THE HOBOKEN FREEWAY: In 1956, the New Jersey State Highway Department, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Port of New York Authority reached a tentative agreement to construct the Hoboken Freeway. The Hoboken Freeway, a continuation of the New Jersey Turnpike-Newark Bay Extension (I-78), was to connect the Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel, and provide service to the Port Authority piers in Hoboken. At the time, construction of the freeway was estimated to cost $9 million.
One year later, the state highway department proposed that the Hoboken Freeway be included in the Interstate highway system. This route, along with the Essex Freeway (I-280), were to be granted Federal-aid (90-10) status in exchange for the previously granted NJ 3 corridor. Despite pleas from state highway officials that the road would serve commercial, industrial and defense interests, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads denied Interstate funding for the Hoboken Freeway. (However, the bureau did grant the exchange for the I-280 corridor.)
Transportation officials continued to push for the 2.2-mile-long, six-lane Hoboken Freeway well into the 1960's. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the Tri-State Transportation Commission described the freeway, now officially designated as the NJ 85 Freeway, as follows:
Beginning at the Holland Tunnel approach roads, the NJ 85 Freeway will extend north through Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken to the Lincoln Tunnel. Alignment is in the planning stage.
This north-south route along the Hudson River waterfront will serve heavy industry, high-density residential areas and waterfront redevelopment areas. When completed, it will provide a needed controlled-access route along the Hudson, and an alternate route to the West Side Highway. This will allow better distribution of traffic to the river crossings. Finally, this route will relieve local arterials of congestion.
Most likely, the NJ 85 Freeway would have run north-south along the Palisade Avenue alignment between Jersey City and Weehawken. Construction of the freeway through this urbanized area was estimated to cost $110 million in 1969.
In the late 1960's, two separate planning agencies, the Regional Plan Association and the Tri-State Transportation Commission, recommended not only construction of the NJ 85 Freeway, but also an extension of the freeway north to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee. The Hoboken Freeway was seen as integral in the redevelopment of Hudson River communities and in the protection of the Hudson River palisades. Nevertheless, the engineering, economic and political challenges of constructing a six-lane freeway through established communities were daunting.
THE HUDSON FREEWAY: In 1972, officials from NJDOT revived plans for the NJ 85 Freeway. Designed to relieve north-south traffic on Tonnelle Avenue (US 1 and US 9), the proposed freeway was to serve a two-mile-wide corridor stretching from Jersey City north to Fort Lee. Six different alignments were recommended for the proposed freeway, all of them west of the original alignment along the Hudson River.
The NJDOT report Master Plan for Transportation described the 7.6-mile-long route as follows:
At the present time, US 1-US 9 in Hudson and Bergen counties is a heavily traveled land service highway running along the west base of the Palisades Range. A combination of through trips and the demand for access to the industrial and commercial development along its length has led to frequent breakdowns in service. Although some measures have been taken to improve vehicular movement and improve safety by the installation of traffic signals, jughandles and center barrier curbs, the only long-range solution can be a freeway on new alignment.