This report is from a daytrip out of Syracuse, NY into northern Pennsylvania on December 22, 2003.

NY-PA Daytrip, 12/22 (long)

Since my other half had to work all day yesterday, I decided on a roadtrip down into Pennsylvania to nab 4 counties I've been missing: Tioga, Lycoming, Cameron, and Potter. 9.5 hours, 500-some miles, and 101 photos later, I got all four, which will allow me to "clinch" Pennsylvania's counties on my way to the Pittsburgh meet on Saturday.

Left out of here around 10am, first made my way to the Buckley Rd/John Glenn Blvd intersection, and proceeded along John Glenn Blvd to I-690. John Glenn Blvd is a 4-lane divided, 40 MPH limited access expressway....I do not recall seeing any private driveways along it, at least none that didn't directly correlate with a public intersection. Was interesting to see such a highway, though I'm curious why they built it that way and in that location, and if there were any proposals to extend it further north and/or east.

Got on I-690, and took it to its end at I-481, both to "clinch" I-690 and to see what it was like east of downtown Syracuse. Besides the 3-way directional interchange at West St (west of I-81...were there any "freeway plans" for West St?), and the fascinating interchange at I-81, I noted that there were 6 through lanes east of I-81 all the way to I-481. An interesting C/D road setup between Exit 16 and Exit 17. Also, what was to be the continuation east of the I-481/690 interchange is paved at least through the interchange...I saw a NYS Police vehicle veer onto what would have been the EB through lanes as I took the ramp to SB I-481.

Took I-481 south to I-81 south towards Binghamton. No major notes along here, except that the NB rest area north of Cortland is still very much closed (and very much snowed over as well). Didn't notice this before, but Exit 12, at NY 281, is a trumpet, and the ramps enroute to NY 281 have a half-folded-diamond (a WB off-loop and an EB on-loop) at US 11. Here's a Terraserver image:

From SB I-81, I exited off at Exit 6, took US 11 briefly to NY 12 (the US 11/NY 12 intersection also serves a Lowe's), then took NY 12 to NY 12A and east to I-88. The NB side of NY 12 has a bicycle lane at the intersection with NY 12A.  The NY12A bridge across the Chenango River is an unremarkable 4-lane undivided structure, but an END NY 12A shield was posted at the beginning of the bridge.

Took I-88 west from NY 12A to NY 7 South. Lots of retaining walls and a narrow median (effectively a Jersey Barrier with a 1ft inside shoulder) along this stretch of I-88. At NY 7 I opted south. NY 7 started off with only 2 lanes divided until past the first, odd interchange (not sure what the sidestreet was...there was no SB off-ramp), but picked up 2 more lanes at that interchange.

While the American Map (using the NG-style cartography) shows NY 7, and conversely NY 363, as freeway all the way to NY 434, this was not the case. NY 7 has an at-grade intersection north of I-81 with what was signed as "Old State Rd". IIRC, that side road also had Broome CR 88 shields posted. Continuing south, NY 7 has a diamond interchange at Bevier St before hitting the cloverleaf at I-81/NY 17.

Immediately south of I-81 was the 2nd of the at-grade intersections along a supposed freeway, this one at Frederick St. Immediately south of Frederick St is a half-directional where NY 7 splits off and where NY 363 actually begins and takes a 4-lane viaduct over a bunch of rail tracks. South of the viaduct, there's a folded diamond at US 11, then a SB buttonhook ramp to Susquehanna St.

What follows is an unusual oddity, where the SB lanes cross over the NB lanes, and for a short stretch it's almost like one's in England, with the SB lanes to the "left" of the NB lanes, before encountering an odd interchange at NY 434. Both the crossover and the interchange are shown here on Terraserver:

NY 434 crosses the Susquehanna River, then has a partial interchange at Conklin Ave while taking a sharp turn (signed 20 MPH) to the right. At this point, one encounters the 3rd at-grade intersection along the "supposed freeway", at Washington St. Immediately after is an interchange at Pennsylvania Ave, then NY 434 proceeds to hug the riverbank for a ways before coming to what was presumably the old route, at which point NY 434 turns into a surface arterial with lots of commercial development, lots of side streets, lots of traffic lights, lots of traffic, etc etc. There's a trumpet at NY 201 (which crosses the river to the north), then more commercial area until the interchange with NY 26.

