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This 2000 photo shows the Philadelphia approach to the eastbound Betsy Ross Bridge. Approach signs designate the bridge as NJ 90; there is no corresponding PA 90 designation on the Philadelphia side of the span. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

Type of bridge:
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Length of main span:
Length of each side span:
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Total length of bridge and approaches:
Width of bridge:
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Highest point of structure above mean high water:
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Steel truss
June 12, 1969
April 30, 1976
729 feet (222.2 meters)
364 feet, 6 inches (111.1 meters)
1,458 feet (444.4 meters)
8,485 feet (2,586.2 meters)
105 feet (32.0 meters)
90 feet (27.4 meters)
6 lanes
215 feet (65.5 meters)
135 feet (41.1 meters)
29,326 tons (26,604 metric tons)
Piles
$103,000,000

Passenger car cash toll (westbound only):
Passenger car EZ-Pass toll (westbound only):

$5.00
$5.00
(Commuter discounts available for New Jersey motorists)

A NEW EXPRESSWAY BRIDGE OVER THE DELAWARE: As early as 1955, officials called for the replacement of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, a low-level movable bridge and arch span, with a new high-level bridge. The old span was built in the late 1920s, before industry began to expand along the Delaware River north of Philadelphia, and according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, impeded navigation. Two years later, the Philadelphia Urban Traffic and Transportation Board, a predecessor agency to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), incorporated the proposed high-level bridge to New Jersey into its plan for a "five-mile-loop" expressway around Center City Philadelphia.

With an eye toward eventually replacing the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge (which was owned by the Burlington County Bridge Commission), the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) expressed interest in building a bridge from the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia to Pennsauken, New Jersey. In conjunction with an expanded expressway network, the proposed "Delair Bridge" would also relieve traffic from the DRPA-owned Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Following two years of study, the DRPA announced plans for the Delair Bridge, as well as for what would become the Commodore Barry Bridge, in 1963.

With an eye toward eventually replacing the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge (which was owned by the Burlington County Bridge Commission), the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) expressed interest in building a bridge from the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia to Pennsauken, New Jersey. In conjunction with an expanded expressway network, the proposed "Delair Bridge" would also relieve traffic from the DRPA-owned Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Following two years of study, the DRPA announced plans for the Delair Bridge, as well as for what would become the Commodore Barry Bridge, in 1963.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: Construction of the Delair Bridge began in mid-1969. The steel through-truss bridge features a main span measuring 729 feet long, flanked by two 364-foot-long side spans. To allow vessels from nearby ship terminals to pass underneath, the bridge was constructed with a mid-span clearance of 135 feet. Flanking the through-truss spans are 10 smaller deck truss spans (five on each side of the through-truss spans), and a total of 41 deck-girder spans. Including approaches, the bridge measures approximately 1.6 miles long.

Designed for the regional expressway network, the Betsy Ross Bridge originally featured an eight-lane roadway without median separation, allowing for flexibility in opening lanes during peak periods.

This 2001 photo shows the Betsy Ross Bridge (NJ 90) from an industrial area in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

OPENING DELAYED FOR TWO YEARS: Construction of the Delair Bridge, which was renamed the Betsy Ross Bridge in 1973, making it the first major bridge in the U.S. to be named after a woman, actually was completed in 1974. However, the ramps between the bridge and the Delaware Expressway (I-95) had not yet been completed, and Bridesburg residents protested that the direct ramps from the bridge to Richmond Street - the only ramps completed on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge - would disrupt the area. These residents succeeded in getting the DRPA to close off the ramps until the I-95 interchange was completed.

The new ramps connect Delaware Expressway (I-95) with a newly revitalized commercial area along Aramingo Avenue, which parallels I-95 through the area. After a decade of traffic and environmental studies, work began on the new ramps in 1997. The I-95 / Aramingo Avenue interchange, which was built and paid for by PennDOT, was completed in December 1999.

The project extended the "ramps-to-nowhere" at EXIT 26, which were originally intended for the Pulaski Expressway (PA 90), to Aramingo Avenue. PennDOT plans to extend the ramps to Torresdale Avenue via a connection to Adams Avenue, with construction scheduled to begin after 2005. Currently, the I-95 / Betsy Ross Bridge Connector ends at an at-grade stub-end just past the Aramingo Avenue ramps. (However, the mainline of the Betsy Ross Bridge approach, which was planned to continue straight over I-95, does not connect directly to Aramingo Avenue. The mainline approach ends in an elevated stub-end about 100 yards before it reaches I-95.)

Finally, on April 30, 1976, the DRPA opened the $103 million Betsy Ross Bridge to traffic. New ramps connected the span with I-95 opened at the western approach, and with US 130 at the eastern approach. For its two-year opening delay, the bridge even received the 1976 award from the Philadelphia-based "Procrastinators' Club of America."

IMPROVEMENTS OVER THE YEARS: In October 1992, one-way toll collection began on the westbound lanes, leaving the eastbound direction toll-free. On December 18, 1999, the Betsy Ross Bridge joined the EZ-Pass regional toll collection network.

To improve safety, the DRPA installed a permanent concrete barrier along the roadway median in the fall of 2000. As part of the improvement project, the DRPA changed the existing roadway configuration from eight lanes (four in each direction) without shoulders, to six lanes (three in each direction) with shoulders on the outside.

In 2009, the DRPA announced plans to install two westbound high-speed EZ-Pass lanes by the end of 2010. The express lanes would have been the first to be installed on a DRPA crossing and enabled motorists to travel through the toll plaza at 45 MPH. However, the express EZ-Pass lanes have yet to be installed.

