The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is in the design phase of a $2 Billion multi-year effort to widen the southern segment of the Turnpike along Interchanges 1-4 (Mount Laurel to Delaware Memorial Bridge) which will add one additional lane in each direction.
In 2021 a $48 Million contract was signed for preliminary work and permitting. Construction is expected to start in 2025, and there will likely be impacts to local roadways across the 37 mile project.
As part of that effort local officials are asking the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) to implement a new Turnpike connector/interchange directly to Route 42, so that travelers exiting the Turnpike heading to other highway options and large cities (such as Philadelphia) can do so without having to first move on to the local roadways.
Assemblyman Bill Moen of Fifth Legislative District shared this video on Instagram, expressing the idea to incorporate the connector.
Moen is asking residents to reach out to him at his office and share your opinions on the idea, and the need. His Office information is: AsmMoen@njleg.org or by calling his office (856)-547-4800. But keep scrolling and reading here first!
Regarding the Route 42 Connector idea, as a teaser here’s something to consider.
The NJ Turnpike is the 6th busiest toll road in the nation, and it travels 3 miles from the bridge that enters the 6th largest city in the nation, Philadelphia.
Yet a commuter cannot drive those 3 miles from the NJ Turnpike to Philadelphia without having to exit the highways and move on to local roads… with local traffic lights and local traffic all in the mix.
The State has already clearly identified the value of Route 42. The Billion dollars being spent on Direct Connect and Missing Moves projects in large part is to benefit commuters on Route 42.Mark Matthews, 42Freeway.com
To be fair, what is currently planned for the Southern portion of the Turnpike with the additional lanes is a huge project. We’ve been getting a lot of love down here from the State to upgrade our transportation systems, and it truly is appreciated.
As an indicator of the size of this Turnpike project, at $2 billion the widening plan is DOUBLE the cost of the most expensive road project we’ve seen up to this point in South Jersey.
Yes, the Turnpike Widening project for Interchanges 1-4 is twice the cost of Direct Connection in Bellmawr!
And some might say “$2 Billion just to add 2 lanes to the Turnpike?”. Well… it seems the asphalt paving is actually the easy part.
The more challenging and costly portion is making that extra space fully accessible.
The Authority states over 50 of the 66 overpasses along the route need to be replaced or rehabilitated! Likely many of those overpasses are too narrow to support the additional lanes, or likely just too old.
The project costs include additional factors such as improving interchange ramps, an upgraded connection point at route 49 in Salem County, Interchange 1 Plaza upgrades, replacement of several facility structures along the Turnpike and other items.
So keep scrolling and reading as you know I have more on this, including a summary history on the last 35 years of discussions on the “Connect The Turnpike to the Atlantic City Expressway/42” plans.
It’s interesting to note that I found a 1992 article from the Courier-Post that describes a South Jersey transportation summit held in Glassboro, which was attended by the State’s top transportation leaders of the time.
In that article from 30 years ago this exact same widening project was discussed as a top priority for the Turnpike authority with a then expected cost of $240 million.
New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 1-4 Widening Summary
Opened in 1951, the New Jersey Turnpike authority has completed many widening projects of the Turnpike… in Central and Northern New Jersey.
Closer to New York there are portions of the Turnpike that are 14 lanes across, meanwhile our southernmost segments are still in their original four lane configuration (two in each direction).
And yes I get that Northern New Jersey’s population and traffic is ridiculously different than ours.
But if you consider the significant population and business growth the last 70 years in the counties of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem… it’s still surprising the Turnpike was never expanded in our area.
You would also think that the Turnpike widening project would be mostly uneventful to folks living in the area who spend their time on local roads. “I rarely drive on the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s sort of separated from the local roads. Why would this impact me?”
Well it would appear that the Turnpike roadway itself is not really where the impact will be felt locally, and likely not where most of the money will be spent.
