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This 2002 photo shows the northbound New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) just past EXIT 14 (I-78 / Newark Airport) in Newark. Just ahead is the split for the eastern and western spurs of the turnpike. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

THE NEED FOR A MODERN LINK IN THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR: From colonial times, the corridor between New York and Philadelphia - indeed, the corridor along the entire eastern seaboard - has been heavily traveled first by stagecoach, and later by motor vehicles. This corridor placed New Jersey as the key link in the East Coast travel chain. With the introduction of automobiles, this corridor took on even greater importance.

By the 1930's, US 1 (and south of New Brunswick, US 130), which passed through small towns and large cities alike, had been so choked with traffic that the state of New Jersey considered the construction of a superhighway along this corridor. In response, proposals were developed to construct a 12-lane superhighway from Boston to Washington. The sketches showed a road with six carriageways, each carrying two lanes for express, local and service (frontage) traffic. The restricted budgets of the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II delayed the superhighway, originally planned as "FAI Corridor 100," but Governor Alfred E. Driscoll revived the idea for its construction in his January 1947 inaugural address.

Driscoll established the construction of the turnpike as a top priority, so he delegated the project to the best and brightest managers he could find. In October 1948, the State Legislature enacted the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Act, which created the New Jersey Turnpike Authority "to construct, maintain, repair and operate Turnpike projects." General W.W. Wanamaker, a retired Army Corps of Engineers officer who served in World War II, was appointed as the first executive director of the Turnpike Authority. The 1948 legislation also called for the appointment of three non-salaried commissioners to oversee the project: Paul Troast as chairman, George Smith as vice-chairman, and Maxwell Lester, Jr. as treasurer.

In April 1949, the commissioners began talks with nationally recognized highway engineering firms to estimate traffic demands and determine the best route for the 118-mile-long proposed Turnpike. Six months later, Wanamaker decided to divide the Turnpike into seven, simultaneous projects to expedite its construction. About 90 major construction contracts and more than 40 miscellaneous contracts were let during the course of the projects; more than 110 contractors shared this work. There were more than 450 competitive bids received.

The urgency to complete the Turnpike as quickly as possible gave Turnpike employees, the first of which were hired in 1949, a sense of mission and high morale. The prestige of the Turnpike Administration rested on the employees' job of not only building the highway quickly, but also building it well. Early reports from the Turnpike Authority state of a commitment to build "by far the best and most modern highway… and yet avoid any extravagance." Within Turnpike Administration offices, there were signs that read, "The Turnpike must be done, by November '51!"

These 1952 photos show the southern (EXIT 1 -- Delaware Memorial Bridge, left photo) and northern (EXIT 18 -- George Washington Bridge, right photo ) termini of the New Jersey Turnpike. (Photos by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G613-59270 and LC-G61362098.)

DESIGN CRITERIA: Before the New Jersey Turnpike was constructed, the engineers who oversaw the seven simultaneous projects had to adhere to a uniform set of standards. First, the engineers determined that the turnpike should be a controlled-access highway. Access to the turnpike would only be at interchanges that were spaced considerable distances apart. The roadways were to have extra-wide traffic lanes, wide shoulders on both sides of the traffic lanes, and grades and curve radii kept to a minimum. These criteria reflected state-of-the-art thinking in highway design.

The engineers started by establishing a design speed, the theoretical standard to which all elements of construction were designed. The design speed was 75 MPH south of East Brunswick (EXIT 9), and 70 MPH north of East Brunswick. As an example, all curves were laid out so that a car traveling at the design speed would have ample sight distance ahead; the lettering on all signs would be legible at the design speed; the shoulder firm enough and the length of the acceleration and deceleration lanes long enough for a moving at the design speed. In the end, the engineers established a legal speed limit of 60 MPH to allow for a margin of safety.

To make these speeds possible, the engineers had to build to particular specifications. The 12-foot-wide lanes, which could accommodate all but the widest vehicles, set the standard by which future expressways would be built. The 10-foot-wide shoulders were ample enough for parking disabled cars safely. The 1,200-foot-long acceleration and deceleration lanes, another standard that holds today, enabled motorists to enter and exit the turnpike without interrupting the flow of the main traffic lanes. To provide a safe efficient means of travel between two points, all grades were to be kept to a maximum of three percent, and all curves were to have a minimum radius of 3,000 feet.

Particular attention was paid to the signs and visibility along the New Jersey Turnpike. The first signs announcing the interchange, which gives the route and route number, and the towns to which the interchange gives access, are posted two miles prior to the interchange. Such signs are repeated one mile before the interchange, as well as at the interchange. At the interchange, distances to the next interchange are also posted. All signs were to reflect brightly at night, either because of button-copy reflectors set into the letters, or because of the light-reflective plastic letters themselves. Reflectors are also posted above the shoulders at 150-foot intervals, as well as installed in the six-inch-wide broken white lines that separate the traffic lanes.