This 2008 photo shows the Betsy Ross Bridge (NJ 90) from the Pennsauken, NJ shoreline. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

SEEKING A BETTER WAY TO THE BETSY ROSS BRIDGE: For nearly a half-century, Bridesburg residents lived at an uneasy peace with the Betsy Ross Bridge. Although they were successful in stopping the direct ramps to the bridge--at least temporarily--as well as the construction of the Pulaski Expressway, trucks continuing to rumble through their neighborhood. To address this problem, the DRPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Philadelphia City Council reached agreement on a solution that would take trucks away from residential streets.

The new ramps connected Delaware Expressway (I-95) with a newly revitalized commercial area along Aramingo Avenue, which parallels I-95 through the area. After a decade of traffic and environmental studies, work began on the new ramps in 1997. The I-95 / Aramingo Avenue interchange, which was built and paid for by PennDOT, was completed in 1999. The project extended the "ramps-to-nowhere" at EXIT 26, which originally were intended for the Pulaski Expressway (PA 90), to Aramingo Avenue.

Even after this project ended, officials still tried to extend the Betsy Ross Bridge approach past the elevated stub, which had been in place about 100 yards east of I-95 since the 1970s. In 2003, the DRPA conducted a traffic study of the area, estimating that a direct connection between the Betsy Ross Bridge and Arimingo Avenue would attract about 20,000 vehicles per day, while a proposed extension along an expanded Adams Avenue north to Torresdale Avenue would attract about 10,000 vehicles per day.

In 2015, PennDOT announced a $160 million project to improve access between the Betsy Ross Bridge, I-95, Aramingo Avenue, and Torresdale Avenue. The project entails the following improvements:

  • Extending the Betsy Ross Bridge main approach roadway over I-95 west to the existing connection for Aramingo Avenue.

  • Widening the bridge on the ramp from northbound I-95 to Aramingo Avenue.

  • Widening and replacing the bridge deck on the ramp from Aramingo Avenue to southbound I-95.

  • Relocating and replacing the ramp from southbound I-95 to the Betsy Ross Bridge.

  • Rehabilitating the bridge on the ramp from southbound I-95 to Aramingo Avenue.

  • Building a new connection from Aramingo Avenue to Torresdale Avenue over a rehabilitated and expanded Adams Street.

  • Building new ramps connecting Adams Street with the Betsy Ross Bridge and I-95. (Traffic from the westbound Betsy Ross Bridge and I-95 would have to use Aramingo Avenue to connect to Adams Street and Torresdale Avenue.)

  • Removing the abandoned Thompson Street bridge over Frankford Creek.

  • Relocating gas and sewer mains.

Map of planned improvement between the Betsy Ross Bridge (NJ 90) and the Delaware Expressway (I-95) by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Construction on the project, which is part of the much larger "95 Revive" project, began in March 2015, and is scheduled for completion in late 2020. Nearby work along I-95, which includes widening the main roadway to four lanes (from three) in each direction and rebuilding ramps, is expected to continue through 2023.

According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the Betsy Ross Bridge carries approximately 45,000 vehicles (AADT) across the Delaware River each day. Traffic counts have been suppressed by the canceled extensions of the NJ 90 Freeway to the east (which was to have connected the bridge to I-295 and the New Jersey Turnpike), and of the Pulaski Expressway to the west (which was to have connected the bridge to US 1 / Roosevelt Boulevard).

These 2000 photos show the westbound approach (left photo) and the main truss span (right photo) of the Betsy Ross Bridge. Since these photos were taken, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) added a concrete median barrier. (Photos by Jim K. Georges.)

SOURCES: "Tacony Span 'Obsolete,' New Bridge Is Asked," The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/11/1955); "Loop Highways To Cut Tie-Ups Urged for Area" by James P. McFadden, The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/22/1957);"New Delair Bridge Site OK'd by Three Camden Lawmakers," The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/05/1964); "Ground Broken at Bridesburg for High Bridge" by Merrie Spaeth, The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/01/1969); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program," Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate (1970); "Will Bridge Be All Trussed Up but Have No Place To Go?" by Robert Fensterer, The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/18/1971); "Ross, Barry Bridges Proposed," Philadelphia Daily News (1/16/1973); "Betsy Ross Bridge To Open in 1976," Keystone Motorist-Keystone Automobile Club (February 1976); "Delaware Bridge Opens May 1," The New York Times (3/20/1976); "Byrne Is Heckled at Opening of Bridge" by Donald Janson, The New York Times (5/01/1976); "In Search of a Better Way On and Off the Betsy Ross," The Philadelphia Inquirer (6/18/1983); "Neighborhoods Hope Ramps Lead to Peace" by Maria Panaritis, The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/30/1998); "Betsy Ross Bridge Lanes To Close for Several Months," The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/03/2000); "On Betsy Ross, EZ-Pass To Get Even Easier" by Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/19/2009); "Don't Be Steered Wrong: Ramps from Betsy Ross Bridge to Aramingo Avenue Not Yet Open" by Mike DeNardo, KYW-AM (12/05/2017); Delaware River Port Authority; New Jersey Department of Transportation; Scott Kozel; Raymond C. Martin; Scott Oglesby; Len Pundt; Sandy Smith; Rush Wickes.

  • NJ 90 shield by Ralph Herman.
  • Betsy Ross Bridge shield by Delaware River Port Authority.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.

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