Philadelphia @ AARoads
Home of the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell, the City of Brotherly Love boasts well over 1.5 million residents. Philadelphia also offers the Ben Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and University of Pennsylvania. As far as highways are concerned, many cancelled projects are be traced through the history of Philadelphia. What does exist, is typical of Northeastern U.S. cities, with older viaducts and narrower right of ways. A handful of terminated or truncated U.S. highways also existed in the Philadelphia area. U.S. 309, U.S. 422, and U.S. 611 all once were signed in city streets. The city is also home to two of beautiful suspensions bridges, that of the Walt Whitman Bridge (Interstate 76) and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (Interstate 676).
When in the Philadelphia area, be sure to turn to the University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN 88.5 FM on Saturday nights between 1 and 6 AM. WXPN airs the ambient space music program Stars End at that time and is also home to the syndicated new age/ambient space music show Echoes.
The first freeway within Philadelphia, the Schuylkill Expressway. The expressway first shows up on maps in the 1950s as Pennsylvania 43. The freeway was short compared to modern standards, and was signed as north and south. When the Interstate system was commissioned, the freeway was upgraded to Interstate 80. Overall the highway carried four lanes of travel back then, and was not upgraded until much later to the current six lane standards. The freeway was renumbered Interstate 76 in the 1960s, when Interstate 80 was rerouted along the Keystone Shortcut in the northern part of the state.
The roadway follows the west bank of the Schuylkill River throughout most of the City of Brotherly Love. The terrain makes for a narrow pathway, as the river fronts the roadway to the right with rocky abutments to the left. The twisting nature of the freeway also has given one portion of the highway the infamous designation "the Conshohocken Curve." This section of highway exists near the junction with Interstate 476 near the town of Conshohocken. The nature of the road has lead to many accidents over the years, and with the rocky terrain and four lanes of travel, there is not much that can be done to improve the situation.
See also: New Jersey @ AARoads - Interstate 76
When the Interstate system first came to town, Interstate 80 was indeed signed within the city limits of Philadelphia as Interstate 80. The entire turnpike from King of Prussia westward carried the designation of Interstate 80, as the Keystone Shortcut (current Interstate 80) was not on the table at the time. Once the Keystone Shortway was added to the Interstate Highway System, this section of Interstate 80 was renumbered as Interstate 80S. Later, Interstate 80S was renumbered as Interstate 76. While the turnpike was known as Interstate 80 or Interstate 80S, Interstate 276 was planned as Interstate 280, Interstate 476 was in the planning stages as Interstate 480, and the Schuylkill Expressway south of the Vine Street Expressway was numbered Interstate 680 (instead of Interstate 76; the Vine Street Expressway was later changed from Interstate 76 to Interstate 676). The switch to Interstate 76, 276, 476, 676 came during the 1960s.
Interstate 95 is the longest freeway within the city limits of Philadelphia. It competes with Interstate 76/Schuylkill Expressway as the most important and traveled. The highway was completed in various segments, with the Philadelphia International Airport segment completed lastly by the early 1980s. Within the city limits, the highway is known as the Delaware Expressway (although this designation is slipping through the cracks as time progresses). The freeway carries six to eight lanes of travel throughout the city, including the Girard Point Bridge over the Schuylkill River. At the Walt Whitman Bridge, the Interstate suppresses below the overall city street grid, thus making it one of the costliest construction projects of the time of its completion during the 1970s. At the Ben Franklin Bridge, the highway elevates and follows a six to eight lane viaduct northward to the Pennsylvania 73/Cottman Avenue interchange. Part of the Elevated Market/Frankfort Subway line is situated within the north and southbound travel lanes near the Allegheny Avenue interchange.
