This 2002 photo shows the eastbound Atlantic City Expressway approaching EXIT 1 (Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector) and downtown Atlantic City. The connector from the expressway to the Marina District was completed in 2001. (Photo by Chris Mason.)
PLANNED AS A PARKWAY: In 1932, the Regional Planning Federation (the predecessor agency to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission) proposed a parkway system around the Philadelphia area similar to that constructed by Robert Moses. Like the Moses parkways in New York, the four-lane parkways were to feature controlled access, stone-arch bridges, timber lightposts and natural vegetation.
The plan proposed a parkway extending from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge approach in Camden southeast to Atlantic City. The Camden-Atlantic City parkway was to have been constructed along the Atlantic City Expressway and North-South Freeway (I-76 / I-676 / NJ 42) alignment, and was to connect to other parkways planned along the current US 206 and US 322 corridors. It was to provide a safer, more scenic route than the parallel Black Horse Pike (NJ 168, NJ 42, US 322 and US 40) and White Horse Pike (US 30), two-to-four lane surface roads that were designed and built in the 1920's.
A NEW HIGH-SPEED ROUTE FOR SOUTH JERSEY: The post-World War II era brought unprecedented development and traffic to southern New Jersey. New controlled-access highways such as the Garden State Parkway, the North-South Freeway (I-76 and NJ 42) and (to a lesser extent) the New Jersey Turnpike, and the new Walt Whitman Bridge provided easier access to shore resorts.
During the 1950's, a numbed of South Jersey officials, led by State Senator Frank S. Farley, advocated construction of a controlled-access expressway from the Philadelphia-Camden metropolitan area directly into Atlantic City. Connections to the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway would be a boon not only for shore-bound motorists, but also for tourism and related businesses in South Jersey.
In 1958 and 1959, the New Jersey State Highway Department authorized the preparation of engineering and traffic studies, which indicated the feasibility for a toll-revenue, bond-financed facility. On January 16, 1962, Governor Robert Meyner signed the New Jersey Expressway Authority Act into law. The act authorized the appointment of five members, two from Atlantic County, and one each from Camden, Cape May and Gloucester counties. The Expressway Authority was authorized to issue revenue bonds to construct, maintain and operate the Atlantic City Expressway.
This 2006 photo shows the eastbound Atlantic City Expressway approximately one mile west of the Pleasantville toll plaza. (Photo by Laura Siggia Anderson.)
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: The western terminus of the Atlantic City Expressway consists of a direct connection to the NJ 42 Freeway in Turnersville, Camden County. Provisions are made for NJ 168 (Black Horse Pike) traffic and local traffic to enter and exit from the Atlantic City Expressway by way of NJ 42. The toll road continues in a southeasterly direction for 44 miles through Camden, Gloucester and Atlantic counties before terminating in Atlantic City via Missouri Avenue and Arkansas Avenue. (The expressway actually skims both Gloucester and Camden counties several times before entering Atlantic County.)
Interchanges were located and designed to provide maximum traffic service with minimum construction costs. Some interchanges were designed to provide access to or egress from the Atlantic City Expressway in one direction only. These one-directional interchanges were located as follows:
The one-directional movements at these interchanges were recommended on the basis of economic consideration, but provisions were made at these interchanges for future improvements to fully directional interchanges.
Within a right-of-way of 300-to-400 feet, the Atlantic City Expressway was constructed with a dual-roadway design. The eastbound and westbound roadways were constructed with 12-foot-wide travel lanes, 12-foot-wide outer shoulders and three-foot-wide inner shoulders. In later years, a third 12-foot-wide in the eastbound direction was built from EXIT 33 (Williamstown-Winslow Road) in Winslow to the Atlantic City terminus, and in the westbound direction from the Atlantic City terminus to EXIT 7 (Garden State Parkway) in Egg Harbor Township. The travel lanes were separated by a median strip varying in width from 26 feet to 1,000 feet.
Design speeds were established at 70 MPH on the main roadways and 30 MPH on the ramps. Minimum sight distances were set at 600 feet on the main roadways and 200 feet on the ramps. Maximum grades were not to exceed three percent on the main roadways, and five percent on the ramps. The expressway was raised five to ten feet above the low-lying wetlands west of Atlantic City, thereby preventing the flooding that is common on nearby White Horse Pike (US 30) and Black Horse Pike (US 40 and US 322).
