Photo by Lauren Borkowski
The Cosmo Quiz: Can you find this building in Irvington?
Major Deegan built army bases across the state, and all he got was this lousy highway named after him.
Q: Who is this Major Deegan and why does he hate my daily commute so much?
—Peter Herger, Port Chester
A: Born in 1882, Major William Francis Deegan had nothing to do with the traffic-laden highway that bears his name. Rather, Deegan, a major in the Army Corps of Engineers, helped build Army bases throughout the state under the command of George Goethals (who supervised construction of the Panama Canal, and then also got stuck with his name on congested New York infrastructure). Deegan created, in part, the American Legion and was, at one point, New York City’s official greeter. He died following an appendectomy in 1932 (no word on whether it was road-rage-related).
Five years after his death, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named an approach route to the Triboro Bridge (now the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Bridge) “Major William F. Deegan Boulevard.” In the mid-1950s, when Robert Moses finished construction of what is now the Bronx part of I-87, he copied and pasted Deegan’s name onto that thoroughfare. Contrary to your belief, Peter, Major Deegan does not hate your daily commute; some jerk on the intersecting Cross Bronx Expressway who forgot to fill his gas tank probably does, though.
Q: Why is the Cross Westchester Expressway called 287? Who numbers our highways? And why that number, and not, say, 285 or 286 or 18?
—Brana Stephens, Ossining
A: Interstates are numbered by the states using federal guidelines. You’ve probably noticed that almost all interstates either have two-digit labels or three-digit labels. The difference? Two-digiters are primary routes while three-digiters branch off from primary routes. If a primary route (two digits) is odd, it goes south to north; if even, west to east. Also, higher-number primary routes (again, two digits) are on the north or east of the country, lower-numbered ones, the opposite. Thus I-95 goes north to south on the East Coast. Usually, if a three-digit interstate starts with an even number, it starts at a primary route and ends at one. If an odd number, it starts at a primary route and stops. So, since the Cross Westchester Expressway starts at I-87 and ends at another major route (I-95), it gets an even first number. Why 287 and not 487? Primarily because it connects to an interstate branch of the same number in New Jersey. Got all that?