New York State Thruway (I87) - Come Ride With Me

EZ Pass notification at Exit 17 toll booth
EZ Pass notification at Exit 17 toll booth | Source
I87 - New York State Thruway
I87 - New York State Thruway | Source

The New York State Thruway, also known as Interstate 87 also known as the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway, runs from New York City to Buffalo. In 1944 Governor Thomas E. Dewey authorized the construction of the Thruway. Building began in Liverpool near Syracuse in 1946. The first segment of the Thruways was opened in 1948. Construction continued section by section. In 1954 a toll and speed limit were imposed. In 1956 the final three mile section of the Thruway was completed finishing the 569-mile Thruway from New York City-Buffalo Mainline. It is now the fifth busiest toll road in the United States, but I digress. This is not about the Thruway's history but about traveling the Thruway. It's a decent highway with lots to see along the way. Every journey on the Thruway begins with a toll booth. There are toll booths at every entrance and every exit. If you've ever tried to count the number of cars on the Thruway and multiply that by one day then one week and so on, you wonder why the Thruway Authority would ever have to raise the tolls! They have made it easier by introducing the E-ZPass which allows you to re-pay any amount over $30 then use the pass on the Thruway. Just FYI the E-ZPass is also accepted in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

So, our journey begins with a short trip from Exit 17 in New Paltz to Exit 14 to take us to Route 17 leading us to New Jersey. While it is only three exits on the Thruway it is a distance of about 50 miles. Getting back to the E-ZPass, you can enter a marked lane and just drive through if you have an E-ZPass. In theory it's really great and most of the time it actually is, however, not everyone pays attention. E-ZPass lanes are well marked an signs for miles ahead warn "Express E-ZPass only, Keep Left." This would seem simple enough if people weren't in such a hurry or in their own little worlds. We have an E-ZPass so we keep left. There are times when the car in front, already in the lane and at the toll booth, does not have an E-ZPass. Why they couldn't read the signs I don't know. So, now you sit and wait for a toll collector from another booth to come over and take this guy's toll or you get the really smart driver who realizes he's in the wrong lane, at the toll booth, and tries to back up to get out of it. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have a line of cars in back of you with a tractor trailer directly behind you. Aggravating to say the least. Either situation keeps you sitting and waiting before you even begin your journey.


Construction along the Thruway
Construction along the Thruway | Source

Well, we've made it through the toll booth and our journey begins. The posted speed limit is 65 MPH. It was originally 55 MPH but was raised by Gov. Pataki in 1995. You notice immediately that though the limit is 65 most cars are actually driving at 70 MPH, so you join the crowd. As you are driving you notice the 'race car' drivers passing you like you're standing still even though you're driving 70 MPH. It seems like they're passing you at the speed of light and disappearing over the horizon in an instant! Then there's that little old couple in their Subaru driving about 50 MPH, enjoying the scenery and oblivious to the movement around them. You decide to try to pass. When you look to your left it has now become a racetrack and there's a line of cars traveling at the speed of light with no opportunity for you to pull out. You wait patiently, as you know sooner or later there's got to be a break. Patience prevails and you eventually manage to move to the right lane to pass that lovely old couple, who now, by the way, have decided to drive 65 MPH! After a reasonably higher speed and some time you manage to pass the lovely old couple and return to the right lane.

No trip on the Thruway is complete without some construction areas. There's always work being done. The challenge here is again the race car drivers who don't believe in signs. There are signs posted well ahead of the construction reading "Road Work Ahead." New York has advertised very well that all vehicles are to slow down in construction areas and will be heavily fined if they do not. The race car driver feels he is an exception. He doesn't slow down for anything even if it means cutting you off when he finds out the sign that said "Right Lane Closes in 5 miles" actually means the right lane closes. He just swerves and cuts you off if he has to to continue his journey.

In addition to the race car drivers, Mom & Pop crawlers, and construction areas if you're really unlucky some poor soul breaks down or has an accident. While this may cause a one lane blockage the real problem is the rubber neckers who have to see what's going on and must stop at the scene to take it all in. The result, major traffic back up and delays.

All things considered and straightened out you are now driving along the NYS Thruway.

Rock out-cropping along the Thruway
Rock out-cropping along the Thruway | Source

The Thruway for the most part is a lovely tree lined highway. Driving during any season gives you lovely views with the changing scenery. Of course, winter can cause treacherous driving conditions, even on the Thruway, but the Thruway Authority is very good about cleaning the roads as soon as possible when there is snowy conditions.

