Tag Archives: interstate highway system

NJ Turnpike photo by Dan Murphy used with permission

NJ Turnpike completes significant widening between interchanges 6 and 9

Over the last few weeks, a major expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike was completed after 5 years of construction. Between interchanges 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and 8A (Jamesburg) two new carriageways were added with 3 lanes each direction. These are not express lanes like many dual carriage way superhighways; the Turnpike provides a CARS ONLY portion and CAR-TRUCK-BUS portion which can be shifted. All told, those lanes are now in service between interchanges 6 and 15W, about 50 miles. Another lane was also added to the external carriage ways between interchanges 8A and 9, bringing the total to at least six lanes in each direction with full access to all interchanges and service areas. The project is also the final one to use the NJ Turnpike style signage, including the neon REDUCE SPEED signs, as that has been replaced by standard MUTCD signage. Here’s the official Turnpike commission press release (PDF – really)

MORE COVERAGE

After NJ Turnpike widened, stepped up police patrols – News – NorthJersey.com.

Ceremony marks completion of project to widen NJ Turnpike – News – NorthJersey.com.

Road to the future? New, widened N.J. Turnpike has fans and critics – News – NorthJersey.com.

$2.5B NJ Turnpike widening complete, lanes to open Friday | NJ.com.

Expanded lanes open on New Jersey Turnpike – Philly.com.

Officials hail widened New Jersey Turnpike stretch – Philly.com.

STRUCTURE magazine | Overcoming Challenges.

Turnpike widening from exit 6 to 9 nearly complete.

Also, the project is reported to have come in $200 million under budget, so the leftover money will be directed to the expansion of the Garden State Parkway, controlled by the Turnpike, between mileposts 36 and 63.

Interstate 95, the eastern most number for the Pennsylvania TurnpikeLeft unsaid was a big reason for this expansion to interchange 6 — the re-routing of Interstate 95 via the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike. That project, mandated over 30 years ago when the Somerset Freeway was cancelled, is only just getting started. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission continues to drag the project out in part becaue they never wanted it – something the lead engineer said as much to me in an email in the mid-1990s. Why they just didn’t adapt a toll structure that made sense over these last 30 years is nonsensical. Additional funding challenges through Act 44 have impaired the Commission’s ability to fund projects, as have dubious expansion projects in Western Pennsylvania (were the population has lost 500,000 people in 50 years) while that has ignored a significant bottleneck in Pittsburgh.

DSC_0264
Photo by I.C. Ligget – The control cities are weak, should be Del Mem Br/Baltimore/Washington

The NJ Turnpike on the other hand, got this expansion done within a decade, under budget and had even planned ahead when building overpasses 15 years ago. In short, get your act together Pennsylvania and adopt some Jersey-style efficiency.

Photo by Dan Murphy, used with permission

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REDUCE SPEED: These neon signs used to be all over the New Jersey Turnpike. Photo by Ian Ligget.

REDUCE SPEED: Vintage neon NJ Turnpike sign for sale on ebay

Can somebody please buy, ship and store this outstanding New Jersey Turnpike neon sign for me? It’s only $2,000! You can drop it off with me when I get a house. A really big one, apparently.

In 2013, I mentioned the coming end of NJ Turnpike exceptionalism when it comes to signs. The Turnpike Authority has begun modernizing (note: I did not say “upgrade”) highway signs to comply with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Though not necessarily directly related, the neon “REDUCE SPEED” signs that have been on the Turnpike since time immemorial are being removed in favor of modern LED signs.

I have been wondering what will happen to all of these classic neon signs. I hope that some are saved for museums. Maybe I’ll tweet at them to buy this one, though on second thought the Turnpike ought to donate one. There probably ought to be one or two at a service plaza on the Turnpike itself.

The sign itself probably weighs at least a ton and it has to be picked up. This isn’t a really good time for me to do that logistically or financially. So, a little help?

Failing the acquisition of this neon sign, I’d be okay with a Turnpike trailblazer. A Garden State Parkway, Capital Beltway and even a Pennsylvania Turnpike sign while you are at it.

Photos © Ian Ligget

h/t Steve Anderson

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I-95: Chesapeake House reopened

Chesapeake House the second service area, err travel plaza on Interstate 95 (John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway) north, reopened last Tuesday. Both the renovation and reopening seems to be lacking in the fanfare of Maryland House, but it’s good news for I-95 travelers.

In my experience Chesapeake House, originally opened in 1972, is less crowded than Maryland House, so I have preferred stopping there over the years. The last several years have seen three completely rebuilt service areas along a 40 mile stretch of I-95 between Baltimore and Wilmington. The Delaware Service Plaza was rebuilt in 2008.

