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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
Button copy overheads at the westbound ending of Interstate 78. 19 miles separate Interstate 78 from the northern terminus of Interstate 83 outside of Harrisburg. U.S. 22, linked with Interstate 78 for most of the Interstate 81 to Allentown stretch, departs Interstate 78 westbound at Exit 8. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Perspective from Interstate 78 east
The first eastbound Interstate 78 reassurance shield. The city of Allentown is approximately 55 miles from this location. U.S. 22 enters the Interstate 78 freeway for a 43 mile overlap at Exit 8. The freeway itself overrides a good portion of the original routing of the US highway. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (09/02/02).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 78 east
Interstate 476 51 miles at Allentown, PA
Interstate 287 106 miles at Pluckemin, NJ
Interstate 95 135 miles at Elizabeth, NJ
Perspective from Interstate 81 south
Overheads on Interstate 81 southbound at Interstate 78 east (now Exit 89). Interstate 81 rides the Appalachian Mountains for a good portion of its routing, providing for some scenic vistas throughout the corridor. The same terrain conditions allow for a tri-level stack interchange at the terminus of Interstate 78. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 81 south
Interstate 83 19 miles near Colonial Park, PA
Interstate 76 37 miles at Middlesex, PA
Interstate 70 97 miles at Hagerstown, MD
Perspective from Interstate 81 north
Trucks advisory sign on Interstate 81 north at Interstate 78's western terminus. Signage such as this is put in place to sway truck drivers from traveling through New York city metro. In a related factoid, Interstate 84 is signed with a control city of New York from the MassPike westbound, even though it never reaches the city itself. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Graphical overhead on Interstate 81 northbound, one mile ahead of the split with Interstate 78. The city of Hazelton is 56 miles to the north, just eight miles south of Interstate 80. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (09/02/02).
A wintry view of the one mile guide sign for the Interstate 78/81 split. Before the exit renumbering project of 2001, this interchange was not assigned a number. A good portion of the Interstate to Interstate connections in Pennsylvania were not assigned an exit number prior to 2001. Photo taken by Jonathan Lebowitz (12/27/02).
Interstate 81 north makes an abrupt turn to the north at Exit 89. Meanwhile, the easterly trajectory from Harrisburg to Allentown/Bethlehem is followed by the beginning of Interstate 78 (along the original U.S. 22 corridor). Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (09/02/02).
Second view of Interstate 81 northbound at Exit 89/Interstate 78 east. U.S. 22, situated to the south at this point, merges onto Interstate 78 at Exit 8. The two highways stay cosigned eastward to Exit 51. Photo taken by Jonathan Lebowitz (12/27/02).
The original signage fastened to the sign bridge in the above photograph showed a left-hand arrow and button copy lettering for the Interstate 81 panel and a damaged Interstate 78 shield for the right-hand panel. Vidcap taken 01/94.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 81 north
Interstate 80 62 miles near Saint Johns, PA
Interstate 476 86 miles at Dupont, PA
Interstate 84/
Interstate 380
98 miles at Dunmore, PA
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
Traveling east on the New Jersey Turnpike Extension in Jersey City, this is the final reassurance shield for Interstate 78 east (after Exit 14A, Bayonne). Most of the rest of the route from here to the Holland Tunnel and New York City is not well-signed with eastbound Interstate 78 shields. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The penultimate exit on Interstate 78 east is Exit 14B, Jersey City (to Liberty State Park, ferry service to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and Liberty Science Center). Photo taken 08/09/04.
Some of the tallest skyscrapers from Manhattan come into view as Interstate 78 east approaches Exit 14B. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Eastbound Interstate 78/New Jersey Turnpike Extension reaches Exit 14B to Jersey City. All through lanes will prepare to exit onto Exit 14C, which connects the turnpike to the Holland Tunnel en route to New York City and Lower Manhattan. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Reduce speed ahead. Exit 14C is the continuation of Interstate 78 east to the Holland Tunnel, but the Interstate is not signed on the overhead here. In fact, it seems odd to take an exit to remain on the mainline of an Interstate, but that is because Interstate 78 leaves the turnpike system. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The speed limit on eastbound Interstate 78/New Jersey Turnpike Extension drops appreciably. All traffic must stop to pay a toll; through traffic then is deposited into Jersey City before connecting to Holland Tunnel. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Stop ahead, pay toll. Towers from Midtown Manhattan come into view because eastbound Interstate 78 is actually traveling northeast at this point. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The final interchange exit on eastbound Interstate 78 is here at the Liberty State Park offramp. The left two lanes continue east toward Holland Tunnel. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Interstate 78 travels briefly on this elevated, four-lane viaduct (two lanes each way). The freeway is now traveling due north to rendezvous with New Jersey 139. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Turning east again, Interstate 78 prepares to merge with New Jersey 139 for the final approach to 12th Street and the Holland Tunnel. Photo taken 08/09/04.
Snug against a tall building, Interstate 78 east is the two right lanes, while new lanes join on the left from New Jersey 139. The two lanes are not permitted to commingle until after a series of ... traffic signals! Interstate 78 east will shift onto 12th Street, which features four traffic signals and driveways to a variety of businesses (especially gas stations). Photo taken 08/09/04.
Interstate 78 (unsigned) connects to 12th Street. The first signal is with Jersey Avenue. Note the traffic signal for Interstate 78 traffic is green, while the signal for 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 are two blocks north of here on parallel 14th Street. A huge Amoco gas station sign dominates the view in the foreground, and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel can be seen in the distance. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The third traffic signal is with Manila Avenue. A fourth set of traffic lights can be seen ahead for Marin Boulevard and the toll plaza. Interstate 78 eastbound then will approach the western portal of the Holland Tunnel. The tunnel itself is one of two Hudson River tubes between New Jersey and New York. The other being the terminated Interstate 495 Lincoln Tunnel crossing between Union City and Midtown Manhattan. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The fourth and final traffic signal is with Marin Boulevard. The Holland Tunnel toll plaza is just ahead. Interstate 78 east continues into the Holland Tunnel despite the fact that there are no shields for it anywhere. Photo taken 08/09/04.
After the metering lights, Interstate 78 east descends into Holland Tunnel. Photos 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 southbound/West Street is Exit 1. Photo taken 08/09/04.
The final distance of Interstate 78 is basically a loop that allows for connects to Exit 1, Junction New York 9A/West Street; Exit 2, Hudson Street to Uptown; Exit 3, Brooklyn; and Exit 4, Downtown. Each ramp distributes traffic to each exit 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 June 9, 2015.

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, 2014 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.
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