THE CENTRAL JERSEY EXPRESSWAY SYSTEM: In the late 1950's, the New Jersey Highway Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway, announced plans for the Trenton-Asbury Park Expressway. The proposed four-lane, controlled-access toll road was to link the capital city of Trenton with the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and points along the north-central New Jersey coast.
Several years later, in 1965, Governor Richard J. Hughes urged the creation of a "Central Jersey Expressway System" to improve local and inter-regional access. The system, which was to be constructed under the cooperation of the New Jersey State Highway Department, the New Jersey Highway Authority and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
The plan outlined proposals for the following expressways:
NJ 37 Freeway: Beginning in the vicinity of NJ 29, the NJ 37 Freeway was to be a four-lane freeway from Trenton southeast to the Toms River-Seaside Heights area in Ocean County. It was planned to intersect the proposed NJ 38 Freeway near Fort Dix Military Reservation.
NJ 38 Freeway: Beginning in Camden at the eastern approach of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (I-676 and US 30), the NJ 38 Freeway was to continue northeast to the Asbury Park-Belmar area in Monmouth County. It was to intersect the proposed NJ 37 Freeway near Fort Dix Military Reservation.
Garden State Thruway: This proposed four-to-six lane toll expressway was to provide an express route for trucks and buses from northern New Jersey to shore points. Beginning at a point south of EXIT 10 of the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) in Edison, Middlesex County, the 40-mile-long Garden State Thruway was to continue southeast along the US 9 corridor through the interior of the state, ending at the Garden State Parkway and US 9 in Toms River.
In the late 1960's, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Tri-State Transportation Commission outlined the NJ 37 Freeway proposal as follows:
The NJ 37 Freeway, which is on new alignment, will become a vital link in providing easy access from the Trenton metropolitan area to New Jersey shore resorts. This east-west route will serve a large area that currently lacks expressway access. The design of the freeway will preserve and enhance the natural beauty of this corridor. Engineering plans are underway.
According to the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, which conducted studies for the system between 1965 and 1967, central New Jersey was expected to grow by 150 percent between 1970 and 1985. The route was recommended as a priority proposal for completion by 1975.
THE APPROVAL OF I-195: In 1967, plans for the east-west parts of the expressway system were altered when the NJ 38 Freeway proposal was dropped from the system, leaving the NJ 37 Freeway as the only proposed east-west express route in central New Jersey. Although it was to be a toll-free road, the NJ 37 Freeway, now known as the Central Jersey Expressway, was to be jointly financed by the NJDOT and the New Jersey Highway Authority.
That year, NJDOT Commissioner David J. Goldberg, Governor Hughes, U.S. Senator Harrison A. Williams and Congressman James J. Howard proposed to the Bureau of Public Roads (which became the Federal Highway Administration) that Interstate funding be given to the NJ 37 Freeway between Trenton and Belmar. In exchange for providing the 90-10 Federal-state funding for the 34.2-mile-long Central Jersey Expressway, a seven-mile-long unbuilt section of the Union Freeway (I-278) was to be dropped from the Interstate system. The proposed I-195 was estimated to cost $60 million, less than the $100 million estimated for the seven miles of I-278 in Union County.
One problem with this proposal was that nationwide, all but 30 miles of the 41,000 National System of Interstate and Defense Highways had been mapped and approved for development, and the remaining 30 miles of the system were to be held in reserve for contingencies. The addition of the I-195 mileage would have exceeded this allocation, even with the swap for the unbuilt section of I-278. Initially, the Bureau of Public Roads (the forerunner to the Federal Highway Administration) rebuffed the New Jersey request. However, with the approval of an additional 1,500 miles into the system in 1968, the Central Jersey Expressway was added to the system as I-195 that year.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF I-195: The Central Jersey Expressway was designed to comply fully with Interstate standards. It was to have a 70 MPH design speed, maximum grades of three percent, a 60-foot-wide median (wide enough to accommodate an additional lane in each direction), and a 300-foot-wide right-of-way. Entrances and exits were to be sparsely spaced, averaging three to five miles apart.
The proposed alignment of I-195, which was to go through low-density, residentially zoned land in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, required the taking of 41 residences. More than 30 acres of wetlands at the eastern edge of Roebling Park near Trenton were acquired for the interchange between I-195, I-295 and NJ 29. Designed to handle a capacity of 28,000 vehicles per day (AADT), the expressway was to four lanes throughout its entire length, except for one mile in the vicinity of the I-295 interchange, where it was to have six lanes.