The pavement that was to be chosen had to stand up best under extremely heavy truck loads, as well as provide good, economical service for the life of the Turnpike Authority bonds. Both concrete and asphalt had their advantages and disadvantages, but there were no clear-cut answers. Ultimately, four options were presented to the Turnpike Authority: to pave with concrete ("rigid pavement"), to pave with asphalt ("flexible pavement"), to pave with both, or to take bids for both materials, choosing the least expensive bid. In the end, 12-inch-thick flexible asphalt was adopted, at a bid price $5 million less than 10-inch-thick rigid concrete.

In addition to these design standards for the roadway, there were also specifications established for all turnpike structures, including bridges and storm-drainage facilities.

LEFT: Construction crews hurry to finish the Hackensack River bridge on the New Jersey Turnpike in this 1951 photo. RIGHT: Artist's rendition of the turnpike's Passaic River bridge. (Photos by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G613-60377 and LC-G613-60374.)

CONSTRUCTION OF THE TURNPIKE: Crews broke ground for the construction of the New Jersey Turnpike in January 1950. Few difficulties were encountered during construction of the turnpike in the rolling terrain of southern New Jersey, from the southern terminus in Deepwater Township to the Raritan River in New Brunswick. However, more significant engineering challenges came in northern New Jersey.

The city that was most affected by construction of the turnpike was Elizabeth, an older industrial city of 110,000 residents. Plans called for the condemnation of 450 homes in a depressed Elizabeth neighborhood where property values were lowest. Responding to fears that property values would plummet even more and that crime would increase, officials in Elizabeth offered an alternative route along the waterfront. However, the waterfront alternative would have disrupted 32 companies, some of whom threatened to leave New Jersey if this route had been adopted. Ultimately, the Turnpike Authority chose the route through residential Elizabeth, since there was not much leeway between Newark Airport to the west and Elizabeth Seaport to the east. Once in the city, the Turnpike Authority had to construct overpasses and underpasses for local streets, railroad tracks, pipelines and other utilities, an undertaking that significantly added to construction costs.

Near the city of Newark, engineers faced another challenge: whether to pass over or under the approach arches of the Pulaski Skyway. At its intersection with the turnpike, the Pulaski Skyway is 90 feet high. If engineers went over the skyway, they would have to elevate the turnpike high above the ground, which would have been an expensive undertaking. If they went below the skyway, costs would be lower, but the turnpike would have cleared the adjacent Passaic River by only 110 feet. Engineers proceeded with the lower elevation.

Continuing north into the New Jersey Meadowlands, the marshes threatened the northern progress of turnpike construction. These marshes, which consist of mud and silt, have a high water content, and range in depth from only five feet to as much as 250 feet. Where the mud was shallow, engineers simply filled the excavated and filled the meadows with crushed stone, then raised the roadway above the water table. Where the mud was much deeper, engineers sank multiple caissons down to a firm stratum, filled the caissons with sand, and then covered them and the surrounding areas with blankets of sand. Gradually and continuously, water was drawn up through the multiple caissons of sand and gently distributed through the sand blankets, from which it was drained off into the adjacent meadows.

Finally, bridges were constructed where the New Jersey Turnpike crosses the Passaic and Hackensack rivers. Since both rivers are navigable, the turnpike bridges had to be built with provisions for substantial horizontal and vertical clearances. The engineers decided upon a simple design for both bridges, in which all of the carrying structure was below the floor of the bridge. These bridges offer motorists unobstructed views of the New York and Newark skylines, but are so understated that motorists barely realize that they are crossing a river. The 6,955-foot-long Passaic River Bridge cost $13.7 million to construct, while the 5,623-foot-long Hackensack River Bridge cost $9.5 million.

This 1952 photo shows the engineering feat of pushing the New Jersey Turnpike viaduct underneath the arches of the Pulaski Skyway. (Photo by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G613-62221.)

THE TURNPIKE OPENS TO ACCOLADES: The entire 118-mile length of the New Jersey Turnpike took 25 months to construct, at a total cost of $255 million. The first 44-mile-long stretch, from EXIT 1 in Carneys Point Township north to EXIT 5 in Westampton Township, opened on November 5, 1951. A second 49-mile-long stretch from EXIT 5 north to EXIT 11 in Woodbridge opened on November 30, 1951, followed by a third 16-mile-long stretch from EXIT 11 north to EXIT 15E in Newark on December 20, 1951. The fourth and final nine-mile-long stretch, from EXIT 15E north to EXIT 18 in Ridgefield, opened on January 15, 1952.

Upon its completion, Governor Driscoll made the following proclamation in The New York Times:

In 1949, we determined to build in New Jersey the finest highway in the world, linking the interstate crossings of the Hudson River with the interstate crossings of the Delaware River, for the convenience of the citizens of New Jersey and our sister states. The project was called the New Jersey Turnpike. Our Turnpike Authority has substantially completed the project with incredible speed.

