This 1999 photo shows the northbound NJ 440 Freeway in Perth Amboy. Continuing the route of I-287 into Staten Island, the NJ 440 Freeway was completed in 1972, providing connections to the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95), the Garden State Parkway and the Outerbridge Crossing. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
EXTENDING THE METROPOLITAN BELTWAY TO STATEN ISLAND: The southern section of the NJ 440 Freeway had been planned since 1929 as part of an express route that was to link the Outerbridge Crossing with NJ 35, US 9, US 1 and US 22. The express route was conceived initially as part of a metropolitan beltway advocated by the Regional Plan Association (RPA).
During the early 1930's, planners proposed a controlled-access "Edison Memorial Parkway" that was to connect US 22 in Watchung with the Edison Memorial Tower in Edison, the Edison Bridge (US 9) in Woodbridge Township and the Outerbridge Crossing. The parkway, which was to have bridle paths and scenic overlooks, was canceled by the ongoing Great Depression. However, planning continued for an east-west highway through Middlesex County after traffic studies revealed the need for an express route between the Outerbridge Crossing, US 9, US 1 and US 22.
With postwar demands taking their toll on local and regional roads, further studies for the "Middlesex Freeway" (today's I-287 and NJ 440) were undertaken when plans were revived in 1947. During the 1950's, officials formally placed the freeway link on the statewide highway construction plan.
The NJ 440 Freeway was to extend the route of I-287 to the Outerbridge Crossing. However, as late as the mid-1960's, construction had not yet begun on this important link, even as work continued on I-287. (A plan to extend the I-287 designation into Staten Island via NJ 440 and the Richmond Parkway was short-lived.)
In 1967, with construction crews set to begin work, the NJDOT outlined the purpose of the $49 million Middlesex Freeway Extension as follows:
The NJ 440 Freeway, an extension of Interstate 287, will complete a circumferential route around the New York metropolitan area via Staten Island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Current industrial development between US 1 and Perth Amboy, including the former Raritan Arsenal property adds to the need for this facility.
This east-west approach to Staten Island will serve Perth Amboy traffic to and from the west. It will also make the Narrows Bridge route more attractive for New Jersey-Long Island traffic, and provide continuity with New York routes.
In 1970, a massive interchange between the NJ 440 Freeway, I-287, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway - locally known as "Spaghetti Junction" - was opened to traffic. (Other local roads such as Smith Street, Crows Mills Road, New Brunswick Avenue and Industrial Highway are included in the massive interchange, which comprises more than 50 different roads, ramps, overpasses and jughandles.). By 1972, the entire length of the freeway was completed.
A CASE OF TWO IDENTITIES: The NJ 440 designation is co-designated with CR 501 through Middlesex County, and both shields appear along the route. After NY 440 made its way through Staten Island, both designations were to reappear at the northern approach of the Bayonne Bridge, with the NJ 440 Freeway continuing north along the eastern shore of Newark Bay to Jersey City. (Interestingly, the 1958 AAA map of Metropolitan New York showed both NY 440 and CR 501 designations through Staten Island.) Although the northern section of the NJ 440 Freeway was canceled in 1977, the NJ 440 continues north through Bayonne and Jersey City along the former NJ 169.
CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS: The 5.2-mile-long NJ 440 Freeway carries six lanes before narrowing to four lanes at the Outerbridge Crossing. According to the NJDOT, the NJ 440 Freeway carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day (AADT). In the city of Perth Amboy, NJ 184 serves as the eastbound and westbound service roads for the expressway. (Upon completion of the NJ 440 Freeway, the existing NJ 440 surface road in Perth Amboy was re-designated NJ 184.) The NJDOT resurfaced NJ 440 from the Outerbridge Crossing to the New Jersey Turnpike interchange in the mid-2000's.
Long-term plans call for the construction of new connecting ramps from the NJ 440 Freeway to High Street, just west of the Outerbridge Crossing approach. The $16 million project, which would link NJ 440 over an existing freight terminal to the Perth Amboy waterfront redevelopment area, originally was planned for construction in 2004 and delayed until 2008, but now remains shelved.
NEW TOLLS FOR ROUTE 440? In his 2008 State of the State address, Governor John Corzine proposed adding tolls for the NJ 440 Freeway as part of a wider plan to combine the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (which has jurisdiction over the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway) and the South Jersey Transportation Authority (which operates the Atlantic City Expressway) into a single public corporation.
Motorists would be charged 35 cents for traveling the five miles of Route 440. The logistics of the proposal, including the placement of the toll plazas, have yet to be determined. The new toll would generate an estimated $10 million according to a study by Jonathan Peters, a finance professor and transportation research fellow at the College of Staten Island.
This 2002 photo shows the northbound NJ 440 Freeway at the exit for NJ 184 and NJ 35 in Perth Amboy. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, www.gribblenation.com.)
The current Route 440 through New Jersey and New York should be re-designated Interstate 395. Some posters in misc.transport.road have suggested that Route 440 in New York and New Jersey should become part of an extended Interstate 287 beltway. However, in the words of William F. Yurasko, doing so would create a "dyslexic nightmare." The I-395 designation is not used in either New York or New Jersey.
SOURCES: Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, The Port of New York Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1955); "Middlesex Freeway," New Jersey State Highway Department (1956); Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1962); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1967); "Jersey State of Mind: On Top of Spaghetti Junction" by Peter Genovese, The Star-Ledger (11/17/2000); "Toll-Hike Plan for NJ Gets Jeered Here" by Maura Yates, The Staten Island Advance (1/09/2008); North Jersey Transportation Planning Agency; Chris Blaney; Frank Curcio; Arthur Malkin; Raymond C. Martin; Christopher G. Mason; Dan Moraseski; Mike Romero; Al Tossoonian; Gerard Trabalka; William F. Yurasko.
NJ 440 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.