Old NY 104 - Ridge Road in the Wolcott and Sodus Bay areas

A Very Brief Introduction...

Between Rochester and Oswego during the 1970s, a new super-2 alignment of NY 104 (US 104 before 1972) was constructed, leaving the former alignment of the Ridge Rd. more or less out to pasture between the Monroe-Wayne County line (12-15 miles east-northeast of Rochester) and Red Creek (20 miles southwest of Oswego). Therefore, for a span of 35-40 miles, the Ridge Road became a Wayne County highway in most parts, Wayne county routes 103, 143 and 163 to be exact. For the most part, Ridge Road more or less parallels the current NY 104 (this is also true with Oswego CR 3 between Fulton and Hannibal, which is the old alignment of current NY 3), although the two roads cross at points. However, at no point does the new alignment physically replace the old. According to Nathan Perry, "The "new" US 104 highway was commenced way back in the '50s, and completed maybe as late as the '70s but I'm not sure." The Ridge Road also carries the alignment of the Seaway Trail, which closely follows the shorelines of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York State from Massena to Pennsylvania. This page focuses on the Ridge Road (current Wayne CR 143) in its current state in the areas around Wolcott and Sodus Bay.




Daniel Harmony writes... By the way, you are right about the connection between the US 104 and NY 3 rebuilds. At some point, I assume in the 1950's , to build what was called the Rochester to Utica Expressway. This was to be a limited access highway linking those two cities running pretty much parallel with, but north of, the Thruway.

US 104 from Union Hill (Monroe County) to Sodus had been rebuilt on its present alignment in the late 1940's, opening about 1949. In the early 1960's, construction began on the "new" 104, starting from Sodus eastward. The first phase stopped at NY 414, I would guess about 1967. From there, the road made a 1 mile jog northward to the old alignment, five miles west from Wolcott (Wayne County). There is still a sign on Wayne County Route 103 just before the former intersection with NY 414 (and just east of Bay Bridge over Great Sodus Bay) directing Rochester bound traffic to turn left for US 104.

The second phase, from NY 414 east to just over the Cayuga County line, opened around 1970. This meant that from the Monroe County line to the Cayuga County line the entire road had been relocated out of all of the little towns across Wayne County.

The stretch across Cayuga County in the Town of Sterling was never realigned and still includes an intersection with NY 38 that is engineered like two pair of open scissors and the site of numerous accidents.

Some time around 1960 (+/-), the state had looped US 104 south and then east around the Village of Hannibal in Oswego County on a totally new alignment. Then, from Hannibal east to Southwest Oswego, the highway was totally rebuilt on its existing alignment, but with wider pavement and shoulders, improved sight access, etc..

Meanwhile, in the late 1950's, the state rerouted NY 3 so that, coming from the west toward Fulton, traffic skirted along the western edge of the city, came in on Broadway, crossed the Oswego River on the upper bridge (rebuilt) and then proceeded east around the eastern edge if the city and back to its original alignment in the Town of Volney. In short, the design took what was a straight line through the city and created a loop around it. I remember that the stretch on the west side took a very long time to build, evidently the contractor ran into quicksand during the excavation.

As you are aware, NY 49 between Rome and Utica is now an expressway. From Rome westward to Sylvan Beach (NY 13 South junction), it is a "Super Two" type road. However, from Sylvan Beach west across the north shore of Oneida Lake to its western end at NY 3 it is anything but a "super" anything.

The plan was to rebuild NY 49 (which at one time actually ended in Fulton at the intersection with then-NY 57) as part of the expressway linking Rochester. There was serious consideration to using the old New York, Ontario and Western RR ROW (abandoned in 1958) for this route. {Of course, the state had used significant portions of the O&W ROW to reroute NY 17 in the Catskills.) By now we are in the early 1970's. "NIMBYism" had begun to flower, then the inflation of that period and first energy crisis occurred. The plan was ultimately shelved.

So, today there are segments of this planned expressway begun and even completed, but vast segments never got off the drawing board. Both NY 104 from Sodus to Red Creek and NY 3 from Hannibal to Fulton actually include ROW for two more lanes, eastbound. The bridge that carries NY 89 over NY 104 at Wolcott is also extra long to accommodate the phantom lanes of NY 104.



Old NY 104 - Ridge Road in the Wolcott and Sodus Bay areas
A typical highway scene on Ridge Rd. westbound just west of the village of Wolcott. Note the smaller lane and shoulder width, common in older highway design.
Now for some continuing proof of the former existence of former US 104 on the Ridge Rd. in the Town of Huron. This sign must have been installed during the construction of current-day NY 104, to inform drivers of "the end of the road" when travelers had to switch off between the two roads. There is a better, closer-up photo (and not affected by fog) of this that has been taken by J.P. Wing.
Here we are entering the bridge over the Sodus Bay on Ridge Rd. westbound. It is a narrow, old bridge (with an accompanying narrow walkway). There is a 30 MPH speed limit on the bridge that is quite justifiable.
Now driving on the bridge over Sodus Bay. As you can see, this bridge lacks shoulders (and isn't too far up from the water itself). When it is not a cloudy-looking day (like the majority of days in Central and Western New York can appear to be), the view on Sodus Bay looking north towards Lake Ontario can be quite scenic.
Here we are at the junction of the Ridge Rd. with NY 14 in Alton. Alton is your typical small town in Upstate New York.




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All photos taken during an early morning fog on December 12, 2001

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