PLANNED IN ANTICIPATION OF EXURBAN GROWTH: In 1966, the Tri-State Transportation Commission recommended the construction of the 35-mile-long NJ 53 Freeway. The expressway was to begin at the proposed NJ 24 Freeway in Morris Plains, Morris County, continue north past I-80 and NJ 23 into northern Passaic County, cross the New Jersey-New York border near Greenwood Lake (where it was to interchange with the NJ 208 Freeway), and end as the Orange Expressway (NY 208) at I-84 in Montgomery, Orange County. According to the Commission, the proposed NJ 53 Freeway was to "serve a suburban area of high growth potential west of an Interstate belt route."

One year later, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced scaled-down plans for construction of a five-mile-long, four-lane freeway along the NJ 53 corridor in Morris County. The proposed freeway, whose construction was advocated by large corporations with headquarters in Morris County, designed to move traffic between I-80 and NJ 24, relieving traffic pressures on I-287, US 202 and NJ 53. It received the NJ 178 designation in 1969.

Beginning in the area of Hanover Avenue in Morris Plains, the NJ 178 Freeway was to split off from the unbuilt NJ 24 Freeway extension, and continue north through Morris Plains and Parsippany. It was to be routed just east of the existing NJ 53 (Tabor Road), terminating at I-80 near milepost 41 in Parsippany. Some residential takings would have been necessary in the area just east of Mount Tabor Golf Club.

SOME SMALL STEPS, BUT THEN ABORTED: During 1970 and 1971, the NJDOT purchased several pieces of right-of-way for the NJ 178 Freeway. Economic difficulties brought on by the early 1970's recession forced the NJDOT to halt further progress on the project, which was estimated to cost $30 million.

However, representatives from several corporations, including AT&T, Warner-Lambert and BASF, saw the move to halt the freeway as short-sighted. Paul Hyner, a spokesman for Interpace Corporation, spoke of the need for the NJ 178 Freeway as follows:

We feel that 178 deserves attention for valid reasons. When our committee was formed five years ago, we felt there was a need for the freeway. Today, with Morris County one of the 12 top counties in the United States in rate of growth, we feel it is even more vital and more urgent that it be constructed.

Looking five years into the future, with other large corporations moving into Morris County, and by reviewing the Morris County projected growth figures, the traffic situation will be chaotic, with people moving from residential areas to industrial campuses during peak traffic periods.

These companies' plans to move here were based partially on accessibility to the site, and that included the plans for 178. The failure to follow through on 178 means not keeping up with the rate of development that Morris County has and will continue to undergo. Our current road system just can't handle all that traffic.

The fate of the NJ 178 Freeway was sealed in 1975 when state transportation commissioner Alan Sagner did not include the project in the state's $1.5 billion, five-year highway program. Sagner believed that while the NJ 178 Freeway was desirable, he questioned the further development of semi-rural areas of Morris County that would come with construction of the road. He believed that the $30 million cost of the freeway would be better spent on public transportation in the county.

However, the proposed freeway appeared on maps as late as 1981. It was not until 1997 that the New Jersey State Legislature finally removed the NJ 178 Freeway from the official NJDOT route log.

Arthur Malkin, New Jersey contributor to, expressed the following thoughts on the NJ 178 Freeway:

Even if the Route 24 Freeway were extended, the Route 178 Freeway may not have been a good idea. Although it might have unclogged Route 53, I agree with the folks who cancelled the project that it would ruin the remaining semi-rural portions of Denville, Parsippany, and Morris Plains.

SOURCES: Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1969); "Companies Press for Route 178," The New York Times (5/04/1975); Arthur Malkin; Dan Moraseski; William F. Yurasko.

  • NJ 178 shield by Ralph Herman.


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