At Pennsylvania 63/Woodhaven Road, Interstate 95 transitions from an urban to a suburban freeway. The highway eventually reduces to four lanes overall north of the city. The interchange with Pennsylvania 413 at Bristol was recently reconstructed, with access from southbound Interstate 95 to Pennsylvania 413 added. Construction projects within the Bristol vicinity will continue through 2008, as Interstate 95 will be getting a direct interchange to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Currently, turnpike bound traffic must utilize Pennsylvania 413 and surface streets to access the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Upon completion of this direct link, Interstate 95 will be rerouted onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike eastward into the state of New Jersey. The New Jersey Turnpike already maintains Interstate 95 signage southward to the junction of that facility with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension. When all is said and done, Interstate 95 will no longer have the infamous gap in the Garden State, as the two segments will be joined via the turnpikes.
North of the Interstate 95/276/Pennsylvania Turnpike planned interchange, Interstate 95 will be switched to an extended Interstate 295. Presently, Interstate 95 north of Bristol across the Scudders Falls Bridge at Trenton marks the only freeway crossing of the Delaware River between the Commonwealth and New Jersey.
Eastern portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 276 takes over where Interstate 76 leaves for Philadelphia along the Schuylkill Expressway. The Interstate 276 portion of the turnpike is four lanes overall and ends near Bristol officially. This end will coincide with the planned Interstate 95 rerouting along the easternmost portion of the turnpike to the New Jersey state line.
Known locally as the Blue Route, the 21-mile Mid-County Expressway completely opened to traffic Fall of 1991. The name "Blue Route" stems from the winning choice between four different proposals in the 1960s. The four proposals were presented on a map as four different colored lines. The one that was approved, was the blue line.
Upon completion of the Interstate, the doorway for commuters between Valley Forge and Plymouth Meeting to Chester and Interstate 95 to the south was opened. The new freeway gave much needed relief to clogged Pennsylvania 320 as well as U.S. 202 to the west and Interstate 76 to the east. The direction connection to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Northeast Extension opened lastly, providing a fluid connection between points south of Philadelphia Metro with Allentown, Scranton, and even New York State. Overall the freeway carries four to six lanes, but was originally planned for eight. Compromises were required to facilitate the completion of this Interstate highway, as opposition from various neighborhood groups was abundant. These matters complicated the construction and ultimately delayed the project for 30 years.
Eventually, Interstate 476 was extended north along the Northeastern Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, making it the longest three-digit Interstate highway.
Vine Street Expressway
Fully completed by 1992, the Vine Street Expressway was the northern part of a planned inner loop expressway system for Philadelphia. The inner loop system would have consisted of Interstate 676, Interstate 76 on the west side, Interstate 95 on the east side, and a planned South Street Expressway on the south side. The South Street Expressway was never built, because neighborhood leaders who stayed in the path of the freeway successfully campaigned to have the freeway plan dropped. The only remnant of that plan is a ramp to Columbus Avenue.
Overall the Vine Street Expressway is a four to six lane suppressed freeway below the city streets of north center city. The highway is tucked below the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Art Museum area. The freeway to the west of Pennsylvania 611 has existed since the 1960s, and was originally signed as Interstate 76 (the southern portion of the Schuylkill Expressway was originally Interstate 676). U.S. 30 is duplexed with the entire length of the Vine Street Expressway.
Although there is an Interstate 676 in Camden and along the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Vine Street Expressway portion of the highway does not have an unbroken connection between the two segments. At the western end of the bridge, a traffic light exist at 5th Avenue. A full freeway to freeway connection does exist with Interstate 95, and thus marks the end of the Vine Street Expressway. To continue between the two portions of Interstate 676, one must travel through the traffic light, and merge onto the mainline Interstate 676 in either case. The route of Interstate 676 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is considered to be a single route, bound together by the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
See also: New Jersey @ AARoads - Interstate 676
Although not entering the Commonwealth as of yet, Interstate 295 is a vital part of the South Jersey aspect of Philadelphia metro. The Interstate parallels the New Jersey Turnpike as it passes through the Camden and Cherry Hill areas. The current northern terminus is at the joint Interstate 95/U.S. 1 interchange to the north of Trenton, New Jersey. However, as Interstate 95 realigns to the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Bristol, Interstate 295 will be extended into the Keystone State. The highway will replace all of the former Interstate 95 routing north of the new Bristol/Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange.