Maryland Transportation Authority sealService areas are lasting vestige of the pre-interstate toll roads area. In order to promote commerce along interstate corridors, service areas are banned and have been since the early 1960s. Some interstates were assigned to existing turnpikes like parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and the service areas were grandfathered in.

Unfortunately, an opportunity was missed during the reconstruction of these service areas — flyover ramps from the right side. It would have been eight overall (2 off, 2 on in each direction) but for whatever reason, the Maryland Transportation Authority did not choose to go n that direction. Safety and traffic flow are better when exits and entrances are from the right side.

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wh02

I-495, Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia opened 50 years ago today

On April 2, 1964, Administrator Rex Whitton participates in the dedication of I-495, the Capital Beltway from U.S. 1 to the Shirley Highway-the last segment in Virginia. Photo by FHWA

It was on this day fifty years ago that the Capital Beltway was completed in Northern Virginia. I suppose many commuters would have found it opening a day earlier more apropos as the road seems more a burden than anything else and the SPEED LIMIT 55 signs to be a mockery. Back in 1964, most of Virginia’s 22 miles of Beltway was only 2 lanes wide each way. Now, with the HO/T (high occupancy/toll), EZ-Pass Express Lanes, it is 6 lanes each way between Springfield and Tysons.

Inside the Beltway wouldn’t be coined until 1969 (by Mike Causey, then of The Post, now with Federal News Radio), but the highway formed a big wall literally and figuratively in Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. There currently are only 23 automobile crossings of I-495 in Northern Virginia and 15 of them have full interchanges with the road, while another has a partial interchange with lanes. Another one, Live Oak Road, is not a through route. The are also 3 Metro rail crossings (Orange, Blue and Yellow lines) and 2 Virginia Railway Express rail lines penetrate it as well. There are a few pedestrian/bicycle trails too, but overall it is tough to get from one side of the Beltway to the other. A “bridge to nowhere” was built between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road, but it never became connected to anything and was torn down in the early 21st century.

The Beltway divides the sprawling newer suburbs with the more established and often denser populated pre-World War II areas like Arlington and Alexandria, whose residents don’t even necessarily think of the Beltway much. Tysons Corner, once a crossroads of two country roads grew into the 11th largest business district with two large shopping malls and a growing skyline most of which is just outside the Beltway. In fact when USA Today left Rosslyn for its own campus, I recall then publisher Tom Curley making it a point to mention in an interview that they’d be outside the Beltway. It really abuts the Beltway by the way or at least it did before they sold off their land with the softball field and path. I digress.

Back in ’64, the Virginia portion of the Beltway was signed only as Interstate 495 as Interstate 95 was then routed along the Henry G. Shirley Highway into Washington, D.C. over the 14th Street Bridge and planned to cut through Northeast D.C. and Takoma Park then onto points north. That didn’t happen and in 1977, the eastern-most portion of the Beltway in Virginia was changed to I-95. That proved to be confusing, so I-495 multiplexed back on the I-95 portion of the Beltway around 1989.

The original Beltway exit numbering began in Alexandria with Exit 1 at US 1 (note US 1 is also Exit 1 in several locations throughout the East, including just over the 14th Street Bridge on I-395) and increased sequentially clockwise until finishing off at Exit 38 for I-295 just east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Around 2001, the exit number was changed in Virginia for the first time (it had changed in Maryland after I-95 was moved to the southern and eastern portions of the Beltway) to be a counter-clockwise continuation of the Maryland numbering scheme that began east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge all the way to the Springfield interchange (Exit 57) where I-95′s mileage-based exit numbering took over, the there is a jump from 57 to 172.

The entire Beltway opened in August 1964, so I’ll have more to say then.

FURTHER READING

Capital Beltwaydcroads.net

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Maryland House service area by C. Patrick Zilliacus

I-95: New Maryland House service area re-opened, Chesapeake House closed

The first service area on Interstate 95 north, Maryland House, reopened recently. The facility was knocked down and replaced after closing in September 2012.

Private money built the new facility, and a private company will operate it.

Here’s what Maryland gets:

“Over $400 million in state revenue over the length of the partnership,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

The 35-year private-public partnership will also mean hundreds of local jobs.

The new Maryland House travel plaza will also have 40 gas pumps.

From 50-Year-Old Maryland House Set To Reopen As Ultra-Modern Rest Stop

Here is the official release: New $30 Million Maryland House Travel Plaza on I-95 Now Open

Further up I-95, the Chesapeake House will be closed until late summer or fall to be rebuilt.