Construction began on an isolated stretch of I-195 east of the New Jersey Turnpike in October 1968. Completion dates on I-195 were as follows:
1972: Washington Township to Jackson Mills (between milepost 8.5 and milepost 21.9) 1974: White Horse to Washington Township (between milepost 1.8 and milepost 8.5) 1979: Jackson Mills to Squankum (between milepost 21.9 and milepost 29.9) 1981: Squankum to Wall Township (between milepost 29.9 and milepost 35.0) 1987: White Horse (between milepost 0.3 and milepost 1.8) 1990: I-295 / NJ 29 interchange (between milepost 0.0 and milepost 0.3)
To better accommodate traffic for Six Flags Great Adventure, the NJDOT completed improvements to the eastbound lanes of I-195 at EXIT 16 (Ocean CR 537) in 1997. Separate ramps were constructed for CR 537 westbound and eastbound traffic. The eastbound ramp for EXIT 16A (CR 537 WEST) has two exit-only lanes designed for Six Flags-bound traffic. To handle future traffic increases, the NJDOT initiated studies in the late 1990's to construct a third lane in each direction on I-195 between the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) and Six Flags-Great Adventure.
Further west, the NJDOT resurfaced 6.7 miles of the eastbound I-195 through Hamilton and Washington townships in Mercer County. The $6 million project was completed in 2002.
According to the NJDOT, I-195 handles approximately 45,000 vehicles per day (AADT) through Mercer County, dropping to approximately 25,000 vehicles per day toward its eastern terminus. The speed limit along the entire length of I-195 is 65 MPH.
WHERE DOES I-195 BEGIN AND END? To the west of I-295 in Mercer County, the route of I-195 continues west to Trenton as NJ 29, which is currently undergoing reconstruction and development as a controlled-access freeway. To the east of the official end of I-195 at EXIT 35 (NJ 34) in Wall Township, the route continues east as NJ 138. (However, exit numbering continues east for EXIT 36-Garden State Parkway, even though "MILE 0" markers for NJ 138 begin at the NJ 34 overpass.)
I-95 AND THE I-195 EXTENSION: Between its western terminus at the I-295 / NJ 29 interchange and the New Jersey Turnpike interchange, the eastbound I-195 has "TO I-95 NORTH" signs posted. This section of I-195 carries motorists connects the discontinuous sections of I-95: the New Jersey Turnpike near Allentown and the Delaware Expressway near Ewing Township. This discontinuity was caused by the 1981 cancellation of I-95 through central New Jersey.
Once the $553 million I-95 / I-276 direct interchange project that will provide continuity to I-95 is completed in 2012, the I-95 shields along the 8.8 miles around Trenton will be replaced with I-195 shields. The I-195 designation will continue into Pennsylvania along the Delaware Expressway, where it will terminate at the I-95 / I-276 interchange in Levittown, Bucks County. This section was slated to become part of an extended I-295, but a September 2005 agreement between Pennsylvania and New Jersey established the new designation of I-195 for the orphaned I-95 section. The re-designation awaits approval from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
This 1999 photo shows the eastbound I-195 at EXIT 16 (Monmouth CR 537) in Millstone Township. A two-lane exit ramp from the eastbound lanes of I-195 was constructed to serve traffic for Six Flags-Great Adventure. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
I-195 should be extended east by three miles to end at NJ 35 in Belmar. This would be done by upgrading the existing NJ 138, a four-lane surface arterial, to Interstate standards.
SOURCES: "Proposed Trenton-Asbury Park Expressway," New Jersey State Highway Department (August 1964); "New Jersey Highways," New Jersey State Highway Department (1964); "Proposal for a Central Jersey Expressway System," New Jersey State Highway Department (1965); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Case to Propose More Superroads, Aiding Jersey" by Richard Witkin, The New York Times (8/23/1967); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1967); "Route 37 Freeway Relocation Study," New Jersey Department of Transportation (1967); "Special Report on the Garden State Parkway and the Central Jersey Expressway System," New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Highway Authority (1967); "Interstate Routes 195 and 295, New Jersey Routes 29 and 129: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and New Jersey Department of Transportation (1981); "I-195 Named for Representative Howard," The Bergen Record (4/07/1988); "Expansion of I-195 Gets Look from DOT" by Joseph Sapia, The Asbury Park Press (8/02/1996); "I-195 Improvements End Great Adventure Backups," The Asbury Park Press (7/17/1997); "DiFrancesco Backs Plan To Expand 65 MPH Speed Limit," The Associated Press (8/15/2001); Chris Blaney; Scott Colbert; Frank Curcio; Mario Laurenti; Raymond C. Martin; Christopher G. Mason; Dan Moraseski; C.C. Slater; William F. Yurasko.
I-195, I-95, and NJ 37 shields by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.