LINKING PHILADELPHIA TO THE CENTRAL JERSEY COAST: Faced with phenomenal growth in postwar vehicular traffic, the New Jersey State Highway Department mapped out a network of proposed controlled-access highways in 1960. These highways were to supplement the Interstate highways and toll roads already legislated.

One of the freeways recommended by state officials was to run from Interstate 676 (then proposed as Interstate 80S) in Camden east to the NJ 18 Freeway (then proposed as the NJ 35 Freeway) in Wall Township, Monmouth County. The NJ 38 Freeway, as the proposal came to be known, was to provide a direct, controlled-access route from points east. In the process, the proposed freeway was to relieve congestion along NJ 70 and NJ 38, two existing radial four-lane divided routes leading from the southern New Jersey suburbs into Philadelphia.

According to a proposal adopted by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the NJ 38 Freeway was to begin at the eastern approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. In Camden, the freeway was to parallel US 30 (Admiral Wilson Boulevard) and NJ 70. Continuing east through Cherry Hill, the NJ 38 Freeway was to parallel NJ 70 to the north. New interchanges may have been created for Interstate 295 (EXIT 35) and the New Jersey Turnpike (new EXIT 4).

The New Jersey State Highway Department proposal continued the route of the NJ 38 Freeway northeast through Mount Laurel and Mount Holly in Burlington County. It would have gone along the northern edge of Fort Dix Military Reservation before reaching Jackson Township, Ocean County. From this point, the NJ 38 Freeway would have continued along the route of the present day I-195 to Wall Township.

In 1965, the NJ 38 Freeway was adopted as part of the proposed "Central Jersey Expressway System," a network that was to serve the central and southern parts of the state. Toward the end of the decade, the section between Jackson Township and Wall Township was integrated into I-195. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) continued to recommend a connecting route between I-195 in central New Jersey and the Philadelphia suburbs as follows:

At present there is not a high-speed, direct access between the Camden-Philadelphia metropolitan area and the northern section of the New Jersey shore. The NJ 38 Freeway will provide such a connection.

According to the 1969 report
New Jersey Highway Facts, the NJDOT estimated the cost of the 33.5-mile-long freeway between I-295 in Cherry Hill and I-195 in Jackson Township at $60 million. (Perhaps owing to the prohibitive costs of right-of-way acquisition and construction, the NJDOT did not estimate the cost of the section between I-676 in Camden and I-295 in Cherry Hill.) The DVRPC estimated that the entire length of the NJ 38 Freeway would be completed by 1985.

The NJ 38 Freeway proposal remained active well into the 1970's. An amended 1972 NJDOT proposal showed the freeway extending north of I-195 to Atlantic Township, Monmouth County. At its western terminus in Mount Laurel Township, Burlington County, the NJ 38 Freeway was to provide connections to the New Jersey Turnpike and the proposed NJ 90 Freeway extension. At its eastern terminus, the NJ 38 Freeway was to link to the NJ 33 Freeway (Freehold Bypass) before terminating at the NJ 18 Freeway (near milepost 21). The amended 43.7-mile-long route was estimated to cost $101 million. However, environmental concerns - the route was mapped through the New Jersey Pine Barrens - and dwindling financial resources killed the proposed freeway by the end of the 1970's.

One vestige of the proposed freeway survived well into the 1980's. East of the Garden State Parkway / I-195 interchange in Wall Township, the four-lane divided boulevard connecting the interchange with NJ 35 had been designated NJ 38, in anticipation of the unbuilt freeway. This road, which has an interchange with the NJ 18 Freeway, was re-designated NJ 138 in 1988.

SOURCES: "New Jersey Builds Better Highways," New Jersey State Highway Department (1961); "Regional Expressway System," Philadelphia City Planning Commission (1966); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1969); Master Plan for Transportation, New Jersey Department of Transportation (1972); Dan Moraseski; Len Pundt; William F. Yurasko.

  • NJ 38 shield by Ralph Herman.


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