A total of 33 reinforced concrete-and-steel grade separation structures were built for the expressway, comprising 27 road crossings, four railroad crossings and two water crossings. The largest of these bridges, the Beach Thoroughfare viaduct over the Intracoastal Waterway, has a vertical clearance of 35 feet above mean high water and a horizontal clearance of 80 feet. (Provisions were made for a possible conversion of this span into a vertical lift bridge that would have a vertical clearance of 55 feet.)
The Atlantic City Expressway has barrier toll plazas in Pleasantville and Egg Harbor City. These barrier tolls are supplemented by several interchange tolls. Service areas are located in the vicinity of both the Egg Harbor City and Pleasantville toll plazas. The administrative offices are located at the Egg Harbor City plaza; at the Pleasantville plaza, there is a parking lot and shuttle bus stop for employees of the Atlantic City casinos.
Construction of the Atlantic City Expressway began in the summer of 1962. The expressway was completed between the western terminus in Turnersville and the Garden State Parkway in July 1964, and east to downtown Atlantic City in July 1965. The total cost of the expressway was $39.8 million, of which $28.0 million was allocated for construction costs and $3.8 million of right-of-way costs.
LEFT: This 2000 photo shows the westbound Atlantic City Expressway approaching EXIT 28 (NJ 54) in Hamilton Township. RIGHT: This 2000 photo shows the westbound Atlantic City Expressway at EXIT 41 (Camden CR 689) in Winslow Township. (Photos by Raymond C. Martin.)
FARLEY'S FOLLY… OR FORESIGHT? Soon after it opened, the Atlantic City Expressway came to be known as "Farley's Folly," after the state senator who advocated its construction. Although annual traffic counts jumped from 6.1 million vehicles in 1966 to 8.7 million vehicles by 1973, the percentage of eastbound vehicles bound for Atlantic City fell from 46 percent to 37 percent over the same period. The expressway took a further hit during the gasoline shortages of 1974, when 1.1 million fewer motorists took to the road.
The fortunes of the Atlantic City Expressway reversed in 1978 when the first legal hotel-casino opened its doors. By the end of the 1980's, nearly 40 million vehicles per year used the toll expressway, and more than half of eastbound traffic was bound for Atlantic City.
THE ATLANTIC CITY EXPRESSWAY TODAY: In the mid-1990's, the New Jersey Expressway Authority became the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA). The new authority is charged with overseeing operations both on the Atlantic City Expressway and at Atlantic City International Airport. It has also entered into a joint construction project with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) for the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector.
According to the NJDOT, the Atlantic City Expressway carries an average of 65,000 vehicles per day (AADT) east of the Garden State Parkway, and approximately 50,000 vehicles per day west of the Garden State Parkway. To accommodate current and future traffic growth, the SJTA has undertaken the following projects:
In 2000, the SJTA opened the fully directional EXIT 41 (Camden CR 689) after a year-long, $5 million construction project.
On July 27, 2001, the SJTA and the NJDOT completed the 2.3-mile-long Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector. (The tunnel actually opened to traffic four days later.) Planned since 1965, and under construction beginning in 1998, the four-lane spur connects the Atlantic City Expressway mainline with the Marina District and Brigantine Island.
In March 2002, the SJTA opened new ramps to and from the west at EXIT 5 (US 9) in Pleasantville, making the interchange fully directional. Prior to construction, EXIT 5 provided access only to and from points east.
The SJTA widened the expressway from two to three lanes in each direction between the Atlantic City terminus and EXIT 7 (Garden State Parkway), and added a third eastbound travel lane beginning at EXIT 31 (NJ 73). The $32 million project, which was done in conjunction with a project to add four high-speed EZ-Pass lanes (two lanes in each direction at 45 MPH) at the Pleasantville toll plaza, was completed in 2005.