Across New Jersey, a corridor state, has traditionally flowed the heaviest vehicular traffic in the country. The turnpike will not only provide a new facility for this traffic, but will also afford relief for motorists who use our parallel highways.

The turnpike is designed to strengthen the economy of New Jersey and to promote the general welfare of our country. Its importance to the defense effort is obvious.

In addition, the turnpike will offer to the motorists new vistas of New Jersey - with its large and small industries, pleasant productive farms, rolling countryside, beautiful woods and streams, and magnificent resort areas - presently unavailable on our older industrialized highways.

Those who have labored so successfully to complete this highway, despite many difficulties, have in my judgment made a very important contribution to the well-being of our society.

The completion of the New Jersey Turnpike provided another piece of what would be called the "eastern turnpike complex". The first piece of the "complex" was completed in 1940 with the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, followed in 1947 with the opening of the Maine Turnpike. This would be followed with the completion of controlled-access toll expressways in New Hampshire by 1950; Ohio by 1955; in New York and Indiana by 1956; in Massachusetts by 1957; in Connecticut and Illinois by 1958; and in Delaware and Maryland by 1963. By that year, motorists could travel from Maine south to Virginia, or west to Illinois, without stopping at a traffic light. Much of the "eastern turnpike complex" was ultimately absorbed into the Interstate highway system.

These 1952 photos of the New Jersey Turnpike show an overpass in Woodbridge (left photo) and the Raritan River bridge in New Brunswick (right photo). (Photos by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, LC-G613-62225 and LC-G613-62074.)

THE NEED FOR EXPANSION: When the four-lane New Jersey Turnpike opened in 1952, traffic patterns were forecast such that any expansion to six lanes would not take place until 1975. The traffic demands of the Northeast Corridor necessitated the first turnpike expansion project, an 83-mile-long widening in 1955. The widening project provided the following configurations:

  • EXIT 4 in Mount Laurel Township to EXIT 10 in Edison Township: six lanes (three in each direction)

  • EXIT 10 to EXIT 14 in Newark: eight-lane, dual-dual configuration (2-2-2-2, two express lanes and two local lanes in each direction)

In 1966, a second widening project began between EXIT 10 and EXIT 14. This project provided the turnpike's dual-dual roadway system in which passenger cars used the inner roadways, while the outer roadways were open to all vehicles. The widening project brought the number of traffic lanes from eight to twelve. The dual-dual system was extended south to EXIT 9 in East Brunswick in 1973, where the turnpike was widened from six to twelve lanes, and again to EXIT 8A in Monroe Township in 1990, where the turnpike was widened from six to ten lanes.

Congestion near the turnpike's northern terminus prompted the Turnpike Authority to construct a "western spur," a 12-mile section that branches off the turnpike mainline in Newark and reconnects to it in Ridgefield Park. The "western spur," which was completed in 1970, carries through traffic between the George Washington Bridge and points south, and accommodates traffic bound for the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The original mainline, now known as the "eastern spur," primarily carries traffic bound for the Lincoln Tunnel. Both "spurs" post signs for I-95.

New growth along the turnpike corridor prompted construction of new interchanges. During the mid-1970's, two new interchanges - EXIT 7A (I-195) and EXIT 8A (NJ 32) - opened to traffic. In 1982, EXIT 13A (NJ 81 Freeway) opened to serve Newark Airport and Elizabeth Seaport.

In 1990, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority reconstructed EXIT 7 (US 206) in Bordentown to accommodate the growing number of trucks using nearby I-295. Although the $30 million project did not change the route that trucks take between I-295 and the turnpike, it did replace five toll lanes with 12 new ones in a new toll plaza about one-half mile north of the existing plaza. New ramps and bridge were constructed between the turnpike and the relocated plaza.

In 1996, the turnpike was widened once again, this time from twelve to fourteen lanes, between EXIT 11 and EXIT 14. An additional lane provided to the outer roadways between these exits is reserved for HOV use during peak hours. The HOV lanes are open to all vehicles in non-peak hours, and in May 2006, hybrid vehicles were permitted to use the lanes during peak periods. The cost of this widening project was $361 million, more than the cost of the original turnpike.

One year later, improvements were made on a 1.5-mile stretch between EXIT 14 and EXIT 15E in Newark. This stretch, known as the "mixing bowl" because of the many converging and diverging roadways (i.e., entrance and exit ramps, splits for the inner and outer roadways), experienced high accident rates over the years. The five-year project, which relieved congestion and improved safety, cost $148 million.

Combined, the mainline, the extensions and the "western spur" now total 148 miles. Traffic volumes on the mainline New Jersey Turnpike are as follows:

  • on the four-lane section between EXIT 1 (I-295 / Delaware Memorial Bridge) and EXIT 4 (NJ 73), approximately 40,000 vehicles per day (AADT)

  • on the six-lane section between EXIT 4 and EXIT 6 (I-276 / New Jersey Turnpike-Pennsylvania Extension), approximately 65,000 vehicles per day.

