This 2002 photo shows the northbound I-295 at EXIT 2 (US 40 and US 130) in Carney's Point Township. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
Stretching nearly 70 miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the Trenton area, the north-south Interstate 295 complements the parallel New Jersey Turnpike. While the New Jersey Turnpike serves long-distance Interstate traffic bypassing the Philadelphia-Camden metropolitan area, I-295 serves the local traffic needs of Salem, Gloucester, Camden, Burlington and Mercer counties.
THE US 130 ARTERIAL HIGHWAY: In the late 1940's, state officials approved a four-lane, controlled-access replacement for existing US 130. Designed to connect the Trenton and Camden areas with the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which was under construction at the time, the new expressway - shown in some reports as the "Camden Freeway" - was to be financed 50-50 between the Federal and state governments. Existing two-lane sections of US 130 reverted to a new designation, NJ 44.
The first section of the new highway - then signed only as US 130 - opened in Gloucester County in 1948. A second section of the new US 130 opened in 1954. While these sections featured grade separation, they were not constructed to contemporary Interstate standards. Fiscal pressures at the state level - Trenton paid half the cost of the new highway - delayed further progress.
During this time, the state also had plans for a beltway around Trenton's northern and eastern suburbs. The NJ 39 beltway (as it was to be designated) was to run in a semi-circular path through Trenton's northern and eastern suburbs, though it was to be built closer to Trenton than the current I-95 / I-295 route. Plans for the beltway were shelved eventually in favor of the current Interstate highway routing.
NORTH-SOUTH INTERSTATE TO SERVE SOUTH JERSEY: In 1956, a new controlled-access expressway - "FAI Corridor 108" - was proposed along the US 130 corridor along the eastern bank of the Delaware River. The "FAI Corridor 108," which received the I-295 designation in 1958, was eligible for 90 percent Federal financing, with the rest to be paid by the state. Public hearings took place along the route throughout the late 1950's.
At its southern terminus, I-295 was to join with the New Jersey Turnpike, US 40 and the northern approach of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, over which I-295 continues southwest into Delaware. Along the way, I-295 intersects with major highways such as US 322, I-76, NJ 42, US 30, NJ 70 and NJ 73, connecting New Jersey with Pennsylvania. Approaching Trenton, I-295 intersects with I-195 and NJ 29 before terminating at US 1. At one time, I-295 was proposed to have an interchange with the unbuilt I-95 (Somerset Freeway) in Hopewell Township.
In its 1967 report, New Jersey Highway Facts, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) stated the purpose of I-295 as follows:
Interstate 295 will serve the New Jersey side of the Delaware River as its parent highway, Interstate 95, serves the Pennsylvania side. From Delaware, I-295 crosses the Delaware Memorial Bridge into Salem County, and follows a course west of the New Jersey Turnpike through the Philadelphia-Camden metropolitan area. It then curve around Trenton and rejoins I-95 in Hopewell Township, Mercer County.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and the Tri-State Transportation Commission also supported the completion of I-295.
The cost of constructing I-295, which was estimated at $131 million in 1963, had jumped to $193 million by 1969. When I-295 was completed one quarter-century later, the expressway cost $500 million to build.
This 2001 photo shows the northbound I-295 at EXIT 14 (Gloucester CR 644) in Logan Township. (Photo by Andy Field and Alex Nitzman.)
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: The sections of I-295 constructed after it became eligible for Interstate highway funding reflect the stringent standards required for such roads: 12-foot-wide lanes, 12-foot-wide shoulders, 1200-foot-long acceleration and deceleration lanes, and a design capacity ranging from 40,000 vehicles per day (AADT) on four-lane sections to 75,000 vehicles per day on six-lane sections. While the expressway has variable medians, a 36-foot-wide grassed median is most common. However, on the older pre-Interstate sections of I-295, median widths range from a 16-foot-wide grassed mall to a single three-foot-high concrete ("Jersey") barrier separating the two carriageways.
With the reconstruction of I-295 from Logan Township north to West Deptford Township, nearly the entire length of the freeway conforms to contemporary Interstate standards. From Logan Township north to Trenton, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the NJDOT classify the six-lane I-295 as an "urban Interstate." South of Logan Township, the four-lane I-295 is classified as a "rural Interstate."
