This 2001 photo shows the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge (I-276) from the Pennsylvania shoreline. The steel arch span will be joined by a twin span during the next decade. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CONNECTING THE PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY TURNPIKES: In 1952, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission began construction of the 32-mile-long, four-lane Delaware River Extension (I-276) east from the existing terminus at Valley Forge. Two years later, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority began work on the 5.7-mile-long, six-lane Pennsylvania Extension west from EXIT 6 of the mainline New Jersey Turnpike in Burlington County.
The Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge, which opened to traffic on May 25, 1956 after more than two years of construction (and a failed attempt spearheaded by the local chapter of AAA to rename it the "William Penn Bridge"), was designed to bring together the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpike extensions, creating a nonstop, controlled-access bypass of the Philadelphia area. The $14 million steel-arch span, which was part of the $98 million comprehensive bypass project, features a 682-foot-long main span that is flanked by 341-foot-long side spans. From abutment to abutment, the bridge measures 6,571 feet.
Originally, the bridge had six 12-foot-wide lanes that were not separated by a median divider. Like the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) bridges to the south, the roadway on the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge was designed to make possible greater flexibility in handling peak traffic flows.
Beginning in May 1998, and continuing through August 2000, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission oversaw a three-stage, $17 million project to re-deck the Pennsylvania half of the bridge and construct a new concrete ("Jersey") median barrier. During the two-year project, the capacity on the entire length of the bridge was reduced from six lanes to four lanes, but emergency shoulders were added in each direction. New toll lanes were also added to accommodate EZ-Pass at the Pennsylvania approach. In 2001, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority began to re-deck its half of the bridge.
This 2002 photo shows the eastbound Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge approaching mid-span. The bridge was re-striped from six traffic lanes to four lanes to provide room for emergency shoulders. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
IS IT I-276? OR IS IT I-95? According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the New Jersey Turnpike-Pennsylvania Extension is not designated I-276, but rather part of the unsigned I-95. The I-276 signs on the New Jersey side of the bridge are simply used to direct motorists to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. (However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission considers I-276 to extend east to the bridge.)
Once the direct interchange between I-95 (Delaware Expressway) and I-276 (Pennsylvania Turnpike-Delaware River Extension) - the new EXIT 355 - is completed around 2009, the I-95 designation will be prominently posted on the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike-Pennsylvania Extension. The existing I-95 between Levittown and Trenton will be re-designated I-295.
PLANNING A PARALLEL TURNPIKE SPAN: According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day (AADT) across the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The widening of the I-276 approach (from four lanes to six lanes) in Pennsylvania, along with expected traffic increases that will come with the completion of the I-95 / I-276 interchange, have prompted officials to propose a parallel span.
In the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the interchange project released in April 2001, engineers held that the existing span could not be widened to accommodate both increased traffic flows and contemporary design standards.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority considered two adjacent bridge alternatives ("bridge north" and "bridge south"). The alternatives, which are expected to copy the steel-arch design of the older span, as follows:
BRIDGE NORTH: This alternative, which would be constructed just to the north of the existing span, is expected to cost $208 million. It would require the relocation of seven homes, two businesses and one industrial property; and would require the acquisition of 0.36 acre of wetlands and 0.06 acre of section 4(f) parklands.
BRIDGE SOUTH: This alternative, which would be constructed just to the north of the existing span, is expected to cost $223 million. It would require the relocation of two homes, two businesses and one industrial property; and would require the acquisition of 0.06 acre of wetlands and 0.08 acre of section 4(f) parklands.
PennDOT, the PTC and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority selected the "south parallel" route as the preferred alternative in 2001. On January 6, 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the final approval for the project.
Construction of the parallel span, which is being designed as part of the $625 million I-95 / I-276 direct interchange project, is expected to begin after the new interchange is completed in 2014. When the adjacent span is completed in 2017, the two spans will carry three lanes of westbound traffic, and three lanes of eastbound traffic. Emergency shoulders will also be provided in each direction on the twin spans.
Of the two alternatives proposed for the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge, the participating agencies have selected the "bridge south" alternative. The new bridge is slated for completion by 2017, more than 60 years after the completion of the original bridge. Note that the bridge and its approaches will be re-designated I-95. (Map by Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.)
Type of bridge: Construction started: Opened to traffic: Length of main span: Length of each side span: Total length of bridge: Width of bridge: Number of traffic lanes: Width of roadway (including shoulders): Channel clearance of bridge at mid-span: Height of arch above water at top: Clearance at center above mean high water: Structural steel used in bridge and approaches: Cost of original structure:
When the new I-95 / I-276 interchange is completed in 2009, the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge will be prominently signed as I-95. To eliminate confusion among motorists traveling on the East Coast, the following new "local" and "express" designations for I-95 should be assigned as follows:
Beginning in New Castle, Delaware, the "express" I-95 would comprise of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the current I-295 approaches, and the length of the New Jersey Turnpike north to EXIT 6.
A companion route, "local" I-95, would serve Delaware via the existing I-495 alignment, and Pennsylvania through the existing I-95 alignment (Delaware Expressway). It would then cross the Delaware River-Turnpike Toll Bridge (I-276) and rejoin the "express" I-95 at EXIT 6 of the New Jersey Turnpike.
(Thanks to phillyroads.com and misc.transport.road contributor Chris Blaney for the recommendation.)
SOURCES: "Bridge Will Link Turnpikes Today," The New York Times (5/25/1956); "Delaware Link" by William Weart, The New York Times (5/25/1956); Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike by Angus Kress Gillespie and Michael Aaron Rockland, Rutgers University Press (1989); "Pennsylvania Turnpike / I-95 Interchange Project," KCI Technologies (October 1999); "Welcome to the New Jersey Turnpike," New Jersey Turnpike Authority (1999); "Pennsylvania Turnpike / Interstate 95 Interchange Project: Draft Environmental Impact and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (2001); "$640 Million Plan Linking I-95 with PA Turnpike OK'd" by Jere Downs, The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/07/2004); "Pennsylvania Turnpike / Interstate 95 Interchange Project," Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (2008); Chris Blaney; Frank Curcio; Raymond C. Martin; Dan Moraseski; Mike Natale; Len Pundt; William F. Yurasko.
I-276 and I-95 shields by Ralph Herman. New Jersey Turnpike shield by New Jersey Turnpike Authority. Pennsylvania Turnpike shield by James Lin. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.