About Route 78
There are literally no “destinations” directly on Route 78 in NJ – other than truck stops and exits off the highway. However, it still plays a major role on NJroute22.com, because of the partial concurrency with Route 22 in the western third of the state (approximately 15 miles).
In addition, Route 78 is the fastest way to travel in this section of the state. We will certainly have posts that relate to Route 78.
And yes – it’s “technically” called Interstate 78 – but it’s our personal preference to refer to it as “Route 78.” Call us stuck in our ways if you must.
Here’s a history lesson for the highway geeks reading:
Interstate 78 in New Jersey
Interstate 78 (I-78) is an east-west route stretching from Union Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania to New York City. In New Jersey, I-78 is called the Phillipsburg–Newark Expressway and the Newark Bay Extension of the New Jersey Turnpike. The highway runs for 67.83 miles (109.16 km) in the northern part of the state of New Jersey from the Interstate 78 Toll Bridge over the Delaware River at the Pennsylvania state line in Phillipsburg, Warren County east to the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River at the New York state line in Jersey City, Hudson County. The Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway portion of I-78, formally called the Lightning Division Memorial Highway, runs from the Phillipsburg area east across rural areas of western New Jersey before entering suburban areas in Somerset County. The road crosses the Watchung Mountains, widening into a local-express lane configuration at Route 24 as it continues through urban areas to Newark. Here, I-78 intersects the mainline of the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) and becomes the Newark Bay Extension, crossing the Newark Bay Bridge and continuing to Jersey City. The route, along with Route 139, follows a one-way pair of surface streets to the Holland Tunnel.
In 1927, Route 11 was legislated as a high-speed bypass of U.S. Route 22 (US 22) between Whitehouse and Warrenville; but was never built. The earliest parts of I-78 to be built were the Holland Tunnel in 1927 and the Newark Bay Extension. With the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, a highway was planned along US 22 through northern New Jersey, becoming I-78 in 1958. The highway between Phillipsburg and Newark was built in various stages from the 1960s to 1989, with the final segment opening at the Interstate 78 Toll Bridge. The section of highway through the Watchung Mountains and across Newark garnered opposition from environmentalists and residents who were worried about the effects of the highway. In addition, there was opposition to building I-78 through Phillipsburg, which resulted in the alignment to the south of the Lehigh Valley. In the 2000s, I-78 was completely rebuilt between Route 24 and the Garden State Parkway. In addition, missing movements between the Garden State Parkway and I-78 were completed in 2010.
I-78 enters New Jersey from Pennsylvania on the Interstate 78 Toll Bridge over the Delaware River, which is maintained by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, heading into Phillipsburg, Warren County. The highway heads south as a six-lane freeway into agricultural areas, entering Pohatcong Township a short distance after the river. The freeway makes a turn to the east as it briefly passes through a corner of Alpha before coming back into Pohatcong Township. Bypassing the center of Alpha to the south, I-78 has two more segments that enter the Alpha borough limits before coming to an interchange with US 22 and the western terminus of Route 173. At this point, US 22 forms a concurrency with I-78 and the road comes into Greenwich Township. At this point, the New Jersey Department of Transportation takes over maintenance of the road. I-78/US 22 continues east through Greenwich Township, coming to a westbound exit and eastbound entrance with CR 637. The road turns southeast and has an eastbound exit and westbound entrance with CR 632 in Franklin Township. Within the ramps for this interchange, there are weigh stations in both directions.
The freeway turns east again and enters Union Township, coming to an interchange with CR 614 and Route 173. From here, I-78/US 22 continue east directly to the south of Route 173, coming to another interchange with that route as well as CR 625. Entering more commercial areas, Route 173 merges onto I-78/US 22 at exit 13. At exit 15, the highway interchanges with CR 513, and Route 173 splits from I-78/US 22 by heading north on CR 513. At this point, the freeway enters Franklin Township briefly at exit 15 and then enters Clinton where it crosses the South Branch Raritan River. I-78/US 22 turns northeast and leaves Clinton for Clinton Township, where it has an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for Route 173 that also provides access to Route 31. Immediately after is the interchange with Route 31. At the next interchange near the community of Annandale, US 22 splits from I-78 onto a four-lane surface highway, heading closer to the south of that route.
