A $57.2 million project to replace the I-76 overpass at Klemm Ave. In Gloucester City NJ has progressed to the removal and rebuilding of the decking, causing significant traffic delays.
Lanes were shifted and reduced to provide enough work area for the deck reconstruction. This is causing traffic delays at all hours of the day, frustrating motorists.
Normally the Klemm Ave overpass has 11 traffic lanes total (6 westbound, 5 eastbound), but it now has been reduced to a total of nine traffic lanes, and the loss of several shoulders.
Interestingly, how those 9 lanes are allocated changes depending on the time of day, and can really put the squeeze on traffic heading towards Philadelphia!
Both directions of I-76 are experiencing traffic issues, but it seems the westbound side (from Route 42 towards Philadelphia/Cherry Hill) is more susceptible to traffic delays as depending on the time of day that direction can lose two lanes of use for traffic!
The time of day is a factor in this, because to better support traffic flow during the morning and evening rush hours, a movable center divider was installed which allows the number of available lanes in each direction to change from the morning to afternoon.
A similar moveable barrier is in us on the two bridges (Walt Whitman, Ben Franklin)
So it does make sense that say during the morning rush hour when most folks are heading to Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, that the westbound side of 76 would have five lanes (and the eastbound side would have 4),
Similarly as traffic patterns reverse for the evening rush hour, the eastbound lanes (heading away from Philadelphia) have five lanes and the westbound side is down to four lanes.
But the best possible option doesn’t always provide for a perfect experience.
So first it’s important to note that the outermost lane on the westbound side is actually an approach lane “in” for traffic entering Route 130. While cars on the main 76 highway could shift over, in reality at the time of the overpass this rightmost lane is dedicated for Route 130 inbound traffic.
So under perfect conditions I-76 West is 5 full traffic lanes and one inbound lane from Rt 130.
But then consider that on Route 42 N heading towards this section, it’s five full lanes of traffic… which during preconstruction days was a straight 5 lanes all the way through. Perfect.
But now in the afternoons into rush how, I-76 has a total of four lanes, and one of them is still really dedicated to the Rt 130 traffic entering onto 76.
FIVE lanes from Route 42 merging into THREE lanes of I-76. Slow merging traffic.
So even when the northbound traffic is lighter in late afternoon it’s still enough of traffic lane reduction with cars navigating each other as they merge into fewer lanes, that it creates significantly slower and sometimes stopped traffic… even if it’s three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon!
Case in point, this past Saturday afternoon around 2:00 PM I did some research and drove this route to experience it myself and I was quickly in a significant traffic jam. Then again on Sunday around 4:00pm I was coming back from the Cherry Hill area, and again saw that the northbound side was jammed up.
Now I know most folks in the original 42Freeway area are most concerned about the morning rush hour commute as people drive north on 42 and head towards Philly and Cherry Hill via I-76.
And remember the lane shifts are set so that the favor the time of day, so in the morning the westbound side of 76 should have the extra fifth lane.
But five is still less than six. The morning commute with it’s already significant traffic will have one less lane, and cars merging over.
Keep in mind that along the way traffic from 295 South is also merging in not too far from the Klemm Ave Overpass!
So it seems that is enough to cause significant delays and problems for commuters.
The contractor started implementing the changes early last week, and by the end of the week I had several messages from folks complaining about the awful traffic conditions in the morning.
I drove through on Saturday and Sunday to investigate and get the images seen here, and since it was the weekend I didn’t have an opportunity to speak to NJDOT regarding exactly how long the lane shifting will last.
But I can tell you they are planning on removing and rebuilding all of the decking across the entire highway overpass, completing it in segments.
It appears right now they have decided to split the re-decking project into thirds, and when this first segment is completed they’ll shift traffic again to focus separately on the center portion and westbound portions.
So overall I don’t know how long this will take but it just seems to me that this is going to be a lot longer than just a few weeks.
And you can tell simply from the photos that this is a lot more than just another layer of asphalt.
When they say “replacing the decking” they are literally removing the entire horizontal surface of the roadway including the steel substructure underneath the concrete and asphalt.
I am not certain at this point to what extent the exposed support column top bases need to be removed and rebuilt.
But it sure seems like this will be a challenge for us for a while. And Memorial Weekend is just a month away.
I am reaching out to NJDOT for update comments and estimated time frames.
I-76 Klemm Ave Overpass Replacement Project
I have covered this project previously… a large summary before it started and then subsequent updates.
The full Rt 76 Bridge project(s) will replace four large I-76 elevated roadway bridges and decking over several years. and cost $175 million.
The I-76 overpass at Klemm Ave was called out as being very deteriorated and a safety risk:
The rapidly deteriorating Route 76 Bridge over South Branch Newton Creek, Klemm Avenue and Conrail bridge deck has necessitated dividing the project into three breakout projects to accelerate delivery of this particular bridge deck.Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
The overpass is a wide stretch of road at ELEVEN lanes, plus THREE shoulder lanes. Fourteen lanes total! And the new roadway is planned to be even wider.