June 6, 1908
Construction officially began on the private toll road known as the Long Island Motor Parkway. The late-afternoon groundbreaking ceremony for the new motor vehicle route took place in what is now the Long Island hamlet of Bethpage. Approximately 500 people were in attendance, and they were formally welcomed by the Motor Parkway’s general manager A.R. Pardington.
Railroad heir and automobile-racing enthusiast William Kissam Vanderbilt, II, who had formed the corporation responsible for building the road, was scheduled to address the crowd and turn over the first shovelful of dirt. He was not able to attend the event, however, due to his stepfather’s sudden and serious illness. Pardington, therefore, handled Vanderbilt’s ceremonial duties.
“Although but a few years in existence, the automobile has come into such prominence that it has revolutionized all mode of travel,” Pardington said while reading from Vanderbilt’s prepared remarks. “A highway is about to be constructed for its use . . . and a country opened up whose variegated charms are hard to equal in any part of the world.” Pardington subsequently performed the groundbreaking with a gold spade.
The Motor Parkway, which ultimately covered 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) from the New York City borough of Queens to the Long Island hamlet of Lake Ronkonkoma, is considered by many to be the world’s first superhighway. The Motor Parkway was one of the first roads in the United States to be built with reinforced concrete, and its other then-novel features included the installation of bridges and overpasses along the route to reduce traffic congestion.
While extensively used for several years, the Motor Parkway was eventually rendered obsolete by both major advances in highway design and strong competition from the toll-free Northern State Parkway in that region of New York. Unable to generate enough revenues to remain in operation, the Motor Parkway was closed in 1938.
For more information on the Long Island Motor Parkway, please check out http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/about/detail/the_long_island_motor_parkway.