If you ever want to travel through New York State, USA, the best way to do it is in a private luxury jet. But if you don't have a private luxury jet readily available, the next best thing is to take your motor vehicle for a ride on the New York State Thruway.
The Thruway is a convenient way for people to get from one place to another very quickly. There are generally four lanes (two in each direction) but in the more populated areas there are as many as eight. The highway contains no intersections, no sharp curves, and no steep hills, therefore enabling drivers to go as fast as they dare, as long as a State Police car isn't nearby.
At 641 miles, the Governor Thomas E Dewey Thruway is long - very long. In fact, it is the longest toll superhighway system in the United States. This extraordinary road connects Buffalo and New York City1 with the majority of the state's other 62 cities that lie somewhere in between.
Cost of Construction
The overall cost to build the Thruway was approximately one billion dollars. The actual cost per mile varied according to the area2. The cost per mile for the New York City to Pennsylvania stretch was $1,547,000, while the 15 mile New England section cost $6,210,000 per mile.
Somebody Else's Problem
The New York State Thruway Authority is responsible for the upkeep of the vast expanse of asphalt. Created in 1950 by the New York State Legislature, the purpose of the independent public corporation is to build, operate, and maintain the system. Just in case this isn't enough to keep the Authority occupied, the state has also granted them control over New York's network of canals.
Travelling on the Thruway
Travel on the Thruway is always an exciting experience with the miles upon miles of trees, farmland, more trees and, just when you thought you had seen it all, more farmland. Occasionally the not-so-easily-amused driver will become bored and start to doze off behind the steering wheel. As this is generally not considered to be good practice for the driver, the Thruway Authority has placed 'rumble strips' along the outside edges of the lanes. If a sleepy driver wanders off his path, the rumble strips make a loud and immediately irritating noise. The entertainment value of these strips was realised almost immediately. A bored driver will occasionally drive over them purposely in order to amuse whiny children, or scare the wits out of a sleeping passenger.
There is a multitude of signs that can be seen along the Thruway from hundreds of feet away. Different types of signs are made from different colours, so the motorist knows almost immediately what they are about to tell him. Most signs have reflective letters so they are easy to see at night.
Green signs inform drivers of the distance to the nearest area of civilisation. Just when you think you have made incredible progress and will soon arrive at your destination, these signs shoot down your delusions of grandeur and remind you of how infinitely long your journey will be.
Blue signs inform travellers of the distance to the nearest rest area, along with which restaurants/gas stations/shops they can expect to find there. Children in particular seem to have an uncanny ability to spot these signs from several miles away. They are immediately afflicted with fits of hunger/thirst/bowel distress that can only be satisfied by a stop at the nearest rest area and by the purchase of food/drink/beanie babies.
Yellow signs warn drivers of hazards along the Thruway. A deer crossing sign, for example, tells drivers to take caution, as deer supposedly like to cross the road at that particular spot. Drivers generally speed through the vicinity of a deer crossing sign, as the deer cross everywhere but where the signs are located.
Orange signs come out of hibernation as soon as the snow has melted and remain until the snow returns. These construction signs are generally regarded as dreaded omens of slowed traffic and long lines, but some of these signs seem to inexplicably appear in areas where no construction is taking place.
Every journey on the Thruway begins and ends with a toll booth. At the start of the trip the driver receives a ticket from a friendly attendant in a tiny little building. The driver then stashes this ticket underneath the sun visor for later use. At the end of the trip, the driver once again pulls up to a toll booth. This should be a different tollbooth from the one where he first received the ticket. The driver then hands the ticket to the attendant, along with the required amount of change. The amount of time this takes varies according to whether the driver has the exact change, has paid with a $20 bill3, and how long it takes them to find the ticket in the first place. In an attempt to speed up this process, the EZ Pass toll system has been added to the toll booths.
The Speed Limit
Although the speed limit of 65 miles per hour4 is stated repeatedly on small white signs along the Thruway, it seems to be open to creative interpretation. The number 65 and the words 'miles per hour' hold different meanings for different drivers. Most drivers stay with 'the flow of traffic' even though this often means driving at speeds in excess of 75 miles per hour.
Little pieces of heaven placed at strategic intervals along the Thruway, these buildings are popular stops for the weary traveller. The buildings reflect New York state architecture, such as Adirondack lodges, Shaker meeting halls, and Hudson River Valley train stations. They are highly visible, as they are often the only buildings for miles around. The rest areas provide gas stations, fast food restaurants, gift shops, tourist information, and most importantly, public toilets.
Since the Thruway passes through the most rural areas of upstate New York, drivers quickly become acquainted with the local wildlife. Although tall fences border much of the Thruway, the more ambitious animals still manage to meet their demise under an unlucky driver's tyres. Commonly encountered animals include deer, cows5, small furry creatures6, and wild turkeys.