  • on the six-lane section between EXIT 6 and EXIT 8A (NJ 32), approximately 105,000 vehicles per day

  • on the ten-lane section between EXIT 8A and EXIT 9 (NJ 18), approximately 130,000 vehicles per day

  • on the twelve-lane section between EXIT 9 and EXIT 11 (Garden State Parkway and US 9), approximately 165,000 vehicles per day

  • on the fourteen-lane section between EXIT 11 and EXIT 14 (I-78), approximately 200,000 vehicles per day

  • on the six-lane eastern spur between EXIT 14 and EXIT 18 (US 46), approximately 110,000 vehicles per day

  • on the six-lane western spur between EXIT 14 and EXIT 18 (US 46), approximately 100,000 vehicles per day

  • on the toll-free section of I-95 between the EXIT 18 toll barrier and the George Washington Bridge, approximately 125,000 vehicles per day

One widening project proposed in the late 1980's never came to pass. Specifically, a 1987 plan advanced by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority called for an expansion of the western spur from its current six-lane (3-3) configuration to a twelve-lane, 3-3-3-3 configuration. The plan also called for construction of a new interchange, "EXIT 15 W-A," for an extension of NJ 17 approximately one mile south of EXIT 16 (NJ 3).

EXTENDING TO THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE: In 1964, following four years of construction, a four-mile-link opened to connect the George Washington Bridge approach in Fort Lee with Interstate 80 (Bergen-Passaic Expressway) in Teaneck. The ten-lane section, which is signed exclusively as I-95, is comprised of local and express lanes in a 3-2-2-3 configuration. Originally planned as a straight-line route from the eastern end of I-80 to the George Washington Bridge, this section was rerouted after borough officials in Leonia filed suit with the New Jersey State Highway Department, citing that the route would run directly through the business district. The borough officials were successful in forcing the present alignment that curves around the northern boundary of Leonia.

In 1971, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) opened a one-mile-long I-95 link that connected the New Jersey Turnpike with the I-80 / I-95 interchange in Teaneck. The NJDOT constructed a modified "directional-T" interchange with separate ramps to the local and express lanes on I-80 and I-95.

The NJDOT transferred jurisdiction over both I-95 sections to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority in 1992.

These 1998 photos show the New Jersey Turnpike through industrial North Jersey. LEFT: The turnpike at EXIT 15E (US 1-US 9) in Newark, near the Pulaski Skyway. RIGHT: The turnpike at EXIT 11 (Garden State Parkway) in Woodbridge. (Photos by Jim K. Georges.)

THE TURNPIKE TODAY: The New Jersey Turnpike is designated I-95 from EXIT 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension) to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza. Until recently, the I-95 designation only went as far south as EXIT 10. Originally, the state of New Jersey planned to construct a 29-mile stretch of I-95, from I-287 in Middlesex County south to Mercer County, on a route parallel to US 1 and the New Jersey Turnpike The proposed I-95 "missing link" through central New Jersey was abandoned in the early 1980's.

In its first full year of operation in 1952, the New Jersey Turnpike carried 17.9 million vehicles, an average of 49,200 vehicles per day at any point along the entire length, and generated toll revenue of $16.2 million. That year, it cost $1.75 to traverse the 118-mile length of the Turnpike. Broken down per mile, the toll was one cent per mile south of New Brunswick and 2.7 cents per mile north of New Brunswick, reflecting the higher construction costs in northern New Jersey. According to the Turnpike Authority, the turnpike today carries about 205 million vehicles per year, an average of 560,000 vehicles per day, and generates revenue of more than $350 million per year. The toll now ranges from $4.60 for off-peak EZ-Pass users, to $4.95 for peak EZ-Pass users, to $5.50 for cash users to drive the entire length of the Turnpike.

Since it opened in 1952, the turnpike has operated on a "ticket" system in which motorists, upon entering the turnpike, receive a magnetically encoded ticket. The ticket, which indicates the vehicle class and point of origin, is surrendered when the motorist exits. The toll is calculated when the ticket is processed by the toll collector. In the 27 toll plazas, there are a total of 328 toll lanes.

An automatic traffic surveillance and control system provides information to the Turnpike Traffic Operations Center in New Brunswick from 965 imbedded sensors, as well as from closed-circuit TV cameras. Using this information, the system controls changeable message signs, lane use signs, hazard warning signs and speed limit signs. The system alerts motorists to congestion, accidents and adverse weather conditions ahead.

Including the automated signs, exit and ramp signs, regulatory signs and construction signs, the Turnpike Authority maintains more than 25,000 signs. The exit signs on the turnpike are unique among those found on American highways. Instead of using exit tabs, the top line of the typical New Jersey Turnpike exit sign has the exit number and distance, followed below on the sign by route designations and the destinations reached by the exit.

