Roads and Automobiles

Transportation changes in Webster since 1970 largely mirror the rest of the country. Small villages and their surrounding towns grew into suburban sprawl. Jobs changed from a lifelong commitment to one company, to a more fluid arrangement with most workers spending 5 years or less in each position. Employees began working farther from home, spending more time commuting. Small local stores gave way to shopping centers and malls, eliminating the possibility (for most people) of walking to the store. Traditional family structures with a working father and stay-at-home mother declined from approximately 60% of households in 1970 to 30% by 2000, as dual income families rose. In 1990, approximately 60% of families with children under the age of 18 had 2 working parents.1 All of these factors contributed to the rise of the personal automobile and the move away from public transportation in small towns like Webster.

The number of cars/1000 people in the US has grown dramatically.2

YearVehicles per 1000 people

Even as the rate of automobile ownership rose, and the number of miles traveled per person per year increased, the number of traffic accidents and fatalities declined.3 Each new generation of automobiles offers more safety devices, from reinforced side panels and chassis, to seat belts, lap and shoulder harnesses and air bags, to better auto lighting for visibility, and rear-view cameras. New cars may have self-parking options, lane drift warnings, and “close encounter” warnings.

In 1982, NY passed the first child passenger restraint law, requiring children to be restrained in an age and size-appropriate child safety seat. Three years later, in 1985, NY was the first state to enact a mandatory seat belt law, requiring all front seat occupants to “buckle up,” as well as all rear seat passengers under the age of 16.

As automobile ownership has increased, Americans have become more attuned to rising and falling gas prices. In 1970, gas was still under $0.50/gallon for regular gas.4 Other than local increases due to supply shortages, the highest gas prices (to date) recorded in the US occurred in the summer of 2008, peaking just over $4.00/gallon.5

YearPrice per Gallon – regular

The financial crisis that began in 20087 also had a devastating effect on the automobile industry. Automobile sales in 2009 and 2010 dropped to the lowest levels seen since 1982.8 The financial collapse of lending institutions, coupled with falling sales, lead to a restructuring of the “Big 3” US automakers, GM, Chrysler and Ford. GM and Chrysler took part in a Federal bailout (TARP – Troubled Asset Relief Program) and Ford received other government loans that were not part of TARP9 As part of the ensuing changes, under performing dealerships were closed, including one in Webster: Webster Chrysler Jeep on Empire Blvd.

At the turn of the 21st century, Webster had several car dealerships representing a wide variety of makes, both foreign and domestic, including Doyle Chevrolet Subaru, Marina Dodge Mitsubishi, Piehler Pontiac Buick GMC Jaguar and Webster Ford.

Like cars, roads, too, have been improved to handle the extra volume more safely. Grooves cut in the shoulders (and sometimes, the center line) alert a driver who is drifting out of the lane. Reflective striping and signage aid nighttime visibility. Roads are better lit, and have been made wider, straighter and more level where possible, and traffic control lights are increasing.

Locally, Webster roads have been carved into new neighborhoods to meet the needs of a growing population. In 1980, Webster had approximately 159 centerline miles of roads, divided as 13 miles of village roads, 70 miles of town roads, 52 miles of county roads and 24 miles of state-owned roads. By 2015, the total centerline miles of roads in and through Webster had increased to almost 222 with town roads accounting for almost all of the increase, nearly doubling to 132 centerline miles.6 In addition to new roads, existing roads have been widened, lengthened, straightened and rerouted to accommodate the increased number of residents and commuting employees, the increased rate of car ownership, and to improve safety.

In 1974, Xerox had a large number of employees working at their campus off Phillips Road on the east side of Webster, and had plans to expand its presence. To aid the movement of the large number of commuters, a decision was made to extend Klem Road. Originally, Klem Road ran from Bay Road to Holt Road. In January of 1974, the extension of Klem Road, from Holt Road to Phillips Road was opened.

In August 2001, a re-routed Shoecraft Road was opened to traffic. Previously, Shoecraft ended at Ridge Road, west of Hard Road. Re-routing it to the east allowed it to end opposite Hard Road, improving traffic flow and increasing safety in the area.

Irondequoit Bay Bridge and Irondequoit-Wayne County Line Expressway

In February 1970, the Irondequoit Bay Bridge was opened to traffic, connecting the towns of Irondequoit and Webster. Prior to the construction of this bridge, the bay could only be crossed on Lake Road using the outlet bridge next to the railroad line, or on Empire Blvd. at the south end of the bay. The new bridge allowed faster and more efficient commuting to jobs on either side of the bay, as well as faster response time for emergency vehicles. As use of the new bridge increased, interest was expressed in opening the Irondequoit Bay Outlet for more recreational use. Although a hotly debated topic, work began in August 1984 to widen and deepen the outlet, allowing larger boats to pass. Residents on both sides of the bay protested the loss of the Lake Road Bridge over the outlet for many years, but in August of 1985, the bridge was demolished. The open outlet could now be used by tall sailboats passing to and from Lake Ontario. For 13 years, the outlet remained open, but a compromise solution was completed in 1998 with the placement of a removable swing bridge, connecting Lake Road in Webster to Culver Road in Irondequoit. The swing bridge allows pedestrian and vehicular traffic to cross the outlet from November 1 until April 1 each year along the Seaway Trail On April 1, the bridge is swung open into its storage position, and the outlet is open to boaters.