See, while it appears there is land already mostly available on either side of the roadway to add the additional lanes, the challenge is many of the bridges crossing the path of the Turnpike are either not wide enough to support additional lanes, or are long overdue for a rehabilitation.
The Turnpike authority states that 55 of the 66 bridges in this segment of the Turnpike will need full replacement or to be rehabilitated.
Full rebuilding could mean closures or lane restrictions to local commuters. Well so could rehabilitation, depending on the scope of changes needed for a particular bridge.
To be clear, at this point the Turnpike has not announced exactly which bridges need full rebuilding as those final determinations are being figured out now in the analysis and design phase.
Since 2021 the Turnpike Authority has been doing preliminary design and environmental studies on this project, and early this year (2023) they are expected to begin the engineering and permitting processes.
Construction is targeted to begin in 2025 and continue for seven more years after that, with a full completion in 2032.
My intent here is not to be “Dr Doomsday”… but simply its very clear to me that 99.9% of the public in South Jersey doesn’t realize the broader impact of this project.
Of course I’ll be following this along the way and will update when I have significant information.
Check the bottom of this article for links and keep scrolling.
Finally Time For A New Turnpike Connector to Route 42?
5th Legislative District office Assemblyman Bill Moen this week published a video to his social media channels explaining the desire of him and other area officials to have the Turnpike Authority implement a new Turnpike connector directly to Route 42.
His video was filmed on the busy Black Horse Pike in Runnemede at the Turnpike interchange 3. Behind him trucks are seen traveling the Pike as well as exiting off of the Turnpike ramp.
Moen and his fellow politicians state that a significant portion of those trucks are likely moving on to local roads because there are no options to connect directly from the Turnpike to the area’s existing significant highway infrastructure.
And it’s not all about getting to Philadelphia from the NJ Turnpike.
Keep in mind that Turnpike exits down our way are spaced about 15 miles apart. So as an example, a truck coming from North Jersey to West Deptford could travel the Turnpike for the longest portion of their route and then have no choice but to exit to the Black Horse Pike in Runnemede and use the local roads the rest of the way.
Moen says Congressman Donald Norcross, Mayors and Councils of six local communities, and the Camden County Commissioners have been working the last few years on trying to get the Turnpike Authority to include a new connector to Route 42 as part of the plans to widen the Turnpike.
Well, the process would likely start with the State’s Turnpike Authority taking on an analysis effort to determine modern alternatives for connecting the two major roadways together.
Assemblyman Moen is asking residents to reach out to him at his office and share your opinions on the idea, and the need. Is Office information is: AsmMoen@njleg.org or by calling his office (856)-547-4800
Connecting the Turnpike and Route 42/AC Expressway is a very reasonable idea, and at minimum it absolutely makes sense that if this massive Turnpike widening project is taking place now… well it just seems sensible and logical to have these conversations. Again.
I say “again” because this idea has been talked about and analyzed for several decades with no real movement up to this point.
NJ Turnpike to Route 42 Challenges
As mentioned, it’s somewhat surprising that in 2023 traffic cannot move off of the Turnpike onto a major highway which leads them directly to Philadelphia, or our other area major roadways… without having to travel local roads.
And I think to everyone the obvious plan would be to develop right in the overpass area of the two roadways where the “hump” is on Route 42. Keep in mind though that it would need space to build out toll booths.
Potential problems with adding a connection right at point the Turnpike and Route 42 cross is:
- There are significant waterways and wetlands immediately surrounding that interchange (big timber Creek for one), making it tougher to add ramps and needed buildings.
- The new Missing Moves project has put a new exit ramp on Route 42 North which starts right at the Turnpike overpass. This would make adding a ramp from the Turnpike in this area challenging.
- Land which was targeted for use in earlier designs decades ago, has now been developed and can no longer be used.
Not insurmountable challenges but it just adds to the complexity and potential cost to connecting the two roads.
History of Plans: ACE-NJT Connector
As mentioned the Turnpike Authority and State Transportation officials have been looking at this challenge for decades.