ROADWAY LAYOUTS AND TRAFFIC COUNTS: The different sections of I-295 are described as follows:
Delaware Memorial Bridge approach to EXIT 2 (US 40 / US 130/ NJ 140) in Carney's Point Township: Originally built as "FAI Corridor 108," this four-to-six lane section was completed in stages between 1953 and 1957. In the area of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the multiplexed I-295 / US 40 carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day (AADT). During the late 1990's, the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) spent $9 million to repave and re-sign this New Jersey approach to the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
EXIT 2 to EXIT 14 (Gloucester CR 684 and NJ 44) in Logan Township: This four-lane section, which was completed in 1968, carries approximately 35,000 vehicles per day.
EXIT 14 to EXIT 21 (Gloucester CR 534) in West Deptford Township: Originally completed in 1954 as part of a four-lane, access-controlled US 130 Freeway, this section was reconstructed to contemporary Interstate standards and widened to six lanes between 1987 and 1993 (two new lanes were constructed in the grassy median). In 1998, the NJDOT completed an $18 million project to reconstruct bridges and build new exit ramps at EXIT 14 and EXIT 17 (Gloucester CR 680). This section carries approximately 45,000 vehicles per day.
EXIT 21 to EXIT 24 (NJ 45 and Gloucester CR 551) in West Deptford Township: Originally completed in 1948 as a four-lane section US 130 offering only partial control of access (it had substandard ramps and entrances for local businesses), this section was reconstructed as a six-lane, fully-controlled access freeway between 1987 and 1993. A service road along this section provides access to driveways that was severed during reconstruction. This section carries approximately 55,000 vehicles per day.
EXIT 24 to EXIT 29 (US 30) in Haddon Heights: This section was completed in stages between 1958 and 1961, and includes a high-volume junction at EXIT 26 (I-76 and NJ 42 Freeway). Originally built with four lanes, this section was widened to six lanes in 1971 by adding two lanes in the median. The section now carries approximately 65,000 vehicles per day south of the EXIT 26, and approximately 105,000 vehicles per day north of EXIT 26.
EXIT 29 to EXIT 40 (NJ 38) in Mount Laurel Township: This six-lane section, which was completed in stages between 1963 and 1966, carries approximately 115,000 vehicles per day south of EXIT 36 (NJ 73), and approximately 80,000 vehicles per day north of EXIT 36.
EXIT 40 to EXIT 57 (US 130) in Bordentown: This section, which is mostly six lanes wide (except for a short eight-lane length over Rancocas Creek), was completed in stages between 1972 and 1974. Just north of EXIT 47 in Mount Holly, there is a wide, wooded median that may have accommodated a future interchange with the unbuilt I-895. This section carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day south of EXIT 47 (Burlington CR 541), and approximately 35,000 vehicles per day north of EXIT 47.
EXIT 57 to EXIT 60 (I-195 / NJ 29 / NJ 129) in Hamilton Township: This six-lane section, which was completed in 1994, carries approximately 45,000 vehicles per day.
EXIT 60 to EXIT 63 (NJ 33 and Mercer CR 533) in Hamilton Township: This six-lane section, which was completed in 1987, carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day.
EXIT 63 to EXIT 67 (US 1) in Lawrence Township: This six-lane section, which was completed in 1975, carries approximately 65,000 vehicles per day.
The speed limit along the entire length of I-295 is 65 MPH, except through the area of EXIT 26 (I-76 and NJ 42), where the speed limit is 35 MPH.
This 1999 photo shows the southbound I-295 approaching EXIT 26 (I-76 / NJ 42 / North-South Freeway) in Bellmawr. In 2000, the NJDOT announced a $175 million plan to rebuild this interchange. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
UNTANGLING THE NJ 42 / I-76 / I-295 MESS: As early as 1985, the NJDOT began studies of rebuilding the interchange between I-76, I-295, and the NJ 42 Freeway in the Borough of Bellmawr. The present interchange, which carries approximately 200,000 vehicles per day (AADT) between the three roadways, does not permit a direct connection for I-295 through traffic. These motorists must negotiate 35 MPH hairpin curves (nicknamed the "Al-Jo" curves after a tavern formerly located on the site of the interchange) to stay on I-295. Motorists traveling between I-295 and I-76 / NJ 42 Freeway have their own problems of weaving, tight curves and missing movements (especially between points west and south). These substandard conditions have been the cause of hundreds of accidents each year since the interchange was completed in 1961.
The NJDOT announced preliminary plans to rebuild this interchange in 2000. The rebuilt interchange would have one or more elevated highways designed to straighten out the current snarl at the interchange. Through-traffic movements would be realigned and redesigned for a maximum design speed of 60 MPH, and new and rebuilt ramps would be constructed. Engineers selected 16 different design alternatives for the rebuilt interchange. A 2004 draft environmental impact statement narrowed the number of alternatives down to five.
