Grant W. Johnson of Ticonderoga served as Essex County's lone State Assemblyman from 1953 until his death in 1965. In that time, New York's roads were of particular interest to him, especially the proposed "Adirondack Northway," an extension of the State Thruway's I-87 segment, that would link Albany to the Canadian border. While most "North Country" residents, and many others in the Empire State, favored the highway, considerable debate accompanied the path it would take between the town of Glens Falls and Plattsburgh. Communities in the Champlain Valley, including Johnson's native Ticonderoga, predictably favored an eastern path roughly paralleling NYS Route 22.
Others, especially the NYS Department of Public Works, supported one to the west alongside US Route 9. Governors W. Averell Harriman and Nelson A. Rockefeller, as well as Assemblyman Johnson, sided with the DPW's proposed route. One hurdle to be cleared, however, was the State Constitution's Article XIV's "Forever Wild" clause, inserted protecting New York's Forest Preserve. While only 400 acres would be affected by the new highway, an amendment was required. A statewide referendum passed in 1959, clearing the way for construction of the Northway.