While today I think most see this as a Route 42 Connector… 40 years ago it was seen as an Atlantic City Expressway Connector.
A 1989 article in the Central New Jersey Home News stated that the Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway would be joined by an “Expansion of the toll roads”. The article describes a new interchange would be created between interchanges two and three and that the connection would cost between $250 and $375 million. That’s a big number for 1989 dollars!
Three years later a South Jersey Transportation Summit took place at Glassboro State College (Rowan), and a 1992 Courier-Post article described the highlights of what was essentially a wish-list of road problems, solutions, and the future of South Jersey roads.
During the summit State Senator Haines (Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee) outlined a variety of road improvements many would like to see.
In fact, in the mix was a project we now call ”Missing Moves”. The article goes on to describe it as non-attainable due to environmental and community considerations. Well, we fooled him!
And back in 1992, Haines also spoke of the need to connect the Turnpike to Route 42 AND Route 55!
Articles from the time spoke of several alternative projects with one of the leading candidates starting much further South on the Turnpike, with a $370 million price tag (at the time)
Keep in mind folks that I am just rolling through some plans that were pitched 30 years ago. These are not “on the table” today.
Discussions continued and a few years later in February 1995 the New Jersey Turnpike Authority commissioned a development study solely targeted at connecting the Turnpike with Route 42/Atlantic City Expressway.
The report called this project the ACE-NJT Connector.
This report includes a map and descriptive commentary, and I was blown away by how many of the alternatives were starting much further South on the Turnpike, much further Southwest from Route 42.
Most of the alternative routes at the time seemed to meander through the county’s pockets of undeveloped land and then connect directly with the Atlantic City Expressway south of Route 42 at Cross Keys!
Surreal when I look at it today. It seems 30 years ago politicians were trying to solve a variety of road problems of Gloucester County with one solution!
In fact, in that 1995 document only two of the 9 or so proposals were located even somewhat close to Route 42. One of them has a road alternative cutting through my street!
Of the 1995 alternatives the most logical choice to me followed the lead of Senator Haines from that earlier summit where he suggested Route 55 should be included.
In that route (if it had been developed), it would’ve started in the Westville/Deptford area of the Turnpike and meandered through undeveloped land, crossed over Almonesson and turned into six tentacle like ramps connecting to Routes 42 and 55!
While none of those 1995 plans were never acted on, the State wasn’t done thinking about it as the idea surfaced again.
Did I mention I am just reviewing these old alternatives just to show some history of efforts, and none of this is being considered?
Going back to the Direct Connection project in Bellmawr, the 2008 Final Environmental Impact Statement discusses the then proposed alternatives for the Direct Connection project.
Initially there were 26 alternative plans for Direct Connection, and several included solutions to connect Route 42 and the Turnpike!
One reviewed alternative was to add a new Interchange of the Turnpike directly on Route 42, and remove the exit we currently have on the Black Horse Pike.
Another suggested alternative was to continue utilizing the existing Interchange 3 Exit on the Black Horse Pike, but build a separate and direct road to from the Interchange to Route 42.
A third was a hybrid of the first two; add the next Exit at 42, keep the exit on the Black Horse Pike, but add that direct connector road.
These alternatives were dismissed by the transportation authority due to major impacts to the developed and natural environments in the area.
Again, I want to be clear I am just giving the history of the State’s analysis efforts to add a “Connector” from the Turnpike to Route 42/AC Expressway. None of these ideas are on the table.
So the takeaway from my sharing these efforts is… well I 100% agree with Moen and the other officials that since the NJTA will be cracking open the Turnpike under Route 42, as well as working on overpasses…
It seems that now is a time to have the conversations. To do some analysis.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.. or cheap.
Links and Locations
The “Virtual Project Room” for the widening project is here.
42Freeway has extensive coverage on the area’s major roadway projects and other transportation projects.
You can access the full list: 42Freeway Roads