Interstate 78

Routing

Interstate 78 originates in a rural area east of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and ends at the Holland Tunnel linking Jersey City, New Jersey with Manhattan, New York. The freeway provides a trucking corridor to North Jersey from Central Pennsylvania in lieu of the tolled Pennsylvania and New Jersey Turnpikes. Through the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton area, the freeway acts as a bypass along South Mountain and Morgan Hill through to Alpha, New Jersey.

East from the Delaware River, Interstate 78 intertwines with New Jersey 173 (the former alignment of U.S. 22) across Musconetcong Mountain to the Spruce Run Reservoir area and Clinton. U.S. 22 emerges as its own route east from Lebanon through to Newark while I-78 stays north through to Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Summit. The two routes converge east from Union and Irvington at the interchange complex with New Jersey 21, U.S. 1 & 9 by Newark Liberty International Airport.

Beyond the U.S. 1 & 9 freeway leading north to Pulaski Skyway and Interstate 95, Interstate 78 travels the tolled New Jersey Turnpike Extension across Newark Bay to Jersey City. The limited access route ends at the one-way street couplet of 12th and 14th Streets between Jersey Avenue and the Holland Tunnel west portal. This stretch travels at-grade through four signalized intersections.

The Holland Tunnel carries motorists below the Hudson River to the area of Hudson Square and Soho in Manhattan, New York. Eastbound I-78 emerges at a loop encircling St. John's Park with five ramps departing in succession to the adjacent street grid between Hudson and Varick Streets. The westbound beginning includes ramps from Canal Street, Watts Street and Varick Street two to three blocks to the north.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 78 in New Jersey is part of High Priority Corridor 63: Liberty Corridor.

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 78 parallels or directly replaced U.S. 22 from near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania east to Newark, New Jersey. The New Jersey Turnpike Extension loops to the south opposite U.S. 1 & 9 along the Pulaski Skyway.

History

Origins of I-78 predate the Interstate system with a 1950 upgrade of U.S. 22 to an expressway from the Lebanon County line to Exit 13 (PA 501). The four-lane roadway extended east from PA 501 at Bethel to Exit 17 (PA 419) in 1951. Work continued with construction of the Lehigh Valley Thruway from Allentown to the Delaware River commencing in 1952. The Thruway was finished in 1955, as was the portion between PA 419 and Exit 19 (PA 183 by Strausstown). When the Interstate system was established in 1958, two additional sections of U.S. 22 freeway were completed: Exits 23 to 30 (Hamburg) and from Exit 30 to the Lehigh County line.1

All of Interstate 78 west of the Lehigh Valley Thruway was completed in 1970.1 Resistance from residents of Phillipsburg, New Jersey in 1968 halted work on the connection from the Lehigh Valley Thruway to Interstate 78 east of Alpha. This led to the eventual realignment of I-78 to the south of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. Work on the new I-78 broke ground in 19841, with completion on November 21, 1989.2

Through New Jersey, Interstate 78 was completed in August 1986 when the controversial section through Watchung Reservation was finally opened to traffic.3 The New Jersey Turnpike Extension was constructed between 1954 and September 1956. The Holland Tunnel opened to traffic on November 13, 1927. It consists of a 8,371 foot long tube for eastbound and a 8,558 foot tube for westbound.4

The planned eastern extent of Interstate 78 through New York City included the following routes east and north to Interstate 95 in the Bronx:

  • Lower Manhattan Expressway (unconstructed) - from the Holland Tunnel east to the Williamsburg Bridge
  • Williamsburg Bridge (opened in 1903) - east to the Bushwick Expressway
  • Bushwick Expressway (unconstructed) - east to the Nassau Expressway at Southern Parkway
  • Nassau Expressway (completed eastbound in 1971, westbound unbuilt) - east to the Clearview Expressway
  • Clearview Expressway (completed from NH 25 northward in 1963) - north to the Throgs Neck Bridge
  • Throgs Neck Bridge - (opened in 1961) north to a split with Cross Bronx Expressway (I-78 mainline and Throgs Neck Expressway (I-78 Spur).