PREVIOUSLY

I-95 Maryland House service area closes this Sunday09.11.2012
I-95’s Maryland service areas to be rebuilt02.13.2012
Upgrades coming to Md. I-95 service areas10.06.2006

Photo used with permission of C Patrick Zilliacus

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Praise for Mike Pettigano and Bergen Record/NorthJersey.com on breaking the Christie GWB scandal

NorthJersey-com-Christie-scandal-mike-pettigano
The allegations that officials in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration ordered the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close some lanes of the George Washington Bridge (I-95, US 1 & 9) is disappointing on several fronts. What isn’t disappointing is that my friend and former colleague from my Gannett days (and fellow Penn State College of Communications graduate), Mike Pettigano, has been part of the Bergen Record/NorthJersey.com team breaking the story. Some of you may even remember Mike from when he was running Penn State sports blog Black Shoe Diaries or the preview magazine, We Are Penn State 2013 (He’s doing that again this year).

As for Christie, I’m disappointed the people he selected appeared to have acted in such a vindictive way. I’ll be curious to see what the Record learns about his involvement. I have great affection for the Garden State, having been born there and then visiting family, friends and of course, the Jersey Shore, regularly and I was pulling for Christie to rise in his party. Now, I’m probably not feeling that way.

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This Sunday – 4 NFL games and a winter storm for a 235 mile stretch of I-95

This Sunday, at 1 p.m. in an approximately 235 miles span of Interstate 95, there are four NFL games taking place, each located within 2 miles of the East Coast’s main highway:

Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins, Fex Field, Landover, Md.
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.


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There is also a winter storm warning, in particular the D.C. region. From Capital Weather Gang – Winter storm watch issued for much of D.C. area Sunday into Monday:

The onset of precipitation across the area is most likely between mid-morning and noon with the precipitation probably starting as snow but changing to sleet and or freezing rain by late afternoon (in most spots)…

…Snow is likely for the commute to FedEx field (and for the Ravens game in Baltimore) with the snow changing to sleet and freezing rain during the game. Sleet or freezing rain is likely for the drive home.

The storm will also hit Philadelphia and the New York area, though seemingly not as hard around game time. Accuweather says:

While a large amount of snow is not expected, the city could receive its first inch or two of snow of the season, joining some of the northern and western suburbs from Friday night’s storm.

Warmer air is forecast to move in during the storm Sunday evening through Monday, causing a changeover to a wintry mix, then rain from the coast to inland areas.

In short, travel on the I-95 corridor could be pretty tough on Sunday, though most major Northeast Corridor traffic bypasses Philadelphia via the New Jersey Turnpike. On the other hand, MetLife Stadium is directly adjacent to the Turnpike. FedEx Field can be bypassed by using the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (unless you are a truck) and the opposite side of the Capital Beltway. M&T Bank Stadium is right near the terminus of the B/W Parkway, but the Harbor Tunnel Thruway provides a bypass too.

There is also a New England Patriots vs. Cleveland Browns game in Foxborough, but the forecast there is sunny and 34°.

I don’t know how much these games impact I-95 in general (an interesting question), but whatever that is could be magnified this Sunday.

Yes, I’m aware I-95 isn’t technically continuous between Pennsylvania and New Jersey

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I-95 service area Maryland House expected to reopen in early 2014

Maryland House to Reopen in Early 2014Aberdeen Patch
Maryland House, the first service area on all of northbound Interstate 95 is now expected to reopen in early 2014. A specific date was not mentioned. Previously, Maryland House was supposed to open this month.

However, there was significant work to be done at the 50-year-old Maryland House, where remediation of fuel-contaminated soil cost $2.6 million, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Maryland Transportation Authority sealPart of the Maryland Transportation Authority‘s John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, Maryland House service area closed in September 2012 after 49 years of service, for renovations. The other service area along I-95 in Maryland, Chesapeake House, will closed down to be rebuilt after Maryland House reopens. Each of the service areas has a unique design; Maryland House invokes the letter “M” while Chesapeake House is designed to look like the letter “C.”

Several years ago, the Delaware Turnpike service area along I-95 was also rebuilt.

DID YOU KNOW? Service areas like Maryland House are not permitted in the interstate highway system. However, the I-95 service areas are grandfathered in since they are primarily along toll roads that were planned prior to the prohibition and were noted funded by federal the federal government.

h/t DCroads.net Facebook group

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I-95: 50 years ago, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and Delaware Turnpike opened

 

On this day in 1963, a significant section of Interstate 95 was opened at the Maryland-Delaware border amid pageantry and 10,000 people that included President John F. Kennedy in one of his last public appearances. The Maryland portion, the Northeast Expressway, was 42 miles long from Baltimore County to the Mason-Dixon Line. Across the border, the Delaware Turnpike traveled another 11 miles. Both states now honor the fallen president; the Northeast Expressway name was replaced in 1964 while Delaware merely added an additional name.

Here is report from the Delaware Department of Transportation which includes part of President Kennedy’s remarks

The transcript of the president’s speech is available from The News Journal or from DelDOT as a PDF.