In 2007, the SJTA announced plans to add a third westbound lane from EXIT 7 (Garden State Parkway) to EXIT 31 (NJ 73) and converting EXIT 17 (NJ 50) from a partial interchange into a fully directional one (new tolled ramps to and from the east would supplement to existing free ones to and from the east). There also would be new high-speed EZ-Pass toll lanes at the Egg Harbor toll plaza. The construction of EXIT 17 began in November 2008, and the widening project is scheduled to begin in 2009. Construction of these projects is being financed by a $25 million bond issue.
Since 1998, the Atlantic City Expressway has had a 65 MPH speed limit from its western terminus at EXIT 44 (NJ 42) in Camden County to EXIT 7 (Garden State Parkway) in Pleasantville. From the Garden State Parkway east to the Atlantic City terminus, the expressway has maintained its 55 MPH speed limit.
GOING PRIVATE? Talk of privatizing the Atlantic City Expressway began in 2005 when Acting Governor Richard Codey proposed either selling or leasing rights to operate the state's three toll roads to private investors in order to fill in the state's $4 billion budget deficit. In 2006, State Senator William Gormley (R-Atlantic County) proposed privatizing the expressway to raise an estimated $3.8 billion. Gormley said the proceeds from such a sale would finance reconstruction of the I-76 / I-295 / NJ 42 interchange and expansion of the PATCO high-speed rail service. However, Governor John Corzine is opposed to privatization.
This 2001 photo shows the Atlantic City Expressway at its western terminus at NJ 42 in Turnersville. The controlled-access facility continues as the North-South Freeway (NJ 42 / I-76) to Philadelphia. (Photo by Chris Mason.)
The Atlantic City Expressway should be widened to a minimum of three lanes in each direction throughout its entire length. A fourth travel lane in each direction should be added where appropriate.
To raise the profile of South Jersey, the Atlantic City Expressway and the North-South Freeway (NJ 42) should be designated I-76. This designation would underscore the importance of this route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Midwest. Prior to the re-designation, bridge clearances and signing should be brought up to Interstate-compatible standards.
SOURCES: Regional Plan of the Philadelphia Tri-State District, Regional Planning Federation (1932); New Jersey Highway Facts, New Jersey Highway Department (1960); "Atlantic City Expressway: Engineering Report," New Jersey Expressway Authority (1962); "Atlantic City Road Hailed," The New York Times (8/10/1964); "Jersey Dedicates Atlantic City Road," The New York Times (7/24/1965); Development of the State Highway System, New Jersey State Highway Department (1965); "Expressway Goes to the Air" by Robert J. Salgado, The New York Times (6/05/1988); "DEP Reviews Atlantic City Tunnel Plan" by John Curran, The Bergen Record (6/04/1998); "Much Disputed Tunnel an Undeniable Reality" by John Curran, The Bergen Record (4/10/2000); "Appeals Court Upholds Expressway Toll for Limos" by Donald Wittkowski, The Atlantic City Press (6/24/2000); "Controversial Tunnel Opens in Atlantic City," WPVI-TV (7/27/2001); "Last Minute Problem Delays Long Awaited Tunnel" by Amy S. Rosenberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer (7/28/2001); "DiFrancesco Backs Plan To Expand 65 MPH Speed Limit," The Associated Press (8/15/2001); "Much Faster EZ-Pass Lanes Are Planned at Seven Toll Plazas" by Ronald Smothers, The New York Times (10/31/2002); "Expressway a Hard Sell for a Man Who Had It Built" by William H. Sokolic, The South Jersey Courier-Post (7/31/2004); "N.J. Looking into Selling Toll Roads To Get Cash" by Jennifer Moroz, The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/25/2005); "In Toll-Road Talk, Visions of Easy Cash" by Jennifer Moroz, The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/05/2006); "Expressway Congestion Help Coming," The South Jersey Courier-Post (6/22/2007); "Expressway Project Info Session Set," The South Jersey Courier-Post (6/25/2007); Remington and Vernick Engineers; South Jersey Transportation Authority; Phil Case; Daniel T. Dey; Raymond C. Martin; Cliff Merz; Dan Moraseski; Mike Natale; Brian Polidoro; Sandy Smith; Jeff Taylor; William F. Yurasko.
Atlantic City Expressway shield by James Lin. I-76 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.