Planned expressway linking Interstate 95 near the Philadelphia International Airport with Interstate 76/Schuylkill Expressway to the west of downtown. The Interstate would have provided direct access between Interstate 95 northbound with Interstate 76 westbound. With the old sequential exit numbering system, Interstate 695 was the missing Exit 13 on northbound Interstate 95. Plans for this highway were dropped due to resident opposition by the 1970s.
Another abandoned freeway plan, Interstate 895 would have replaced the Burlington-Bristol Bridge, linking Interstate 95 with Interstate 295. The new bridge would have alleviated the narrow existing bridge, and would have given another needed Delaware River crossing in northern Philadelphia metro. Plans for this highway never go beyond the drawing stage and were officially dropped in the 1980s.
A short freeway serving Northeast Philadelphia. Pennsylvania 63, known as Woodhaven Road, links Interstate 95 with U.S. 1/Roosevelt Boulevard. The freeway carries four lanes overall, with an interchange at the Franklin Mills Mall and U.S. 13/Bristol Pike. The western terminus of the freeway ends at a stub for an industrial area. This stub was originally intended to continue the freeway northward to Interstate 276/Pennsylvania Turnpike. Local oppositions has effective curtailed these plans with no extension in the works.
Betsy Ross Bridge
Built in the 1970s, the Betsy Ross Bridge links Interstate 95 at Aramingo Avenue with New Jersey 73 and U.S. 130 in Burlington County. The bridge carries the designation New Jersey 90 when crossing into the Garden State. New Jersey 90 continues east of the bridge as a freeway to New Jersey 73, where the route and limited access highway end. However, this freeway was to have continued to the south and east paralleling New Jersey 73 to a junction with Interstate 295 and the New Jersey Turnpike. Plans for this highway were dropped by the 1980s.
At the west end of the bridge at Interstate 95, a large stack interchange exists. This interchange was built with the anticipation that the bridge would directly link with an unbuilt freeway between Interstate 95 and the Roosevelt Expressway/U.S. 1. The freeway was cancelled due to neighborhood opposition, leaving this partially built interchange at Interstate 95 to rot. For years partially built ramps loomed in midair to the west of Interstate 95 as a testament to bad planning. However, in the late 1990s, construction began to make some of these ramps useful. Upon completion by 2000, the interchange has been expanded to allow for access to/from Aramingo Avenue. There still is no bridge between the Betsy Ross Bridge over Interstate 95 to Aramingo Avenue though.
U.S. 1 throughout Philadelphia metro toggles between freeway and boulevard standards. The highway marks an important route in western Philadelphia along City Line Avenue. A short multiplex with Interstate 76 later, the highway follows the Roosevelt Expressway. The freeway spurs from Interstate 76 northeastward toward the Germantown neighborhood area of Philadelphia. A transition at Pennsylvania 611/Broad Street to Roosevelt Boulevard sees U.S. 1 carry four roadways northeastward throughout Northeast Philadelphia. The two-three-three-two lane setup remains in effect to the city limits near Woodhaven Road.
After exiting the city, U.S. 1 resumes limited access status at Pennsylvania 132 northward to Morrisville and Trenton, New Jersey via toll bridge.
U.S. 13 gets lost in the shuffle of Philadelphia area road numbering. The highway passes through industrial areas of Marcus Hook, Trainer, and Chichester, then through the urban decay of Chester. The highway maintains its original routing throughout most of Philadelphia, with a duplex along U.S. 1/Roosevelt Boulevard as well. The highway becomes a freeway in Bucks County before the northern terminus with U.S. 1 near Morrisville.
Pennsylvania 291 connects Interstate 76 with Interstate 95 and the Philadelphia International Airport via the Platte Bridge over the Schuylkill River. The designation was rerouted in the 1980s from a downtown path along Broad Street. The main purpose of the highway, asides serving the refineries in South Philadelphia, is to connect Interstate 95 northbound traffic with Interstate 76 westbound (since there is no ramp between the two).