NY 26 is set up as the "through route" in this area, and has a folded-diamond interchange at NY 434. The "freeway section" on NY 26, if you want to call it that, starts just south of NY 434, after NY 26 goes from 2 lanes to 4 lanes while coming down the bluff, and from south to north has the interchange at NY 434, crosses a rail line, has a cloverleaf with NY 17, crosses the Susquehanna, then has a 4-ramp partial cloverleaf at NY 17C (basically ramps to/from the south) where NY 26 continues west duplexed with NY 17C and the road continues ahead as an Endicott city street. A Terraserver view of the interchange is here:

From this point, I proceeded west on NY 17...took a few photos of the NY 17/NY 34/PA 199 interchange (which has, in addiiton to the NY 17 signage, an END NY 34/JCT PA 199 setup and an END PA 199/JCT NY 34 setup).

Continued west on NY 17, where west of the NY 427 interchange there's a warning sign warning of "At Grade Intersections Next 8 Miles". Will be interesting to see if some of the properties along that stretch get bought out or somehow get frontage road connections when NY 17 is upgraded for I-86.

Not surprisingly, American Map/NG got NY 17 wrong in this area. They show it as freeway between Exit 59 and Exit 58 (wrong), but also show it as expressway/non-freeway from NY 352 (not sure what exit number) to Exit 54/NY 13 (also wrong).

When was the CR 2/CR 8/CR 60 interchange at Exit 58 built? Same question with the newer-looking interchange at NY 352.

At NY 13, another sign warns of "At Grade Intersections Next 3 Miles"...this is where NY 17 drops to a 40 MPH almost-arterial through Horseheads. Curiously, the equivalent sign in the eastbound direction only said 1.5 miles vice 3. Will be VERY interesting to see how they upgrade this stretch to freeway.

WB BGS at the NY 14 interchange (Exit 52) also have a CR 64 shield. Interesting interchange at NY 14...not sure how to describe it, so here's the Terraserver image:

A lot of traffic entering and exiting at Exit 51, presumably because of the shopping mall to the north. Drivers were warned that Exit 50 was closed and to use Exit 51 or Exit 49 instead...noticed that this is because Exit 50 is under (re?)construction...from the snow-covered grading, it looks like it will be a 6-ramp partial-cloverleaf with a pair of on-loops (1 each direction).

First WB I-86 shield spotted just past the Exit 48/NY 352 ramps.

When was the freeway through Corning constructed? Doesn't conform to DeLorme, paved in concrete, and seems relatively new...

At the Exit 44/US 15 South interchange (a 5-ramp par-clo with SB-EB loop), I opted for US 15 south into Pennsylvania. Are there plans to upgrade the existing interchange when I-99 comes around, or will they go new location?

Three interchanges along the US 15 freeway immediately south of I-86: at Gang Mills (a trumpet), at NY 417 (a diamond), and at Presho (partial-folded diamond...SB on-loop). Immediately south of the Presho interchange, US 15 reverts to its old 2-lane routing, and aside from a brief 3-lane stretch through Lawrenceville, PA, and left turn lanes at the PA 328 intersection (also signalized), pretty much remains this way until near Tioga.

The US 15 interchange at PA 287 is an interesting one. This is the northernmost point of the controlled-access construction on US 15 in Pennsylvania, and the interchange was built to accommodate a future northward extension on new alignment. In effect, it's a half-diamond with a twist: SB US 15 exits itself before the interchange, and follows a temporary ramp that takes it across PA 287 on what looks like the future NB lanes. Terraserver here:

Heading up the hill from here, SB US 15 has a truck climbing lane, and all traffic is on the future NB lanes. While heading up the hill, there was a "Future I-99 Corridor" sign posted. About a mile up the hill, the truck climbing lane ends, and SB traffic is briefly funneled into one lane before traffic switches and what looks like newly opened 4-lane operations begin...this is just north of the welcome center that overlooks Lake Tioga. US 15 is on a 4-lane freeway from here to a point between Mansfield and Covington (with blank exit tabs on the BGS along here), where it returns to its old routing, but construction on the new alignment between here and Blossburg (where the freeway picks back up) is very noticeable. At Blossburg, US 15 again becomes a freeway and remains such until past the PA 284 interchange at Buttonwood, which is where I exited.

