Waters, just west of Point Roberts, Washington. Taking this ferry was technically the second time in my life that I crossed an international boundary… quickly followed by the third. I doubt one could do much to take advantage of this geo-oddity (it doesn’t gain you much over trying to illegally swim from one country’s shores to another), but considering the tight border controls on U.S. Borders these days, I found the technicality amusing.

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