Nearly 2,000 vehicles maintain the 1,219 lane-miles and nearly 500 bridge structures of the New Jersey Turnpike, spread over nine maintenance districts. Maintenance crews use 30,000 gallons of paint, 25,000 tons of salt and 100,000 litterbags annually. More than 200 state police officers from Troop D are assigned exclusively to patrol the turnpike.

There are 12 service areas along the length of the turnpike, providing gasoline, food and tourism information to motorists. The service areas are named after individuals who made significant contributions to New Jersey: Clara Barton, John Fenwick, Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Stockton, Woodrow Wilson, Molly Pitcher, Joyce Kilmer, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, William F. Halsey, Alexander Hamilton and Vince Lombardi. When the Turnpike service area concessions were awarded in 1951, they were given to Cities Service (today's Citgo) and Howard Johnson's. Many of the original service areas are being reconstructed with new facilities.

In May 1998, the maximum speed limit was raised from 55 MPH to 65 MPH between EXIT 1 (I-295 / Delaware Memorial Bridge) and EXIT 13 (I-278 / Elizabeth-Goethals Bridge). The speed limit on the northernmost stretches of the turnpike remains at 55 MPH.

One year later, the New Jersey State Assembly considered legislation to change the name of the toll road to the "New Jersey Veterans Turnpike." The bill, which was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jack Collins, would have included $500,000 for the installation of new signs. Although the bill passed the State Assembly, it was not passed into law.

In July 2003, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority assumed control of the maintenance and operations of the 172.5-mile-long Garden State Parkway from the former New Jersey Highway Authority.

These 2000 photos show the southbound New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) at EXIT 10 (I-287 and NJ 440) in Metuchen (left photo) and EXIT 6 (I-276 / New Jersey Turnpike-Pennsylvania Extension) near Florence Township (right photo). (Photos by Jim K. Georges.)

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? During 2000, NJDOT activated the $45 million "MAGIC" intelligent transportation system along the New Jersey Turnpike and other North Jersey roadways. The "MAGIC" system, which stands for Metropolitan Area Guidance Information and Control, uses radar, pavement sensors, electronic message signs, fiber-optic cable and closed circuit cameras to alert drivers to traffic accidents or weather hazards, and to post the best alternate routes.

NEW TOLLS, NEW PROJECTS: On September 30, 2000, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority implemented one of the first variable toll systems in the nation at all of the turnpike's toll plazas. The new EZ-Pass system uses variable demand pricing so that motorists using the turnpike during non-peak hours may do so at reduced rates.

That year, the authority also floated more than $1.4 billion in debt for new construction projects. The projects are listed from south to north as follows:

  • In July 2004, the Turnpike Authority completed the new EXIT 1 toll plaza in Carneys Point Township. The new 23-lane toll plaza, which provides four high-speed EZ-Pass lanes (two in each direction), was built approximately 1.2 miles north of the old 15-lane toll plaza, which had not been altered since the turnpike opened in 1951. The plaza features a glass-enclosed overhead walkway for use by toll collectors, and a concrete lighthouse to serve as a "gateway" to the state as well as to the turnpike. First planned during the early 1990's, and begun in early 2001, the $44 million project included the construction of a temporary mainline detour, along with other incidental grading, drainage and pavement work to prepare the site for the new interchange.

  • The Turnpike Authority plans to widen the mainline turnpike from four to six lanes between EXIT 1 (Delaware Memorial Bridge) and EXIT 4 (NJ 73). Preliminary work done along this 34-mile-long stretch has comprised of clearing and rebuilding of bridges to accommodate a six-lane freeway, but the actual widening of the roadway likely will await completion of the widening between EXIT 6 and EXIT 9.

  • On July 1, 2009, the Turnpike Authority began to widen 32 miles of the turnpike from EXIT 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) north to EXIT 9 (NJ 18). The 3-3 section between EXIT 6 and EXIT 8A (NJ 32) and the 2-3-3-2 section between EXIT 8A and EXIT 9 will be expanded to a uniform 3-3-3-3 configuration, with cars in the inner roadways and all other vehicles in the outer roadways. All interchanges along this section will be rebuilt, the most notable of which will be the creation of a southern "mixing bowl" interchange at EXIT 6 (similar to the "mixing bowl" where the car-truck separation begins at EXIT 14) and a relocated EXIT 8 (NJ 33) just south of the existing interchange that would provide a controlled-access connection directly to NJ 133 (Hightstown Bypass). The $2.7 billion project is schedule for completion in 2014.

  • The Turnpike Authority also rebuilt EXIT 12 (Roosevelt Avenue) in Carteret. Designed to relieve truck traffic through the area, the $150 million reconstruction plan comprised of demolition of several oil tanks, new flyover ramps linking to Roosevelt Avenue, wider existing bridges, a new road from a nearby industrial area to the turnpike connector, and an expanded toll plaza. The project was completed in 2007.