Interstate 78 was deleted through New York City between Interstate 278 (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) and the planned junction of the unconstructed Bushwick Expressway at the Nassau Expressway by AASHTO on June 23, 1969. The same decision redesignated I-78 along the short Nassau Expressway as Interstate 878 and I-78 along the Clearview Expressway north from Hillside Avenue as Interstate 295.

Future Aspirations

In Section 1602 of TEA-21 (1998), Item 14 appropriated $100,000 to the study of including U.S. 22 between its junction with U.S. 250 and/or Interstate 77 in Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, within the Interstate Highway System. In July 1998, a group of highway officials from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia met to discuss this issue. Their claim was that this upgrade would boost the area's economy. Nothing further arose from this specific proposal since then, although sections of U.S. 22 constitute freeway standards through central Pennsylvania.

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 81 - near Lickdale, Pennsylvania
Perspective from Interstate 78 west
Two miles ahead of the directional T interchange with Interstate 81 on I-78 west ahead of Swatara Creek. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/17/16).
Pennsylvania 72 crosses over Interstate 78 from Lickdale south to West Jonestown just prior to Interstate 81. Motorists bound for the state route south to Lebanon are directed northward along I-81 via Exit 1A to make the connection. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/17/16).
The mainline of Interstate 78 west defaults onto Interstate 81 south ahead of Indiantown Gap Military Reservation. The freeway leads west 18.1 miles to split with Interstate 83 south near Colonial Park. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/17/16).
Exit 1A leads motorists northward along I-81 through Swatara Gap of Blue Mountain to Hazelton. I-81 connects Harrisburg with Wilkes-Barre and Scranton along a 232 mile course through PA. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/17/16).
Motorists from the ending I-78 merge onto the left-hand side of Interstate 81 south. U.S. 22, which overlapped with Interstate 78 west from outside Allentown, shifted to its own alignment to the south ahead of Fredericksburg. It parallels I-81 through to north Harrisburg. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/17/16).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 78 west
Former button copy overheads at the ramp split for I-81 on Interstate 78 west. 19 miles separate I-78 from the northern terminus of Interstate 83 near Colonial Park. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Perspective from Interstate 81 south
Leading away from Fisher Avenue and Lickdale, Interstate 81 south passes through an industrial park area on the 0.75 mile approach to Interstate 78 (Exit 89). Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Interstate 81 south overtakes the ending westbound lanes of Interstate 78 and advances 23 miles to the capital city of Harrisburg. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
A left-hand ramp (Exit 89) takes motorists onto Interstate 78 east for Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 81 south
Illuminated overheads previously posted at the unnumbered exit for Interstate 78 east from I-81 south. This sign bridge was eventually replaced. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Perspective from Interstate 81 north
The first sign for Interstate 78 east posted along I-81 north references Reading. Reading lies south of the I-78 corridor via Pennsylvania 61 (old U.S. 122) from Hamburg, midway to Allentown. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Interstate 81 runs east-west between the Harrisburg area and the split with Interstate 78. The freeway passes just south of Fort Indiantown Gap military reservation on the two mile approach to I-78 (Exit 89). Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Supplemental guide sign posted near Aires Run advising motorists headed to Pennsylvania 72 south to Lebanon to remain along I-81 north to Exit 90. PA 72 crosses paths with I-78 just east of Interstate 81, but without direct access. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
One mile ahead of the directional T interchange (Exit 89) with Interstate 78 east on I-81 north. I-81 continues 56 miles to the city of Hazelton and 62 miles to the junction with Interstate 80. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Long distance truckers are advised to remain along Interstate 81 north to I-84 east at Scranton to bypass the New York City metropolitan area. I-78 and I-80 both lead I-81 motorists directly to the Big Apple otherwise. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Interstate 81 north makes a nearly 90 degree turn at Exit 89 for the approach to Swatara Gap across Blue Mountain. Interstate 78 continues the eastern trajectory, overtaking U.S. 22 east of Fredericksburg, en route Allentown. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Interstate 81 continues northeast with two lanes toward Hazelton and Wilkes-Barre while two lanes depart at Exit 89 for Interstate 78 east. U.S. 22 combines with I-78 between Exits 8 and 51 outside Allentown. Photo taken by Mark Moore (06/18/16).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 81 north
Replaced button copy overheads at the Interstates 78 east and 81 northbound split. Prior to the statewide Interstate exit renumbering project of 2001 in Pennsylvania, many of the Interstate junctions were unnumbered, including the west end of I-78. Vidcap taken 01/94.
A new sign bridge replaced this assembly at the I-78 east and 81 northbound split by 2007. Photo taken by Jonathan Lebowitz (12/27/02).
Perspective from Interstate 78 east
Passing by the first confirming marker for Interstate 78 east, drivers reach the first off-ramp in 5.8 miles at Pennsylvania 343 near Fredericksburg. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (09/02/02).
Eastern Terminus - New York 9A/East End of Holland Tunnel - Manhattan, New York City, New York
Perspective from Broome Street west
