BRISTOL TOWNSHIP >> The long-awaited interchange connecting Interstates 95 and 276 (the PA Turnpike) in Bucks County is officially open.
Officials from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Pa. Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and representatives from ground-transportation agencies in neighboring states gathered on Friday to commemorate completion of major, Stage 1 components of the Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchange Project.
“Motorists who travel in this area have been waiting a long time to realize the benefits this direct link will bring, namely reduced congestion on Bucks County roadways and improved traffic flow in the Philadelphia region and the entire east coast,” said PA Turnpike Commissioner Pasquale T. (Pat) Deon Sr. “At 1,900 miles, I-95 is the longest north-south artery in the United States and our most-used highway regarding vehicle miles traveled.”
The interchange, which opened to traffic for the Sept. 24 morning commute, is made up of two highway-speed (55 mph) connecting structures: One, 2,300 feet long, will carry northbound I-95 traffic onto the eastbound PA Turnpike (I-276). The other, 2,500 feet long, will carry westbound I-276 traffic onto southbound I-95.
“This new interchange — along with the re-designation of parts of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes — will finally complete I-95’s missing link, making the interstate continuous from Florida to Maine,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “Its opening also marks the completion of the original Interstate system decades after the law that created the network of highways was signed in 1956.”
Upon opening of these “flyovers” — so named because they can be traveled at highway speeds — the PA Turnpike stretch in Bristol Township from the new interchange east to the New Jersey line will be re-designated as I-95. From the new interchange, northbound I-95 will be routed east along the PA Turnpike, across the Delaware River Bridge to the NJ Turnpike Connector, then on to the northbound NJ at Turnpike Exit 6.
“Without a doubt, a crucial project benefit besides congestion relief and mobility is the economic boost for Bucks County and the entire southeastern Pennsylvania region,” Commissioner Deon said. “The completed interchange could support thousands of new jobs in existing industries in addition to the more than 500 sustained construction jobs we’ve already seen. From a market attractiveness standpoint, we’re looking at employment growth of thousands of regional jobs along with hundreds of millions of dollars in new business sales.”
The re-designation of the PA Turnpike as I-95 east of the new interchange also necessitated a re-designation of a segment of I-95 from the PA Turnpike over the Scudder Falls bridge into New Jersey and terminating at U.S. Route 1 above Trenton. Earlier this year, I-95 in New Jersey was re-designated as I-295 North/South from U.S. Route 1 to the Scudder Falls bridge. After this change, I-95 was converted to I-295 East/West in Pennsylvania from the Scudder Falls bridge to the PA Turnpike.
“Collaboration and the use of technology have played large roles in the success of this project,” said PennDOT District 6 Executive Kenneth M. McClain. “Utilizing Dynamic Message Boards to alert motorists of construction activities along the corridor provided a tremendous safety benefit to drivers and construction workers alike. This continued partnership between PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the other agencies has given way to a seamless commute for those traveling Interstate 95.”
Approximately $450 million, split roughly evenly among FHWA and the PA Turnpike, has been spent to date on Stage 1 components.
“Interstate 95 is a vital transportation link which serves over 10 percent of the Nation’s land area connecting the major cities along the eastern part of the country which represents 40 percent of the population or roughly 110 million people,” said FHWA Division Administrator Alicia Nolan. “Extensive levels of teamwork and collaboration between many jurisdictions — local, State and Federal — and key stakeholders were required to achieve the construction of this critical project.”
The project included construction of different elements needed to make this connection a reality. They included:
- 3 miles of new interchange flyovers and Interchange ramp reconstruction;
- 14 new bridges in addition to the multi-span flyover structures;
- 17 new interstate lane miles;
- environmental features including three acres of wetland mitigation; a half-mile of stream mitigation; new Red-bellied Turtle habitat enhancements in Silver Lake Park and along the Mill Creek Corridor; state-of-art highway runoff best management practices, including 31 stormwater management basins; three rain gardens;
- a high-speed, westbound cashless-tolling location, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth;
- a new, conventional mainline toll plaza at Neshaminy Falls with Express E-ZPass lanes;
- advanced Intelligent Transportation display and communication systems to notify motorists of conditions during construction, as well as a work-zone traveler information and incident notification system;
- more than 2.5 miles of retaining walls;
- more than 3 miles of new sound barriers; and
- roadway, traffic-signal and multimodal improvements to these adjacent roadways essential to the project: State Route 132 (Street Road), State Route 13 (Bristol Pike), State Route 413 (Veterans Highway), State Route 2049 (Durham Road), State Route 2023 (Galloway Road), State Route 2029 (Bristol-Oxford Valley Road), State Route 2035 (Richlieu Road) and State Route 2192 (Ford Road).
The construction schedule for Stage 2, which consists of the six remaining interchange movements between Interstates 276, 95 and 295, and Stage 3, a future Delaware River Bridge project, is largely dependent on funding.
Southbound Interstate 95 traffic using the connector will pay a toll (in place on Interstate 276 nearly three years now) as they enter Pennsylvania from New Jersey. This highway-speed cashless tolling point at the Turnpike Bridge over the Delaware River was implemented in anticipation of the connector. Neither toll tickets nor cash are accepted.
E-ZPass motorists pay $5 for a two-axle (passenger) vehicle; non-E-ZPass motorists pay $6.75 for a two-axle (passenger) vehicle via PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE, a cashless system that takes a photo of the license plate and mails an invoice to the vehicle owner. For commercial operators, each additional axle will cost an additional $5 for E-ZPass motorists and an additional $6.75 for non-E-ZPass motorists.
Pennsylvania is one of seven states where tolls are not currently charged for vehicles travelling on Interstate 95. Six states — Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire and Maine — today charge all I-95 vehicles a toll while two others (Florida and Virginia) offer optional, tolled express lanes to I-95 motorists.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike/Interstate 95 Interchange project management team includes Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., (design manager); KCI Technologies Inc. (environmental consultant); and Urban Engineers Inc. (construction manager). Designers are Gannett Fleming; Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson; Louis Berger Group; McCormick Taylor; ms consultants, inc.; Pennoni Associates, Inc.; Rummel, Klepper & Kahl; and STV Inc.