  • In late 2005, the Turnpike Authority began work to lower the eastern spur of the turnpike for about one-quarter mile (from milepost 107.3 to milepost 107.5) in the area of the Pulaski Skyway. When completed, the lowered turnpike will have a minimum 15-foot vertical clearance and a 12-foot horizontal clearance on the shoulders underneath the Pulaski Skyway.

  • After nearly three years of construction, the Turnpike Authority opened the $250 million EXIT 15X on the Eastern Spur (just south of EXIT 16E) on December 1, 2005. The new interchange serves the new Secaucus Junction rail transfer station. The Turnpike Authority contributed an additional $84 million to develop the $450 million adjacent Allied Junction, which will have 3.5 million square feet of combined commercial and residential development, as well as up to 2,600 new parking spaces when the development is completed. The authority also contributed funds to disinter graves at the abandoned Potter's Field burial ground and a memorial marker at the site. Critics argue the new facility only promotes suburban sprawl, while proponents argue Secaucus Junction will help keep cars out of Manhattan. Upon full development, EXIT 15X is expected to handle 40,000 vehicles per day.

  • In January 2004, the New Jersey Turnpike authority opened new high-speed EZ-Pass lanes at EXIT 18W, at the northern terminus of the western spur. The high-speed EZ-Pass lanes allow motorists to go through the toll plaza at 45 MPH instead of the current 15 MPH. Additional high-speed lanes were installed at EXIT 18W and EXIT 18E, at the northern terminus of the eastern spur, and was completed by mid-2005. The total cost of installing the new lanes was $20 million.

  • The Turnpike Authority and Host Marriott (the firm charged with the turnpike franchise) is currently upgrading the existing service areas along the length of the turnpike to better accommodate trucks and buses, as well as to provide new services.

  • Finally, the Turnpike Authority will resurface roadways and ramps, rehabilitate bridge decks, and install sound barriers at various locations along the roadway.

The projects were covered by toll increases enacted in 2001, 2003, and 2008, with an additional hike scheduled for 2012.

GOING PRIVATE? Talk of privatizing the New Jersey Turnpike began in 2005 when Acting Governor Richard Codey proposed either selling or leasing rights to operate the state's three toll roads to private investors in order to fill in the state's $4 billion budget deficit. In 2006, State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) introduced legislation sell a 49 percent stake of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to investors. Lesniak estimated the $6 billion in proceeds would be used to prop up the state's underfunded pension system. Some analysts believe a full privatization of the Turnpike Authority would raise as much as $30 billion for the state. However, Governor Jon Corzine is opposed to privatization of the turnpike.

These 2000 photos show the northbound New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) near EXIT 13 (I-278) in Linden (left photo), and on the northbound western spur at EXIT 18W (US 46) in Ridgefield Park. (Photos by Jim K. Georges.)

"The actual turnpike is asphalt. But there is the metaphysical turnpike going on in your brain." - Hank Stuever, The Washington Post

THE TURNPIKE IN POPULAR CULTURE: In contemporary poetry and music, the New Jersey Turnpike was reflective of its times. In the 1950's, the Turnpike represented the efficiency and freedom brought by fast automobiles. These feelings were depicted in the Chuck Berry song "You Can't Catch Me," in which the singer decides to take his new Cadillac out for a ride on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the 1960's and 1970's, sentiment toward the turnpike turned negative, as the turnpike was represented as the spoiler of the environment and the cause of national malaise. This was best described in the line, "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, and they've all gone to look for America," written by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. By the 1980's, there was a coming to terms with the turnpike, as evidenced by songs written by Bruce Springsteen that have a nightmarish, survivalist vision of life in New Jersey.

Michael Kotler summarized this vision in the nyc.transit newsgroup as follows:

Haven't you ever driven the 14-lane New Jersey Turnpike in the area of EXIT 13, with railroad tracks on both sides of the highway, and its forest of power lines, oil refineries, and sky-high afterburners? That neighborhood is beyond "NIMBY" (not-in-my-backyard).

More from Jeffrey Page, writing in
The Bergen Record as follows:

The New Jersey Turnpike, at least the northern part, is an adventure. Its abstract expressionist shapes, strange lines and angles, concentration of various transport, kinetic energy and tumult, wildlife and history, the things you see from it, its concrete and iron and rubber, its noise and smells and speed, make it a thing of gritty beauty.

South of New Brunswick, it's just another highway in a countryside so self-righteously rural it might as well be in Oklahoma.

In recognition of the turnpike's contribution to the state's transportation history (not to mention popular culture), the American Society of Civil Engineers named the New Jersey Turnpike a "Historic Civil Engineering Landmark" in 2002. For more than 50 years, design and safety innovations developed on the New Jersey Turnpike have been implemented on highways around the nation and world.