A unique feature on the Webster side of the Bay Bridge is a living welcome sign. Traveling eastward along Rt 104, as one exits the bridge, the word “WEBSTER” is spelled out in sculptured bushes. Originally constructed in 1990, the sign was re-done in 1993 to include a colored stone mosaic of a sailboat, and replanted again in 2010.

By August of 1970, a section of the new Rt 104 expressway had been opened from Bay Road on the west side of Webster to Five Mile Line Road. The large number of cars exiting at Five Mile Line Road was creating a traffic nightmare, and the Town of Webster began discussing the need to widen Five Mile Line Road. Homeowners along this stretch protested, citing safety of children and pedestrians. The road remained 2 lanes, with improvements including wider shoulders and turning lanes.

During the construction of the 2nd phase of Rt 104, from Five Mile Line Road to the Monroe-Wayne County Line, as fill was needed to grade the new expressway overpasses, NYSDOT removed soil from land east of Holt Road. The excavated areas became the ponds of North Ponds Park. The ponds were designed to handle drainage from the expressway, funneling it into Mill Creek, and had the added benefit of providing a recreational area with fishing, swimming, boating and picnic locations. The park opened in May 1976, but in 2004 budget constraints forced the closing of the swimming area at North Ponds Park.

In May 1985, work began on the final phase of Rt 104, over Hard and Holt Roads. The eastern portion was completed in November. Traffic could now pass from the Bay Bridge to the Monroe-Wayne County Line.

The Railroad

In the early 1970s, the Hojack Line was part of Penn Central Railroad. By 1976, Conrail had been formed from Penn Central and several other northeast railroads that were facing bankruptcy. Conrail announced their intention to abandon the Hojack Line through Webster. December 16, 1977 was the last run of the Hojack Line from Webster to Charlotte. RG&E purchased the land from the railroad to be used as a utility right of way and began removing the tracks from the center of town westward to Lake Rd.

Until 1980, New York State leased the tracks servicing the eastern portion of the Hojack Line from Penn Central, then from Conrail. NY discontinued rail leases in 1980, and Monroe County picked up the lease of the 5 miles of track from the Monroe-Wayne County line to Holt Road. Wayne County had purchased their rail lines from Penn Central/Conrail, ensuring rail service to the county line. In October, 1982, Monroe County purchased the 5 miles of Hojack tracks in Webster so rail service would continue to Webster businesses. May of 1982 saw the Loose Caboose open a rolling restaurant with dinner trips along the Hojack Line from Webster to Williamson, or Sodus, and back. In the 1990s, RG&E owned much of the right-of-way for the former railroad bed and in 1997, the “rail” became a “trail” as Friends of Webster Trails took over stewardship of the former rail bed. Eventually, the hiking and biking trail would extend from Lake Rd on the west side to Phillips Rd on the east. In January, 1999 the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society briefly opened a railroad library in an old caboose on a siding along May St. in the village of Webster. The NRHS also conducted fall foliage trips along the Hojack from Webster to Williamson and Sodus.10


Bicycles continue to be popular, both as a mode of transportation and for recreation. In 1989, New York began requiring a helmet be worn by all riders or passengers on a bicycle, under the age of 5. In 1994, the law was expanded to include all bike riders or passengers under the age of 14.11 Hospitalizations due to traumatic brain injuries decreased in children, especially those under the age of 5, in the years immediately after the helmet law was enacted.

In 2014 and 2017, Webster was awarded federal funds to make sidewalk, crosswalk and bicycle lane improvements along Ridge Road and North Ave.

Ride Sharing

Although still in use, taxi cabs are becoming less popular. The new way to get around town is ride-sharing. This is generally accomplished with a phone app to make the connection between someone needing a ride and a registered driver. Currently, LYFT (founded in 2012 as an offshoot of Zimride) and UBER (founded in 2009) are the big players offering a virtual fleet of pre-validated drivers using their personal vehicles.

Thanks to Nancy Steele, Town of Webster Highway Department and Jake Swingley, Superintendent of Public Works for the Village of Webster for their assistance in calculating the amount of highway growth in Webster.


  1. Pew Research Center
  2. Transportation Energy Data Book, 36th Ed,
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  6. NYS DOT Annual Report of Local Highway Mileage
  7. The Economist
  8. The Statistics Portal
  9. The Balance
  10. “Chapter’s Library Grand Opening…” The Semaphore, Volume 41, No. 5, January 1999.
  12. Bowman, Steven M, PhD, et al. “Trends in Hospitalizations Associated With Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injuries.” Pediatrics, Volume 122, Issue 5, November 2008.

Past issues of The Webster Herald reviewed for local history and dates