Did you know that signs on the New York State Thruway used to be blue? You'll never guess the reason they decided to change them to green.

Looking back at old footage of the New York State Thruway I noticed that all of the signs along the highway were blue. Today, all of the signs except for those touting local landmarks and rest areas are green. So, there must be a reason that they changed, right?

It turns out that there is a reason, but it's so ridiculous that you may have a tough time believing that it's actually true.

New York State Thruway Launches With Blue Road Signs

The first section of the New York State Thruway opened on June 24, 1954. The 115-mile stretch allowed drivers to quickly travel between Lowell, near Utica and Rochester. By the end of 1960, the highway system consisted of 559 miles of roads including most of what we consider the Thruway today.

While the Thruway was being built, Bertram Tallamy became superintendent of the New York State Department of Public Works.  According to "The Roads That Built America," by Dan McNichol, Bertram thought that blue was the best choice of background color for the road signs. He thought the color made the white lettering pop, making it easy for drivers to see them.

New York State Thruway
YouTube/David W. Haas, M.D.

Bertram may have been the worst person to make this decision. It turns out that he was suffering from color blindness.

Blue Signs Disappear From New York State Thruway After Heated Debate

That's right, the man responsible for figuring out what color to make the road signs couldn't actually see the color himself. Years later, Bertram was named Federal Highway Administrator and butted heads with engineers who told him that they believed green was the best background color.

Eventually, they decided to set up a test section of the road using blue, green and black signs. Drivers were asked to drive the road and answer questions about which signs were easier to read. The black signage received the least amount of votes and it was the green signs that won with more than twice the vote of the blue signs

Perhaps as a tribute to Bertram, the Thruway decided to keep blue signs for rest stop areas and other non-directional signage.

What New York State Thruway Rest Stops Looked Like in the 1950s

According to the Thruway Authority, the very first rest stops were erected in the mid-1950s offering travelers cafeteria-style food, coffee, and snacks. Today, these rest stops are going through their second major remodel which will bring new restaurants and amenities for Thruway travelers. According to these old images from the Thruway Authority, our local rest stops have come a long way in seventy years.

Gallery Credit: Boris

New Restaurants Coming to the New York State Thruway

These restaurants will soon be open along the New York State Thruway.

Gallery Credit: CJ


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