This postcard from the mid-1960's show the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) looking north at the interchange for the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge. Note that the turnpike was only six lanes wide at this time (it was widened from four lanes in 1955). Until 1966, there were separate exits for the Garden State Parkway (old EXIT 10) and US 9 (old EXIT 11). The construction of I-287 / NJ 440 and the quad-carriageway widening project changed this setup. (Postcard supplied by Rush Wickes.)

THE TURNPIKE EXTENSION TO ROCKLAND COUNTY: Soon after the turnpike mainline was completed in 1952, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, in conjunction with the New York State Thruway Authority, proposed a 13-mile extension of the mainline north through Bergen County into Rockland County. At its northern terminus, the proposed extension was to connect to the New York State Thruway mainline (I-87 and I-287).

Construction of the extension was to provide a more direct bypass of the New York City area via the Tappan Zee Bridge to New England. The Bergen County section of the New Jersey Turnpike Extension was to be built by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, while the Rockland County section was to be constructed by the New York State Thruway Authority.

In 1960, the Rockland County Planning Department recommended that the proposed New Jersey Turnpike Extension follow an alignment parallel to NY 303 and the CSX (Conrail) River Line. To insure controlled access, interchanges were to be placed only at the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Orangeburg, and at the New York State Thruway in West Nyack. A new EXIT 12A was to be constructed on the thruway mainline for the New Jersey Turnpike extension.

The Tri-State Transportation Commission advocated the New Jersey Turnpike-Northern Extension in its 1966 report
Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan as follows:

This northern extension of the New Jersey Turnpike, which will connect I-95 and I-80 with I-287 and the Tappan Zee Bridge, fills a major gap in the regional highway grid. It will serve fast growing suburban communities in Bergen and Rockland counties, relieve congested local arterials, and provide a direct route for commercial traffic between the New Jersey Turnpike and the New York State Thruway.

By 1970, escalating right-of-way costs and community opposition forced the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the New York State Thruway Authority to abandon the northern extension.

THE WHOLE TURNPIKE SHOULD BE I-95: From time to time, the topic of I-95 through the Delaware Valley appears in the misc.transport.road newsgroup. The following paragraphs reflect my opinion on this subject (with due credit to and contributor Chris Blaney).

To eliminate confusion among motorists traveling on the East Coast, the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike from EXIT 1 to EXIT 18, including the I-295 approaches to the turnpike in Delaware and New Jersey, should be signed as I-95. South of EXIT 6, "local" and "express" branches of I-95 would be created. The new "local" and "express" designations should be assigned as follows:

  • The "local" branch of I-95 would go over the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge (I-276) to Levittown, Pennsylvania, where a new direct interchange between I-95 and I-276 is being planned. The "local I-95" would continue south along its present route (Delaware Expressway) through Pennsylvania, and along the existing I-495 through Delaware. It would rejoin the "express" I-95 in Newport, Delaware.

  • The "express" branch of I-95 would continue south of EXIT 6 along the remainder of the New Jersey Turnpike, go over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and rejoin the "local" I-95 in Newport, Delaware.

However, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) raised the following objections to placing I-95 markers on the southern 51 miles of the New Jersey Turnpike:

The most serious Federal problem is that the southern part of the New Jersey Turnpike is not presently on the Interstate System and must not carry an Interstate number. The state of New Jersey would have to be sure that all features are up to current standards, agree to operating requirements for Interstates, and submit a request to the FHWA that it be designated an Interstate. The state has not been persuaded so far that it would be worth it.

As to changing route numbers, the FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) insist that all the states involved (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) submit requests for an agreed-upon pattern of numbers. This is quite difficult for the states as there are always costs and motorist confusion to contend with. In addition, communities and businesses often defend "ownership" interests in retaining the present numbers. For the most part, the main route numbers go through cities, rather than around them.

FURTHER EXPANSION: The ten-lane, dual-dual arrangement in northern New Jersey should be extended south to EXIT 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike). Bridges built for the Hightstown Bypass (NJ 133) over the New Jersey Turnpike near EXIT 8 in East Windsor Township hint that such an expansion may take place in the near future.

In addition, the turnpike should be widened to six lanes from the southern terminus north to EXIT 4 (NJ 73) in Mount Laurel Township.

CHANGES FOR INTERCHANGES: The following new and relocated interchanges should be constructed along the New Jersey Turnpike:

  • EXIT 2A (Bellmawr): Since the New Jersey Turnpike opened, there has been no direct connection to expressways serving the Delaware Valley. To rectify this problem, a new interchange, EXIT 2A, should be built to connect to I-76, NJ 42 Freeway, NJ 55 Freeway  and the Atlantic City Expressway. The new interchange, which would be about one mile south of the current EXIT 3 in Bellmawr, would provide direct access to Philadelphia via the Walt Whitman Bridge. It would also provide improved access to destinations in South Jersey.

  • EXIT 4A (Moorestown): The existing NJ 90 Freeway (which should be re-designated I-695) should be extended east to a new EXIT 4A in Moorestown, providing direct access to Philadelphia via the Betsy Ross Bridge.