Overhead for the entrance to the Holland Tunnel on Broome Street westbound. The guide sign to the right indicates that traffic for Canal Street turns to the right at the next intersection. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (Winter 2001).
Perspective from New York 9A south
Interstate 78 overhead on New York 9A (West Side highway) southbound, approaching the eastern portal of the Holland Tunnel. Travelers utilizing the off-ramp for Interstate 78 would need to exit left from New York 9A to Canal Street, then approach the Holland Tunnel from there. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Southbound New York 9A/West Avenue connects to Interstate 78 via this left turn onto Canal Street at this traffic signal. There is no freeway to freeway connection ... and this portion of New York 9A is not a freeway, despite the use of exit numbers. In fact, at this point, Interstate 78/Holland Tunnel is below grade to make the crossing below the Hudson River. To connect to Interstate 78 from here, follow Canal Street south for about five blocks, then turn left into Interstate 78/Holland Tunnel east (see next perspective to see more). Photo taken 08/09/04.
Perspective from Canal Street south
Interstate 78 Holland Tunnel keep left guide sign on Canal Street southbound. Traffic to Interstate 78 must cross Hudson Street from Canal Street before entering the eastern portal. Photo taken from Chris Mason (07/21/02).
Sign bridge on Canal Street southbound at the turn for Interstate 78 and Hudson Street. The unique diagram shows that the second left is the actual entrance to the Interstate, as traffic actually uses Broome Street to enter the Hudson River crossing. Note the low clearance for vehicles within the tunnel. Photo taken from Chris Mason (07/21/02).
Perspective from Interstate 78 west
Interstate 78 begins upon entering the Holland Tunnel approach. Traffic streams to this point from five streets: east-west Broome Street, northbound Hudson Street, diagonal Canal Street, east-west Watts Street, and southbound Varick Street. At this spot, we are looking due north into the tunnel entrance. Photo taken by Cesar Centano (08/22/08).
Descending into the Holland Tunnel eastern portal on Interstate 78 westbound. Traffic crosses into Hoboken, New Jersey, and is greeted with a couple traffic lights between the western portal and beginning of the Interstate 78 New Jersey Turnpike Extension routing. Vidcap taken by Ray Martin (07/99).
Just inside the tunnel on westbound. A 35 mph speed limit is posted. The traffic lights on Interstate 78 represent a rare occurrence of them on an Interstate designated stretch of roadway. Interstate 65 at its northern terminus in Gary, Indiana and Interstate 676 at the west end of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania represent two other occurrences. Vidcap taken by Ray Martin (07/99).
Perspective from Interstate 78 east
Interstate 78 turns east at the New Jersey Turnpike Extension end at New Jersey 139 and the couplet of 12th and 14th Streets. Unsigned at this point, I-78 connects with 12th Street east, three blocks ahead of the Holland Tunnel toll plaza. The first signal is with Jersey Avenue. Note the traffic signal for Interstate 78 traffic is green, while the signal for adjacent New Jersey 139 is red. This signal acts as a metering light for the traffic to enter this business district. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The next traffic signal on eastbound Interstate 78/12th Street is with Erie Street, a one-way street traveling north. The westbound lanes of Interstate 78 follow parallel 14th Street to the north while three lanes continue east to the Holland Tunnel entrance. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The third traffic signal along I-78 on 12th Street is with Manila Avenue. The forthcoming Holland Tunnel is one of two Hudson River tubes between New Jersey and New York. The other being the Lincoln Tunnel, former Interstate 495, crossing between Union City and Midtown Manhattan. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The fourth and final traffic signal along 12th Street east is with Marin Boulevard. Interstate 78 east continues into the Holland Tunnel despite the fact that there are no shields for it anywhere. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Interstate 78 east descends into Holland Tunnel beyond the main line toll plaza. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The Holland Tunnel accommodates just two lanes per direction. Passing is prohibited. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Exiting the tunnel on eastbound into lower Manhattan. The eastbound tube parallels Canal Street before emerging between Hudson and Varick Streets. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Guide signs for New York 9A posted at the exit of the Holland Tunnel Eastbound. New York 9A with the control point of Uptown is signed as Exit 2 while New York 9A (West Street) south is Exit 1. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The final section of Interstate 78 is basically a loop that allows for connects to Exit 1, New York 9A (West Street); Exit 2, Hudson Street to Uptown; Exit 3, Brooklyn; and Exit 4, Downtown. Each ramp distributes traffic to the Manhattan street grid in sequence. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The next exit on eastbound Interstate 78 is Exit 2, Hudson Street to Uptown. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Next up is the connection to Brooklyn. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Following that is the ramp to Exit 4, Downtown. These ramps are happening in rapid succession as the loop of Interstate 78 makes a nearly 360 degree turnaround. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Exit 4 departs for downtown, and the final exit is the connection to Canal Street eastbound (via Exit 5). Photo taken 08/09/04.
At Laight Street, Interstate 78 finally comes to an end ... perhaps the most unusual and non-standard Interstate highway end of any Interstate. The one-way freeway loops right into this traffic signal, and beyond the traffic signal one block is Canal Street, which travels east to the Manhattan Bridge (once-proposed Interstate 478). Photo taken 08/09/04.