This is where things got VERY interesting, roadwise. Immediately west of the US 15 interchange, PA 284 narrows to a barely-18ft, no-centerline, 40 MPH road...almost like a secondary road, except that it's oddly a state highway.  There were at least two one-lane, open grate bridges along PA 284, including one with a steel overhead truss. I finally got out to PA 287, but was only on that briefly as I turned off in English Center onto a secondary road (DeLorme lists as SR 4001) enroute to PA 44.

SR 4001 was in similar shape to PA 284, but had a cool one-lane, open-grate, suspension style bridge over Little Pine Creek at English Channel. Otherwise, was very narrow and twisty until I got to PA 44 at Waterville.

Took PA 44 north, first noticing that the old railroad bed paralleling it has been turned into a bike trail (the rail bed parallels Pine Creek). PA 44 was in decidedly better shape, but still had a lot of turns and was only signed 45 MPH.  PA 44 led to a "Hyner Mtn Rd", which went past Hyner Run State Park enroute to PA 120. "Hyner Mtn Rd" at least had a centerline, but most of the distance was on a downhill grade, with the Truck speed limit only 15 MPH and lots of twists.  Made it down to PA 120, and headed west.

PA 120, for the most part, parallels the old Pennsylvania Railroad (if I recall some of the historical signs right), now a Conrail mainline, and the Western Branch of the Susquehanna River. In fact, PA 120 follows them so closely in some sections that the road is barely 20 feet wide, sometimes being sandwiched between the railroad tracks and a near-vertical rock face. In most of those areas where PennDOT has had room, they've improved PA 120, but a fair percentage of the mileage has narrow lanes and no shoulders.

I took PA 120 all the way out to PA 555 at Driftwood, before doubling back to PA 872. Along this stretch, from Hyner to Driftwood, there is only one traffic signal, at PA 144 South in Renovo. There are a lot of wide-open segments along PA 120, particularly where it's next to the railroad, but there are also sections of tight curves, plus the occasional hill to climb. And there are a fair number of speed zones going through the various villages and hamlets.

By the time I got to PA 872, it was 3:30pm and I needed to start heading back, so I pretty much blazed a trail (almost literally) to the northeast. I was on PA 872 from PA 120 up to the hamlet of Wharton. PA 872, for being such a seemingly minor road, was very well engineered given the area...with few sharp curves (the sharpest one being 35 MPH IIRC), wide lanes, and fairly wide shoulders. I was quite impressed with it, and noted the comparison between PA 872 and parts of PA 120 (which by the map is a major through route).

From Wharton I took a secondary route (SR 3001) northeast to Cherry Springs...this one was in even worse shape than PA 284, and actually ran out of pavement when I got to Conrad. SR 2002 between Cherry Springs and US 6 at Galeton was at least paved, but wasn't much better. That said, the two routes together WERE a fairly direct route, and allowed me to save some time (even with the slower speed).

Photo opportunities were over at this point, with it getting dark, so I didn't get any photos past PA 872's end at PA 120. With the darkness in mind, I opted for state routes on the rest of the trip, and so took US 6 east to PA 287, then up to US 15, NY 17, NY 13 to Cortland, NY 281 around Cortland, and back to Syracuse on I-81, finally getting back to Liverpool around 7:30pm.

After I'd left US 15 (onto PA 284), traffic was very light, and stayed that way for awhile, until the US 6/PA 287 intersection all of a sudden there was traffic and slow drivers, which plagued me the rest of the way. Traffic was such to where I think NY 13 could use at least one set of passing lanes in each direction (in addition to the truck climbing lanes) both between Horseheads and Ithaca, and between Ithaca and Cortland. At a minimum, extend the 4-lane sections in both directions from Ithaca at least through the NY 13/NY 366 duplex and the NY 13/NY 34/NY 96 triplex.

A couple questions:

- Is there a timeline for freeway improvements to NY 17 through Horseheads and east of Elmira?

- Is there a timeline for completing the gap on US 15 between Presho, NY and Tioga, PA?

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