Though only 53 miles were opened that day, it was a pivotal stretch, filling in the gap between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Harbor Tunnel Thruway. All of those three roads, combined with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, formed a limited access connection between Washington, D.C. and New York City for the first time — it was already possible to travel from Boston to New York without a single traffic light. The JFK/Del. Tpk. was the last major piece of what Steve Anderson of dcroads.net calls the “eastern turnpike complex”

The first piece of the “complex” was completed in 1940 with the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, followed in 1947 with the opening of the Maine Turnpike. This would be followed with the completion of controlled-access toll expressways in New Hampshire by 1950; Ohio by 1955; in New York and Indiana by 1956; in Massachusetts by 1957; in Connecticut and Illinois by 1958; and in Delaware and Maryland by 1963. By that year, motorists could travel from Maine south to Virginia, or west to Illinois, without stopping at a traffic light. Much of the “eastern turnpike complex” was ultimately absorbed into the Interstate highway system.

The road was tolled in order to get it built quicker:

…funding for other Interstate highways such as the Baltimore (I-695) and Capital (I-495) beltways, as well as urban freeways in those two metropolitan areas, took precedence over the Northeast Expressway. The state highway development program scheduled construction of the Northeast Expressway between 1966 and 1970, long after the aforementioned projects were to be scheduled for completion.

ON THE FAST TRACK TO CONSTRUCTION: In order to expedite construction of I-95, the Maryland State Roads Commission decided to finance construction and maintenance of the expressway with bonds backed by toll revenue. The state, which floated a $73 million bond issue to finance construction of the Northeast Expressway, did not violate Federal highway law because state funds were used to finance construction. However, the highway was to be built to Interstate standards.

The rest of I-95 in Delaware would not be completed until 1968 and the section through Wilmington was controversial. The connector between the Delaware Turnpike and the New Jersey Turnpike is I-295. In Maryland, I-95 would not be completed through Baltimore until 1985 with the opening of the Ft. McHenry Tunnel, though the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (now I-895) provided limited access through Baltimore. I-95 would not be completed as intended in Maryland with the portion inside the Capital Beltway cancelled, causing the number to be reassigned to the eastern portion of the Capital Beltway.

There is still a gap in New Jersey for I-95, but that is being addressed by the Pennsylvania Turnpike and New Jersey Turnpike. Finally.

I am not sure if Maryland is doing anything to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary, but Delaware has an toll booth on display in the Delaware Service Area near Newark.

I have taken countless trips up the JFK/Del. Tpk. over the years, mostly to New Jersey to see family, friends or visit the Shore. While I don’t do that as often anymore, I still know the road and landmarks quite well and have a fondness for it, if not the Delaware Turnpike toll. It can be pretty in the fall and northeast of the Susquehanna River is the most rural portion of I-95 between Northern Virginia and New Hampshire. In Delaware, I enjoy the anticipation of trying to be the first to see the Delaware Memorial Bridge as well as the significance of the split that sends I-95 to Philadelphia and I-295 to New Jersey, it’s Turnpike, it’s Shore and New York.

ADDITIONAL READING

Delaware Turnpike – phillyroads.com
John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway – dcroads.net

After 50 years, I-95 still East Coast’s common thread and economic backbone | GalleryThe Sun

I-95 in Delaware linked East Coast, divided city of Wilmington | Over five decades, as tolls rise civility falls | TIMELINE: I-95 HISTORYThe News Journal

PRESS RELEASE: Original Delaware Turnpike Celebrates 50th Anniversary on November 14, 2013

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Google Maps extends i-99 north of Williamsport, Pa., PennDOT and NYSDOT disagree

Google maps jumps the gun on i-99
"i-99"In the latest of a string of Google Maps errors, interstate 99 has been extended beyond its existing northern terminus near State College all the way into New York State and I-86/NY 17 near Corning.

"US 15"This is an extension that is expected at some point, but i-99 needs high speed interchanges built along I-80 near mileposts 160 and 178. Additionally, multiple sections of US 220 need to be upgraded between Lock Haven and Williamsport. North of Williamsport, US 15 which Google Maps says is now also i-99, is now an interstate quality highway all the way into New York State as of earlier this fall.


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i-99 is a controversial highway in general. For one, the number was legislated by former Rep. Bud Shuster. The bulk of the initial routing was through his district, pork barrel spending. The extension to State College was a disaster as Shuster legislated that it be exempt from environmental testing. That didn’t work out — it turned out the road and all of the earth-moving required for it unleashed pyrite (aka fool’s gold) that contaminated the water supply. Four years and $79 million later, there was remediation in place. The money spent on this highway would have been better directed at improving the US 322 corridor – widening the Lewistown Narrows (which happened eventually) or upgrading the Boalsburg to Seven Mountains stretch which hasn’t happened.

In the future, i-99 will probably be posted along these roads and perhaps replace I-390 to Rochester.

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