THE NJ 26 / NJ 174 FREEWAY: The initial section of the Trenton Freeway stretched from the Trenton Toll (Trenton-Morrisville) Bridge north to Whitehead Road. Originally designated NJ 26, and later NJ 174, this section of freeway opened during 1952 and 1953. When it opened, planning officials held the Trenton Freeway as a successful example of arterial construction through a congested urban area.

Through downtown Trenton, the pre-Interstate era expressway features four 12-foot-wide lanes (two in each direction) and 10-foot-wide shoulders, except where there are acceleration-deceleration ramps. A concrete ("Jersey") median barrier separates opposing traffic flows. According to the NJDOT, this section of US 1 carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

SHOULD THE TRENTON FREEWAY BE PART OF I-95? When the Federal-aid Interstate highway system was taking shape in the mid-1950's, state highway officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania considered an alignment roughly along the US 1 corridor. While this alignment was compatible with the Interstate system objective of connecting major metropolitan and industrial areas, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) was concerned that this proposed alignment would serve the same corridor as the New Jersey Turnpike.

Nevertheless, after extensive study and discussion between the involved agencies, the BPR approved the general alignment from Ewing Township northward in 1957. However, the BPR withheld approval of the proposed alignment from Ewing Township south to the Delaware River, pending coordination of an acceptable routing with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways.

Pennsylvania officials sought at first to route I-95 across the Delaware River along the Trenton Toll Bridge, then north through Trenton along the Trenton Freeway. New Jersey, however, opposed this routing on the basis of the physical and capacity constraints on the four-lane bridge and freeway. The two states jointly investigated three alternative river crossings: Scudders Falls (west of Trenton), existing Trenton Toll Bridge-Trenton Freeway (through downtown), and Biles Island (east of Trenton). After further study, the two states approved the Scudders Falls alignment in 1960. Four years later, the BPR finally approved this more westerly alignment.

EXTENSION AND RE-DESIGNATION: In 1967, the New Jersey Department of Transportation recommended a 1.5-mile-long extension of the NJ 174 Freeway. The expressway, which was extended north from Whitehead Road to the area of Baker's Basin, was designed to alleviate congestion at the Brunswick Avenue traffic circle. With its four 12-foot-wide lanes, 12-foot-wide shoulders and median separation, the extension was constructed to contemporary standards. According to the NJDOT, this section carries approximately 30,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

When the extension was completed in 1974, the NJ 174 Freeway was re-designated US 1. The existing alignment of US 1 through Trenton was re-designated Business US 1 north of Strawberry Street, and Alternate US 1 south of Strawberry Street. (The Alternate US 1 designation has since been dropped.)

Dan Moraseski, webmaster of the "New Jersey Highways" site and frequent contributor to misc.transport.road, provides some clarification to the designations as follows:

One 1974 New Jersey (Gousha) map shows US 1 using the freeway south of Strawberry Street (Business US 1), and NJ 174 only north of there. Apparently, US 1 was routed onto the freeway to Strawberry Street and NJ 174 was built past there until it was finished. Moreover, the US 1 straight-line diagram only shows NJ 174 as a contract north of Whitehead Road; the initial section of the Trenton Freeway may not have been NJ 174.

This 2003 photo shows the southbound Trenton Freeway (US 1) approaching Warren Street in Trenton. The original section of freeway from the early 1950's was rehabilitated during the 1980's. (Photo by Lou Corsaro.)

SHOULD US 1 BE UPGRADED TO FREEWAY NORTH OF TRENTON? In 1983, soon after it received $245 million in Interstate trade-in funds from the cancellation of the Somerset Freeway (I-95), the NJDOT proposed building an additional travel lane in each direction, bringing US 1 to six lanes from I-295 in Ewing Township north to US 130 in North Brunswick. The project was one of six to be recommended after the cancellation of I-95.

Two years later, the MSM Regional Council, which was established to plan the US 1 corridor through central New Jersey, made the following recommendations to the NJDOT:

  • US 1 should become a major arterial highway with all major intersections grade-separated. The NJDOT should implement a long-term policy of eliminating signalized intersections and jughandles.

  • Parallel service roads should be constructed to the existing highway, and direct access should be eliminated. State aid grants and transportation improvement districts could help fund parallel service roads.

  • A higher concentration of development in appropriately located centers should be encouraged to increase the feasibility of transit service. NJDOT regulations should include site design and community standards.

Except for some spot improvements, much of this plan - now estimated to cost $750 million - has yet to be implemented. Some advocates have gone further by suggesting congestion toll pricing along the US 1 corridor to finance improvements.

SOURCES: Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1967); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); "Interstate 95," Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1979); "I-95 Corridor in the Tri-State Region," Tri-State Regional Planning Commission (1979); "Market-Based Solutions for Peak-Hour Congestion in the Trenton-New Brunswick Route 1 Corridor" by Meghan K. Fehlig, Princeton University (2002); Lou Corsaro; Raymond C. Martin; Dan Moraseski.

  • US 1 shield by Ralph Herman.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.





  • US 1 Freeway (New Jersey)

  • Trenton-Morrisville Bridge (US 1)

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