In 2007, the NJDOT selected "alternative D" for the interchange, which features a six-lane elevated roadway to carry I-295 over I-76 / NJ 42 at a posted speed of 55 MPH. Existing ramps will be redesigned to current safety standards, and the "missing moves" ramps (northbound I-295 to southbound NJ 42, and northbound NJ 42 to southbound I-295) will be built south of the existing interchange. The rebuilt interchange would resemble a "double-directional-T" interchange.
Final engineering and design work is expected to continue through 2009, with construction slated to begin in 2011. The NJDOT expects the $450 million project to be completed by 2015.
OTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO I-295: In addition to the reconstruction of EXIT 26 (I-76 and NJ 42), the NJDOT has scheduled the following improvements on I-295:
The NJDOT is rehabilitating a nine-mile stretch of I-295 from EXIT 15 (Gloucester CR 607 / Tomlin Station Road) north to EXIT 24 (NJ 45). The $41 million project is scheduled for completion in 2008.
In conjunction with the redevelopment of the BP site in Paulsboro, the NJDOT plans to upgrade EXIT 19 (Gloucester CR 656). The $16 million project is scheduled to continue through 2009.
The NJDOT plans to rehabilitate and extend acceleration-deceleration lanes along an eight-mile stretch of I-295 from EXIT 24 (NJ 45) north to EXIT 32 (Camden CR 561). The $49 million project is scheduled for completion in 2009.
In 2004, the NJDOT finished a three-year reconstruction of an 8.4-mile stretch of I-295 from EXIT 32 (Camden CR 561) in Cherry Hill north to EXIT 40 (NJ 38) in Mount Laurel. The $65 million project consisted of rehabilitating roadways, replacing the I-295 bridges over NJ 70 and Church Road, and implementing an ITS (intelligent transportation system) network. For the first time, the NJDOT tested a process known as "rubbilization," which involves using a machine to crush the old road pavement into small pieces so that it can easily be paved over.
The NJDOT plans to repave the stretch between EXIT 40 (NJ 38) in Mount Laurel and EXIT 47 (Burlington CR 541) in Burlington. The $7.2 million project is scheduled to take place during fiscal 2007.
The NJDOT erected sound barriers along selected areas in Camden and Mercer counties. The $6.3 million project was completed in 2004.
THE TRUNCATED I-295: During the mid-1990's, I-295 was shortened from the unbuilt I-95 (Somerset Freeway) interchange at milepost 71 to its current terminus at US 1 in Lawrence Township. The northern terminus of the I-95 "spur" also terminates at this exit.
During the late 1990's and early 2000's, New Jersey and Pennsylvania officials considered extending the I-295 designation into Pennsylvania along the "orphaned" section of I-95 upon the 2012 completion of the I-95 / I-276 interchange in Bucks County. In September 2005, these officials came to a joint agreement in which the I-195 designation would be extended west and south into Pennsylvania instead. The re-designation awaits approval from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
This 2002 photo shows the northbound I-295 at EXIT 56 (US 206) in Fieldsboro Township. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
SOURCES: "New Roads with New Numbers Will Parallel Old U.S. Routes" by George Cable Wright, The New York Times (9/19/1958); "Interstate 295: Location Study," New Jersey Highway Department (1961); "Ground Breaking, Interstate 295: Upper Penns Neck Township, Salem County," New Jersey Highway Department (7/29/1963), New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1967); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); "Interstate Routes 195 and 295, New Jersey Routes 29 and 129: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and New Jersey Department of Transportation (1981); "Interstate 295: Administrative Action Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and New Jersey Department of Transportation (1982); "Missing Link Fills in Last Gap in I-95 System," The New York Times (12/23/1994); "Relief Proposed for Traffic Headache" by Jason Laughlin, The Courier-Post (4/21/2000); "Overhaul of I-295 Gets Rolling" by Prashant Gopal, The Wilmington News-Journal (7/18/2000); "DiFrancesco Backs Plan To Expand 65 MPH Speed Limit," The Associated Press (8/15/2001); "New Jersey Promises To Untangle a Traffic Knot" by Jennifer Moroz, The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/24/2004); George Harms Construction Company; Chris Blaney; Michael G. Koerner; Mario Laurenti; Raymond C. Martin; Chris Mason; Dan Moraseski; Brian Polidoro; Jeff Taylor; William F. Yurasko.
I-295 and US 130 shields by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.