A 36-mile parkway in the outer boroughs of New York City, the Belt Parkway connects the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the south-western tip of Brooklyn with the Whitestone Bridge in north-eastern Queens. It was conceived by Robert Moses, one of the key figures in New York City urban planning (in short, Moses is responsible for much of the city's highway system, but also can be blamed for much of the economic devastation of the Bronx, and for squashing numerous attempts at subway expansion).

Moses designed and began work on the Belt Parkway in 1934. It was briefly known as Marginal Boulevard and as Circumferential Parkway, before the more concise "Belt" was settled on. After the usual ignored resistance from property owners, Moses completed the Parkway in 1941.

The Belt was originally divided into four segments, for naming purposes only, as the exits have always been numbered sequentially. Shore Parkway was the westernmost segment, running from the Verrazano to the interchange with Conduit Avenue near the Brooklyn-Queens border. Two short segments in Queens were known as Southern Parkway and Laurelton Parkway, the dividing line being the exit for Sunrise Highway where the highway turns north towards the Whitestone Bridge. The final segment was the 11-mile Cross Island Parkway, which connected the Southern State Parkway with the bridge. Today, only the Cross Island maintains a separate identity. The other three are known only as the "Belt".

While the path taken by the Belt may seem indirect and overly lengthy, the traffic conditions in Brooklyn and Queens actually make the Belt the quickest way between its two endpoints. Traffic on the Belt isn't usually heavy; it tends to jam up only around Kennedy Airport and the Southern State interchange. There's also a drawbridge in eastern Brooklyn, which is very infrequently used, but can paralyze the entire highway when it's in operation. One difficulty with the Belt is that there are few feasible alternate routes, especially in Brooklyn. Like all Parkways in New York City (confusingly, there are also local streets in NYC called "parkways"), no trucks are allowed.

The exit list:

Exit 0: Junction with I-278, Gowanus Expressway.
Exit 1: 65th-67th Streets, Sunset Park
Exit 2: 4th Avenue / 92nd Street, Fort Hamilton
Exit 3: Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island, I-278, westbound only.
Exit 4: 14th Avenue / Bay 8th Street, Dyker Heights
Exit 5: Bay Parkway, Bensonhurst
Exit 6: Cropsey / Stillwell Avenues, Coney Island
Exit 7: Ocean Parkway, Brighton Beach
Exit 8: Coney Island Avenue, Brighton Beach
Exit 9: Knapp Street, Sheepshead Bay
Exit 10: does not exist
Exit 11: Flatbush Avenue, also Gil Hodges Bridge to the Rockaways
Exit 12: Gateway National Recreation Area, eastbound only
Exit 13: Rockaway Parkway, Canarsie
Exit 14: Pennsylvania Avenue, Starrett City. To Interboro Parkway.
Exit 15: Erskine Street. Newly constructed to serve the Gateway Center shopping mall.
Exit 16: does not exist

leaves Brooklyn, enters Queens

Exit 17: Cross Bay Boulevard / Conduit Avenue (Rte. 27), Ozone Park. Also Cross Bay Bridge to the Rockaways.
Exit 18: Lefferts Boulevard, Aqueduct Racetrack, westbound only.
Exit 19: to Kennedy Airport, Nassau (I-878), and Van Wyck Expressways (I-678).
Exit 20: 150th Street / JFK Expressway
Exit 21: Rockaway / Farmers / Guy R. Brewer Boulevards, St. Albans
Exit 22: Springfield Boulevard, Springfield Gardens
Exit 23: Rte. 27, Sunrise Highway, Conduit Avenue
Exit 24: Francis Lewis / Merrick Boulevards, Rosedale

becomes Cross Island Parkway

Exit 25: Southern State Parkway, Linden Boulevard to Long Island
Exit 26: Belmont Racetrack, Hempstead Turnpike (Rte. 24)
Exit 27: Jericho Turnpike, Braddock Avenue (Rte. 25)
Exit 28: Union Turnpike / Hillside Avenue (Rte. 25b)
Exit 29: Grand Central Parkway
Exit 30: Long Island Expressway, I-495
Exit 31: Northern Boulevard (Rte. 25a), Bayside, Douglaston.
Exit 32: Bell Boulevard, Bay Terrace, northbound only.
Exit 33: Clearview Expressway, I-295. Also Throgs Neck Bridge to the Bronx.
Exit 34: Utopia Parkway, Beechhurst.
Exit 35: 14th Avenue / Francis Lewis Boulevard, Whitestone. Southbound only.
Exit 36: Junction with Whitestone Expressway, I-678. Also Whitestone Bridge to the Bronx.

LadySun informs me that Exit 12, for Gateway National Recreational Area, does not exist. I think it might and is simply unsigned; either way a further drive on the Belt is necessary. She also tells me that the Belt tends to jam up around Exits 7 and 8 in Coney Island / Brighton Beach, and she should know, as she drives it quite a bit more frequently than I do. When I referred to the light volume of traffic on the Belt, I meant in comparison with the other available highway connections in the area. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and especially the Van Wyck Expressway, for example, are notorious automotive black holes. A car getting on to one of these roads may not appear again for several hours. The volume on the Belt is moderate-to-heavy most of the time, and can usually be counted on to move at a steady 40-60 mph clip.

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