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Interstate 78

 

Routing

Interstate 78 links New York City with central Pennsylvania. Interstate 78 was planned to traverse Queens and Brooklyn New York with a terminus in the Bronx at Interstate 95 at the current junction of Interstates 95 and 295. The New York City alignment was never built, with a truncation of Interstate 78 at the eastern portal of the Holland Tunnel in lower Manhattan, as well as traffic lights just west of the tunnel. Apparently the traffic light is located on the designated stretch of Interstate 78, making Interstate 78 one of a handful of Interstates (Interstate 180 in Wyoming, Interstate 70 in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, and Interstate 585 in South Carolina) with such a feature.

In the Allentown/Bethlehem, Pennsylvania area, Interstate 78 had originally been routed on the U.S. 22 Lehigh Valley Thruway. A new alignment was constructed south of Allentown to Easton, Pennsylvania by the late 1980s. As a result, then Interstate 378 was orphaned and was renumbered to Pennsylvania 378.

High Priority Corridor

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

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 78 largely follows U.S. 22 from Harrisburg east to New York City.

Future Aspirations

In Section 1602 of TEA-21 (1998), Item 14 appropriates $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 has been heard on this specific proposal since then, although sections of U.S. 22 continues to be upgraded to freeway standards through central Pennsylvania.

History

The Interstate 78 bypass of Bethlehem, Allentown, and Easton opened to traffic on November 21, 1989.1

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 by Alex Nitzman (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 federal 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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).
Some of the tallest skyscrapers from Manhattan come into view as Interstate 78 east approaches Exit 14B. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).
After the metering lights, Interstate 78 east descends into Holland Tunnel. Photos taken by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).
The next exit on eastbound Interstate 78 is Exit 2, Hudson Street to Uptown. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).
Next up is the connection to Brooklyn. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).
Exit 4 departs for downtown, and the final exit is the connection to Canal Street eastbound (via Exit 5). Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (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 by Alex Nitzman (08/09/04).

Sources:

  1. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Page Updated August 30, 2009.

 
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: October 31, 2002 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.

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