Pennsylvania 611, the remnant of U.S. 611, follows Broad Street from north of the city into downtown at City Hall. The highway is the main north-south drag in Philadelphia, encompassing six to eight lanes. The designation 611 used to terminate at Pennsylvania 3/City Hall. However, for continuity purposes, Pennsylvania 611 was extended southward to Interstate 95 and the sports complex for the Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies. The southern extension overlaid the former routing of Pennsylvania 291.
Scenes around Philadelphia
|An Interstate 676 trailblazer is posted at the South Street eastbound intersection with 5th Street northbound. 5th Street flows northbound to Independence Mall and the eastbound beginning of the Ben Franklin Bridge (Interstate 676 & U.S. 30) from here. Photo taken 03/28/04.|
|Packer Avenue eastbound at its intersection with Front Street. Packer Avenue parallels Interstate 76 between Pennrose Avenue and Front Street to the east. Ramps from Interstate 76 (Walt Whitman Bridge) to Interstate 95 (Delaware Expressway) pass overhead to the left. Photo taken 08/04/04.|
|Front Street northbound carries traffic from the Sports complexes and South Philadelphia via Pattison and Packer Avenues to both Interstate 95 (Delaware Expressway) and Interstate 76 (Walt Whitman Bridge) eastbound. Pictured here is Front Street northbound after its intersection with Packer Avenue at the northbound Interstate 95 flyover onto Interstate 76 eastbound. Photo taken 08/04/04.|
|A left-hand turn carries drivers from Front Street northbound onto the eastbound Interstate 76 ramp from Interstate 95. North of there is the southbound ramp departure for Interstate 95 southbound. Motorists turning right merge onto the Walt Whitman Bridge westbound ramp for the Delaware Expressway southbound that passes over Front Street here. Photo taken 08/04/04.|
|Attached to the Interstate 76 westbound flyover overpass to Interstate 95 southbound is the northbound Interstate 95 panel for the upcoming left-hand turn. The second overpass carries Interstate 76 westbound drivers onto the Delaware Expressway northbound. Photo taken 08/04/04.|
|Front Street northbound at the Interstate 95 southbound off-ramp and northbound on-ramp for the Delaware Expressway. The on-ramp to Interstate 95 northbound merges with the Interstate 76 westbound flyover ramp pictured in the above photograph. Photo taken 08/04/04.|
|South Street ends at Front Street ahead of Interstate 95 (Delaware Expressway). A pedestrian overpass extends eastward from the road portion of South Street to Columbus Boulevard. Turn northward onto Front Street from South Street and an Interstate 95 trailblazer is posted for the intersection with Spruce Street. All ramps to the Delaware Expressway in the Penns Landing vicinity utilize either Front Street or Columbus Boulevard. Photo taken 03/28/04.|
|Fairmount Park Roads|
|Belmont Avenue represents a north-south arterial through western Philadelphia between U.S. 30 (Girard Avenue) and U.S. 1 (City Avenue). Midway between the two federal highways is Fairmount Park. The four-lane roadway cuts through the western periphery of the park and intersections N Concourse Drive in this photograph. The Mann Center for the Performing Arts resides to the northwest of Concourse Drive on 52nd Street. Photo taken 04/10/04.|
|One half mile north of N Concourse Drive is the intersection with Georges Hill Drive and Montgomery Drive. Montgomery Drive links Belmont Avenue with Schuylkill Expressway at the Exit 341 diamond interchange of Interstate 76 and River Road. Mast arm signal assemblies govern the movements between the three roadways Photo taken 04/10/04.|
|Montgomery Drive eastbound at the eastbound on-ramp to Interstate 76 (Schuylkill Expressway) for Central Philadelphia and the Walt Whitman Bridge. Montgomery Drive passes underneath the Schuylkill Expressway ahead before ending 0.25 miles ahead at River Road. No commercial trucks are allowed to use this interchange of Interstate 76. Photo taken 04/10/04.|
Philadelphia Road Links
Page Updated October 25, 2006.