The Eastern Interstate 76 forms a major east-west route across eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. It joins the Philadelphia metropolitan area with Pittsburgh, Akron and Cleveland, Ohio (via I-80). I-76 doubles as the majority of the mainline Pennsylvania Turnpike, and it follows the extreme eastern segment of the Ohio Turnpike as well. Portions both west and east of these toll roads are free, with the exception of the tolled Walt Whitman Bridge across the Delaware River. The Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia carries I-76 southeast from Conshohocken into the City of Brotherly Love. The often congested route predates the Interstate system with completion in 1954.
One of the first superhighways constructed prior to the Interstate Highway System, the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened initially with 160 miles between Middlesex and Irwin on October 1, 1940, only three years after the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority was created.1 This was a full 16 years prior to the establishment of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.
Between 1950 and 1956, the Pennsylvania Turnpike was extended both east and west, connecting to the Ohio Turnpike in the west and the New Jersey Turnpike in the east. But the route was not always Interstate 76. Right after the creation of the Interstate Highway System, the Interstate 80S designation was applied to the majority of the turnpike in 1958, and it remained as the numerical designation until 19632, when I-80S was dropped in favor of newly designated Interstate 76 from Monroeville east to Gloucester City, New Jersey. Until 1963, eastern Pennsylvania loops and spurs were given the designations of Interstates 180, 280, 480 and 680. These later became today' I-176, I-276, I-476 and I-676 when I-76 was extended eastward along the turnpike to Interstate 276 (Exit 326) and along the Schuylkill Expressway (former Pennsylvania 43) from I-276 southeast to Downtown Philadelphia.
Additional changes to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-76 came on December 3, 1971, when I-80S was redesignated as I-76 between Monroeville and I-71 near Seville, Ohio by AASHTO. The same AASHTO meeting renumbered what was Interstate 76 along Penn-Lincoln Parkway East through Pittsburgh as Interstate 376 and former I-76 along Penn-Lincoln Parkway West as Interstate 279. These changes also resulted the renumbering of I-876 in Downtown Pittsburgh as I-579.
Interstate 76 remained in this configuration for one year, when AASHTO approved a designation swap of I-76 and 676 in Philadelphia on June 20, 1972. This decision redirected I-76 across the Walt Whitman Bridge into New Jersey while redesignating the short stretch of the Vine Street Expressway completed at that time as new I-676.
After Interstate 76 was signed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the entire turnpike was retrofitted with concrete barriers in 1965. Second bores at the Blue, Kittatinny and Tuscarora Tunnels were opened in 1968, thus allowing four lanes of traffic through these areas.1 A reconstruction project along the turnpike began in 1999 focused on expansion along the cosigned portion with Interstate 70.
Parallel U.S. Routes
The eastern Interstate 76 merges with U.S. 224 between Interstate 71 and Akron, and it follows a unique alignment once it merges with the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes. It more or less parallels U.S. 30 east of Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Within Philadelphia, the Schuylkill Expressway offset U.S. 422 as well.
The eastern end of Interstate 76 ties in with Interstate 295 and the North South Freeway (New Jersey 42). An antiquated interchange at the junction included substandard ramps with 35 mile per hour speed limits and a brief overlap between I-76 and I-295, resulting in weaving traffic concerns. A multi-year project commenced in March 2013 to unravel the overlap, build new ramps with a 70 MPH-design speed and widen Interstate 295. Work runs through 2021.
The final mainline interchange of Interstate 76 is Exit 2 for Ohio 3 to the towns of Medina and Seville. Otherwise traffic encounters this guide sign one mile east of the terminus. Photo taken 05/21/02.
With the Interstate 71 mainline above, Interstate 76 draws to within its final quarter mile at Exit 1. Traffic that does not access Interstate 71 can continue westward along U.S. 224. The US route continues as an expressway with partial access control to just west of Lodi. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Interstate 76 draws to a close at this sign bridge for Interstate 71/Exit 1. Ahead U.S. 224 sees a traffic light for County Road 19. The typical fast food and gas station franchises are located at this intersection. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Snow covers the ground in this perspective of the Interstate 76 westbound conclusion. Interstate 71 sees no interchanges for nine miles to the north and five to the southwest about this junction. The city of Cleveland is 30 miles to the north. Photo taken by Chris Curley (12/29/00).