Sources:

  1. Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 78.
  2. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  3. Interstate 78 (New Jersey), NYCRoads.com.
  4. Facts & Info - Holland Tunnel - The Port Authority of NY & NJ.

Page Updated July 18, 2016.

Mileage

State Pennsylvania
Mileage 75.23
Cities Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton
Junctions Interstate 81, Interstate 476
State New Jersey
Mileage 67.83
Cities Plainfield, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City
Junctions Interstate 287, Garden State Parkway, Interstate 95/New Jersey Turnpike
State New York
Mileage 0.50
Cities New York City
Junctions None
TOTAL 143.56
Source: December 31, 2015 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Interstate 78 Annual Average Daily Traffic

State Location AADT Composite Year
Pennsylvania Schubert 28,000 2002
Pennsylvania Allentown 79,000 2002
Pennsylvania Bethlehem 48,000 2002
New York Holland Tunnel - Manhattan 86,400 2002
Source: Pennsylvania Traffic Volumes 2002 (Penndot)
NYSDOT 2002 Traffic Volume Report
Complete AADT data.

New York City - 1961.
The majority of the proposed sections of Interstate 78 shown on this map in 1961 were never built. This includes the route southeast from the Williamsburg Bridge to Southern Parkway and the Clearview Expressway north to Hillside Avenue.

Portions of Conduit Boulevard were also expanded to accommodate the eastern most stretch of the Bushwick Expressway. A large grassy median remains in place from the canceled freeway.