SOURCES: "High Road from the Hudson to the Delaware" by Paul J. C. Friedlander, The New York Times (11/25/1951); "Built for Safety" by Armand Schwab, Jr., The New York Times (11/25/1951); "Report of a Drive Down the New Highway," The New York Times (11/25/1951); "Big Job in a Hurry" by Paul Heffernan, The New York Times (11/25/1951); "A Full Length Portrait of New Jersey" by John B. Ehrhradt, The New York Times (11/25/1951); "They Build Cars Faster Than Roads" by Armand Schwab, Jr., The New York Times (11/25/1951); "From Maine to Chicago Without a Traffic Light," The New York Times (11/25/1951); "City Linked to Superhighway" by Armand Schwab, Jr., The New York Times (1/20/1952); "Bypass in Bayonne" by Joseph C. Ingraham, The New York Times (9/09/1956); "Interesting Facts About the New Jersey Turnpike," New Jersey Turnpike Authority (1956); "Rockland County Transportation Study and Highway Plan," Rockland County Planning Department (1960); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Opening Interstate Route 95: Ridgefield Park and Teaneck, Bergen County," New Jersey Department of Transportation (1971); "Turnpike Widening: Final Environmental Impact Statement," New Jersey Turnpike Authority (1987); "Turnpike To Expand Interchange 7" by Robert J. Salgado, The New York Times (7/03/1988); Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike by Angus Kress Gillespie and Michael Aaron Rockland, Rutgers University Press (1989); "Sights, Sounds of a Turnpike Always in Motion" by Jeffrey Page, The Bergen Record (6/20/1999); "Renaming the Turnpike" by Sandra Earley, News 12-New Jersey (7/09/1999); "Plan for Two Increases Over Four Years Includes Big EZ-Pass Discounts" by P.L. Wyckoff, The Star-Ledger (11/19/1999); "Welcome to the New Jersey Turnpike," New Jersey Turnpike Authority (1999); "Turnpike Bonds Sold," The Trenton Times (4/07/2000); "Humanizing the Highway: The New Jersey Historical Society's New Jersey Turnpike Project" by Ellen M. Snyder-Grenier, National Trust for Historic Preservation (4/08/2000); "DOT's Electronic Signs Finally Get Their Smarts" by Pat R. Gilbert, The Bergen Record (6/22/2000); "EZ-Pass To Hit the Turnpike," WCBS-TV (9/11/2000); "New Jersey Turnpike: Image Help Ahead" by Bob Levey, The Washington Post (5/18/2001); "Turnpike Giving Builder $84 Million To Boost Secaucus Rail Project" by Pat R. Gilbert, The Bergen Record (7/12/2001); "What Exit?" by Hank Stuever, The Washington Post (8/05/2001); "Down Memory Lane" by Peter Genovese, The Star-Ledger (11/02/2001); "Turnpike Plans Would Cut Truck Traffic Clogging Carteret" by Paul Nelson, The Home News-Tribune (12/06/2001); "Much Faster EZ-Pass Lanes Are Planned at Seven Toll Plazas" by Ronald Smothers, The New York Times (10/31/2002); "Turnpike Exit Is One for the 'X' Files" by Pat R. Gilbert, The Bergen Record (5/06/2003); "Codey Wants 20 Miles of Pike Widened" by Joe Malinconico, The Star-Ledger (12/01/2004); "N.J. Looking into Selling Toll Roads To Get Cash" by Jennifer Moroz, The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/25/2005); "New NJ Turnpike Interchange Criticized," WINS-AM (11/28/2005); "Enter Exit 15X" by Shannon D. Harrington, The Bergen Record (11/30/2005); "Route 92 Plan Loses Funding" by Jonathan Tamari, The Asbury Park Press (11/30/2005); "Corzine: Turnpike Won't Go Private" by Kaitlin Gurney, Jennifer Moroz, and Elisa Ung, The Philadelphia Inquirer (2/22/2006); "In Toll-Road Talk, Visions of Easy Cash" by Jennifer Moroz, The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/05/2006); "Route 92 Project Canceled To Focus on Turnpike Widening," The Associated Press (12/01/2006); "$2.7 Billion NJ Turnpike Widening Project Begins" by David Giambusso, The Star-Ledger (7/02/2009); American Society of Civil Engineers; Federal Highway Administration; North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority; Chris Blaney; Phil Case; Frank Curcio; Greg Davidson; Hank Eisenstein; David Jackino; Jeff Kitsko; Michael G. Koerner; Michael Kotler; Mario Laurenti; Larry Lucchetti; Raymond C. Martin; Christopher G. Mason; Dan Moraseski; Mike Natale; Ira Smilovitz; Jeff Taylor; William F. Yurasko.

  • I-95 and I-80 shields by Ralph Herman.
  • New Jersey Turnpike shield by New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.
  • HOV sign by C.C. Slater.





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