Beyond the sign bridge Pictured in the above two photographs is a lone U.S. 224 westbound reassurance shield. The east-west route next encounters an Interstate highway in 95 miles at Findlay where the highway interacts with Interstate 75. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Perspective from U.S. 224 east
Leaving the Westfield Center area, U.S. 224 makes its way to Interstate 71 and the Interstate 76 eastbound beginning. The intersection with County Road 19 is that last at-grade intersection that stands between U.S. 224 and the freeway begin. Photo taken 05/21/02.
A second guide sign of Interstate 71-76 on U.S. 224 eastbound. Interstate 71 sees its next southbound interchange with Ohio 83 to the south of Lodi. To the north the freeway intersects Ohio 18 at Exit 218. Just two miles to the north of that junction is the northbound beginning of Interstate 271. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Approaching the traffic light at County Road 19. This north-south highway travels from U.S. 224 north to Chippewa Lake and the Medina County seat of Medina. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Beyond the County Road 19 traffic light, the U.S. 224 freeway begins. Ahead is the ramp departure for Interstate 71. A short connector route facilitates movements between the two freeways. The interchange configuration is reminiscent of a toll highway connection. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Interstate 76 now begins as traffic for Interstate 71 departs. This ramp is classified as Exit 1 in the westbound direction but is unsigned in the eastbound direction. The capital city of Columbus is 90 miles to the southwest via Interstate 71. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Another look at the Interstate 76 eastbound beginning. The city of Akron is a short 17 mile drive to the east via Interstate 76/U.S. 224. The old U.S. 224 can be found paralleling Interstate 76 via Ohio 281. Photo taken by Chris Curley (12/29/00).
The first eastbound reassurance shield of Interstate 76. The overpass here is not of Interstate 71, but of the connector ramps. The Interstate 71 mainline is another 0.25 miles to the east. Photo taken 05/21/02.
Perspective from Interstate 71 north
Two mile guide sign for Interstate 76/U.S. 224 (Exit 209) on Interstate 71 north. Interstate 76 allows Columbus and Cincinnati based traffic interests a connection to Interstate 80 and ultimately New York City. Photo taken by Chris Curley (12/29/00).
Perspective from Interstate 71 south
This is the two-mile approach sign for the junction with Interstate 76 on southbound Interstate 71 near Westfield Center west of Akron. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/21/05).
Southbound Interstate 71 reaches Exit 209, Junction Interstate 76/U.S. 224 east to Akron, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh and U.S. 224 west to Lodi and Findlay. The interchange is freeway-to-freeway through the use of two trumpet interchanges, similar to those found on turnpike freeway-to-freeway connections. Services are available a short distance east on U.S. 224. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/21/05).
A reassurance Interstate 71 south shield is posted prior to the overpass that carries Interstate 76 and U.S. 224 over the freeway. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/21/05).
After descending from the Walt Whitman Bridge and meeting Interstate 676, signs for Interstate 295 and New Jersey 42 appear on the overheads for eastbound Interstate 76/North-South Freeway. The intervening exit between Interstate 676 and Interstate 295 is Exit 1C, Junction U.S. 130. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Use Exit 1C, Junction U.S. 130 south to Brooklawn and Westville. Eastbound Interstate 76 is actually traveling due south along this stretch. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Eastbound Interstate 76/North-South Freeway reaches Exit 1C, Junction U.S. 130 south to Brooklawn and Westville. To Interstate 295 south, use the left lanes; to Interstate 295 north, use the right lanes. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The first ramp in the interchange with Interstate 295 offers a connection to northbound en route to Trenton (via Exit 1B). Photo taken 08/09/04.
