This 2002 photo shows the southbound I-295 at the US 13-US 40 interchange in New Castle. Beyond this interchange lies the massive interchange with I-95 and I-495, as indicated by the advance signing. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

CONNECTING DELAWARE TO THE BRIDGE: The construction of the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike prompted Delaware officials to construct new highways to connect the bridge to points within Delaware and further south. In response, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) added the bridge and its Delaware approach - which eventually became Interstate 295 - to its proposed national network of high-speed roads.

When the first Delaware Memorial Bridge was completed in 1951, the first two miles of Interstate 295 - then designated solely as US 40 - opened to traffic. The new US 40 bridge approach connected to US 13 (DuPont Highway) - historic in its own right as one of the first four-lane divided highways in the nation - at a triangular interchange.

By the end of the 1950's, the approach and its proposed extension to the Delaware Turnpike received the I-295 designation, making it eligible for 90 percent Federal financing. Soon thereafter, work began on constructing the I-295 extension to the Delaware Turnpike (I-95). New roadways and ramps were added to the triangular interchange at US 13.

Upon the completion of the Delaware Turnpike in 1963, the I-295 extension between US 13 and the turnpike opened to traffic. With the completion of the highways, a non-stop route had been furnished between New York and Washington for the first time. Once the extension was completed, the I-295 designation appeared along the entire 3.5-mile-length of the route, while the US 40 (multiplexed) designation remained along the original two-mile-long approach.

The construction of I-295 was not without its cost to a surrounding residential community in New Castle. To appease residents, and to compensate for severing the community, highway officials added entrance and exit ramps along the northbound I-295 at Landers Lane, just past the US 13 interchange.

In 1968, the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) expanded I-295 from four to eight lanes from US 13 north (east) to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This project was undertaken in conjunction with the construction of the second Delaware Memorial Bridge span. A decade later, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) constructed ramps from I-295 to the new I-495 (Wilmington Bypass).

This 1969 photo shows the southbound I-295 at the US 13-US 40 interchange, the same location as the 2002 photo above. Note the lack of I-495 shields, as I-495 was not built yet. Also note the lack of highway lights. (Photo by Michael Summa from interstate-guide.com.)

REBUILDING I-295: Since it was completed in 1963, I-295 has played an important role in serving the traffic needs of the Boston-to-Washington megalopolis. According to the DRBA, I-295 handles approximately 90,000 vehicles per day. Years of heavy use have taken their toll on the original concrete pavement.

In 1998, the DRBA and DelDOT began a five-year project to rebuild I-295 through northern Delaware. The two-phase project proceeded as follows:

  • The first phase of the project, which began in July 2000, involved repaving the I-295 mainline and repairing bridges from US 13 to the bridge, and upgrading the DE 9 (New Castle Avenue) interchange. Along the mainline, construction crews repaired the highway's concrete joints and applied a fresh 6-inch coat of asphalt. In some locations, the existing four-foot-wide shoulders were replaced with Interstate-standard, 12-foot-wide shoulders. The $60 million "phase one" was completed in December 2001.

  • In May 2002, the DRBA began work to reconstruct the interchange with US 13 (DuPont Highway) in New Castle. During the project, construction crews realigned the southbound I-295 ramps to US 13 northbound and southbound, rebuilt the ramp from I-295 northbound to US 13 northbound, removed the flyover ramp from US 13 southbound to I-295 northbound, and widened the existing ramp from US 13 northbound to I-295 northbound to accommodate traffic from US 13 southbound (via a new left-turn lane from US 13). The work included building a new third lane for northbound I-295 traffic through the interchange, rehabilitating the I-295 mainline bridges over US 13, and building new U-turns on US 13 in front of Delaware State Hospital. The $42 million "phase two" was completed in September 2003.

The rebuilt I-295 has a new highway lighting system that replaces 640 traditional highway lightposts with 55 high-mast lightposts, each 100 to 120 feet tall. According to the DRBA, the new lights are intended to improve visibility for motorists while reducing maintenance costs.

Both DelDOT and the DRBA plan to widen I-295 in order to provide six through lanes (three in each direction) from the US 13 interchange south to I-95 (Delaware Turnpike), as well as to reduce weaving between lanes. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the $12 million project is intended to relieve peak-period traffic between I-95 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

This 2000 photo shows the northbound I-295 at the DE 9 (New Castle Avenue) interchange in New Castle. This section of I-295 just before the Delaware Memorial Bridge is multiplexed with US 40. The traditional lightposts shown in this photo were replaced with high-mast lightposts in 2003. (Photo by Alex Nitzman.)

To eliminate confusion among motorists traveling on the East Coast, the current I-295 through northern Delaware, the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and the length of the New Jersey Turnpike north to EXIT 6, should be re-designated I-95. 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 Wilmington and Philadelphia along the existing I-495 through Delaware, and through the existing I-95 alignment (Delaware Expressway) in Pennsylvania. 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: "Delaware Seeks To Extend Tolls," The New York Times (10/04/1955); "New York-Washington Road Now Nonstop" by Ben A. Franklin, The New York Times (11/14/1963); "Kennedy, on Mason-Dixon Line, Opens Part of North-South Road" by Marjorie Hunter, The New York Times (11/15/1963); "Overhaul of I-295 Gets Rolling" by Prashant Gopal, The Wilmington News-Journal (7/18/2000); "I-295 Interchange To Be Fixed" by Sean O'Sullivan, The Wilmington News-Journal (6/26/2003); "Draft FY 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program," Delaware Department of Transportation (2006); Delaware River and Bay Authority; Chris Blaney; Alex Nitzman; William F. Yurasko.

  • I-295 and I-95 shields by Ralph Herman.
  • US 40 shield by Scott Colbert.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.

INTERSTATE 295 LINKS:

INTERSTATE 295 CURRENT CONDITIONS:

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  • Interstate 295 (Delaware)

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