The trees lining the Thruway help to form a buffer between the traffic and the towns on the other side. Hills and mountains are visible on the horizon and on and off throughout your journey. There are rock cliffs and rock out-croppings at some points. Some lining the road, others in the distance.

Another point of interest just FYI - I have found that taking pictures while traveling 70 MPH can sometimes be difficult so if the quality of my pictures is lacking that is the reason coupled with the glare from the windshield!

Exit signs
Exit signs | Source
Deer Crossing
Deer Crossing | Source

There are no advertisements or billboards on the Thruway. The only signs are mile markers, Exit signs of signs telling of rest/service areas. The mile markers help you keep track of about where you are on the Thruway and how far you have to go. The Exit signs are all large and well placed letting you know what exit you are approaching, how close or far it is depending on your perspective, and how far it is to the next Exit.

Deer Crossing signs are always a thrill to City kids. Some believe they may see a Deer crossing. My father used to joke and ask how the deer knew enough to cross where the signs are...of course the deer often do cross the road and it is really a good idea to be aware they are around. They can often be seen out in fields grazing or romping. The hope is they will stay out there and not hit the highway while you are driving by.


Entering New Jersey
Entering New Jersey | Source

In spite of all that's going on while you're driving, there is still the scenery and before you know you've reached your exit. In our case we are getting off the Thruway to take Route 17 to the Garden State Parkway to visit two of our children New Jersey. If you haven't been on the Thruway yet and you visit New York, take a short ride on the Thruway and see what I'm talking about.

Fall foliage along the NYS Thruway
Fall foliage along the NYS Thruway | Source
An open field along the NYS Thruway
An open field along the NYS Thruway | Source
Mountains on the horizon - NYS Thruway
Mountains on the horizon - NYS Thruway | Source

Riding the Thruway

Have you ever been on the NYS Thruway?

  • Yes, frequently.
  • Yes but only once or twice.
  • No but it looks lovely.
  • No and I have no desire to even be in NY.
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Comments 10 comments

livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

I'm a California boy but I LOVE the greenery of upstate New York! The only part of upstate NY I'm really familiar with is Rochester & some of the Finger Lakes (Keuka and Canandaigua), so I went to see if we've been on the 87. It looks like it doesn't go that far west - it goes straight up north from Albany to the Canadian border (and up to Montreal if you keep on the same roadway).


Ronnie 5 years ago

A wondeful road, indeed it is, however heaven forbid an accident is in from of you. the NY State Thuway then becomes the biggest parking this side of the Missippi


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Hi there New Yorker! In my part of our State, The NYS Thruway is Interstate 90.....and it's the only way to get anywhere, if you want the quickest, easiest route. I do love the scenery, especially THIS time of year. The hillsides are breathtaking. But alas, as I get older, I am not at all tolerant of "a lot of vehicles," in front of me, behind me, passing me on both sides.....and the speed 65-75....gives me the jitters. Ah.....the craziness of becoming an old lady! I do believe my tally of Tolls is a small fortune by now! Great hub!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Livelonger - we definitely have greenery and beautiful colors in the fall. Glad you enjoyed my hub.

Ronnie - how true!

fpherj48 - The scenery is beautiful. I know what you mean about the speed, it can certainly be disconcerting.


Jerry 4 years ago

Does every entrance and exit still have manned booths so you don't have to buy E-Z pass?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Yes they do...there is always a person available to collect tolls.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Til!! I was just thinking about this hub the other day, while trying to recall when we first bumped into one another here at HubVille!! To the best of my recollection, this is one of the very first one of your hubs that I read.....if not the first.......

So, the truth is, I picked you up on the Thruway!!!! hahahahahahahahah!!

and here you are, roaming around on the highway again!!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Only you could pick me up on the Thruway...I don't want to say I have a lead foot but I have been known to exceed the speed limit by a mile or two and fortunately my speeding tickets were close to home where I knew the judge, but, hey that might be another hub!

I could be classified as a roamer but I doubt I'll ever be as quick on the take as you GF, your sense of humor cracks me up!


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Great ride, enjoyed it thoroughly. Love the thought of no billboards on the highway. The photos are awesome. Loved the ride. Voted up.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Vellur. Keeping billboards off the thruway was probably one of the best things they ever did. Glad you enjoyed the ride!

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