The final interchange of Interstate 76 is that of Exits 1B and 1A. In this southward photograph, Interstate 76 has just left the U.S. 130 interchange and is nearing the Exit 1B departure of Interstate 295 north. The two freeways share the alignment between Exits 1A and B. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Beyond the Exit 1B connection to Interstate 295 north, Interstate 295 southbound arrives and shares a dual carriageway configuration with Interstate 76 east. Ahead is the Exit 1A ramp to Interstate 295 south from the mainline. To the right Interstate 295 traffic approaches the split with traffic to southbound New Jersey 42, the North South Freeway. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Interstate 76 comes to an end and New Jersey 42 begins. Exit 1A for Interstate 295 loops over New Jersey 42 and merges with the departing alignment to the right. A slip ramp facilitates movements from Interstate 295 south to the North South Freeway. Six miles to the south is the beginning of the tolled Atlantic City Expressway. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Perspective from New Jersey 42 north
The North South Freeway as it travels northbound toward the Interstate 76 westbound beginning and local and express lane split. Between this junction and New Jersey 55, New Jersey 42 crosses over the New Jersey Turnpike. Traffic from Interstate 76 and 295 must utilize New Jersey 168 to access the Turnpike at Exit 3 near Runnemede. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Within one half mile of the Interstate 76 beginning and local/express split is a second diagrammatic overhead. The Express lanes offer an unimpeded approach to the tolled Walt Whitman Bridge into the city of Philadelphia. Photo taken 10/13/01.
One fourth of a mile from the Interstate 76 begin/New Jersey 42 end. The local lanes offer access to Interstate 295 north (there is no access to Interstate 295 south), U.S. 130 (via Exit 1C/D), and Interstate 676 north (via Exit 2). The bridge above brings Interstate 295 northbound into the fold. Photo taken 10/13/01.
The original button copy overheads displayed on the sign bridge Pictured in the above photograph. The local/express configuration had extended all the way to Interstate 676. This is no longer the case as the dual carriageways merge just before the Interstate 676 northbound beginning at Exit 2. Vidcap taken 12/30/95.
The local and express split of Interstate 76. To the right Interstate 295 northbound merges onto Interstate 76 local. The two highways share pavement for the next one half mile. The orientation of the two routes and overlap plagues the junction with heavy traffic congestion due to the weaving traffic movements and overall volume. A project to rebuild this junction, eliminating the overlap, is underway. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Northbound Interstate 76 express as the dual carriageways near the split with Interstate 295 north. Interstate 295 northbound is given the designation Exit 1B, essentially creating a situation where Interstate 295 exits from itself. The control city of Trenton is 36 miles to the northeast of this location. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Interstate 295 branches away from Interstate 76 westbound at Exit 1B. The next interchange is that of Exit 28 with New Jersey 168. Interests to the New Jersey Turnpike are advised to take that exit and New Jersey 168 south to the Exit 3 interchange. Otherwise Interstate 76 interacts with U.S. 130 in 0.75 miles and Interstate 676 in two miles. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Perspective from Interstate 295 north
Beyond the Exit 25 interchange with New Jersey 47, Interstate 295 northbound sees these set of overheads for the pending merge onto Interstate 76 west. Two ramps are provided to access Interstate 76: one for Express and the Walt Whitman Bridge; the other for Local and U.S. 130. Either ramp will eventually allow access to Interstate 676 north. Photo taken 10/13/01.
A second set of overheads for the upcoming Interstate 76 merge of Interstate 295 north. Speed limits reduce to 35 MPH as the current configuration of the ramps ahead include a very sharp curve. This curve has been the site of numerous traffic accidents and overall traffic congestion. It is one of the primary factors for the Interstate 76/295 reconstruction project. Photo taken 10/13/01.
The Express Interstate 76 ramp is assigned the number Exit 26. This ramp enters Interstate 76 from the left. Ahead the Interstate 295 mainline merges onto Interstate 76 Local for about one half mile. Photo taken 10/13/01.
Philadelphia - 1961 Pennsylvania Official Highway Map.
Prior to the renumbering of I-80S as I-76, Interstate 680 was the designation for the freeway south from Vine Street to the Walt Whitman Bridge. The Vine Street Expressway opened initially between the Schuylkill Expressway and 18th Street in 1959. Completion of the route was delayed until 1991.