Immediately after the split, I-78 passes over New Jersey Transit’s Raritan Valley Line and runs through rural areas with increasing suburban development. The freeway runs through Lebanon, where an exit for CR 639 provides access to the town and the Round Valley Recreation Area. After running through Clinton Township again and into Readington Township, US 22 turns southeast while I-78 continues a due east course. In Tewksbury Township, there is an interchange with CR 523 that also provides access to CR 517. After this exit, the highway crosses back into Readington Township.
After crossing the Lamington River, I-78 comes into Bedminster, Somerset County, continuing east through more woods and farms with some suburban residential areas. Upon entering Somerset County, there is an exit for CR 665. The next interchange, exit 29, is called the Vincent R. Kramer Interchange. It is at I-287, which serves as a bypass around New York City. At this point, I-78 carries four eastbound lanes and three westbound lanes as the median widens. The road enters wooded suburban areas and crosses Second Watchung Mountain, running through a corner of Bridgewater Township, where there is a westbound scenic overlook, before coming into Bernards Township. The eastbound direction narrows back to three lanes before the interchange with CR 525, at which point the freeway crosses into Warren Township. The road heads east along the southern bank of the Dead River, coming to the exit for CR 651. I-78 heads farther south of the Dead River as it comes to the CR 531 interchange. Past CR 531, the highway turns to the northeast and comes to an interchange with Drift Road/Dale Road that provides access to US 22. At this point, I-78 runs across Second Watchung Mountain again.
At Route 24, I-78 divides into local and express lanes, with three express and three local lanes eastbound and two express and three local lanes westbound. In this section of the highway, most access is via the local lanes, though the next exit for Route 124 includes a direct westbound onramp to the express lanes. Before Route 124, I-78 briefly runs east through Millburn in Essex County and Springfield Township again before entering Union Township at the interchange. Past Route 124, I-78 carries a 3-2-2-3 lane configuration and comes to partial interchanges with CR 630 and CR 633. The next interchange along the highway provides access to the Garden State Parkway along the border of Union Township and Hillside. The road turns northeast again into Hillside, heading into more urbanized settings. In Hillside, I-78 has an eastbound exit and westbound entrance to Winans Avenue.
I-78 briefly passes through a corner of Irvington in Essex County before continuing into Newark. Upon entering Newark, the road has an interchange serving CR 602 and Wainwright Street. Following this, the freeway passes near urban neighborhoods before coming to exit 56. This large semi-directional T interchange was originally meant to serve the unbuilt Route 75, which would have connected to I-280. The large flyover ramps constructed were converted to exit ramps to Irvine Turner Boulevard with full access to the local and express lanes. The final interchange on the free part of I-78 is the massive complex to the north of the Newark Liberty International Airport, called the Newark Airport Interchange, with ramps to and from US 1/9, US 22, Route 21, and many local roads. Several ramps provide access to the express lanes. Just to the east, the local and express lanes rejoin at the toll gate for the New Jersey Turnpike, at which point I-78 becomes maintained by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, following the Newark Bay Extension of the New Jersey Turnpike. An interchange just beyond the toll booth provides full access to I-95, the mainline of the New Jersey Turnpike. I-78 here becomes a four-lane highway, passing by the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal.
From here, I-78 and Route 139 pass through business areas as a one-way pair that follows six-lane 12th Street eastbound and six-lane 14th Street westbound. This segment of the route is under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is also known as Boyle Plaza. It runs on surface streets with traffic lights, an example of a non–limited access section of Interstate Highway. The first intersection is with Jersey Avenue, which heads to Downtown Jersey City and Hoboken. It intersects with the one-way northbound CR 633 (Erie Street) next before crossing one-way southbound CR 635 (Grove Street). After Grove Street, the road crosses CR 637 (Luis Muñoz Marín Boulevard) near the Newport Centre Mall just to the south. Past this intersection, the eastbound direction comes to the toll plaza for the Holland Tunnel. From here, the concurrency enters the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River, which carries two lanes in each direction. Route 139 ends at the New Jersey/New York state line within the tunnel and I-78 continues into the New York City borough of Manhattan.
The oldest section of I-78, the Holland Tunnel, was established in September 1927. The tunnel predated the Interstate Highway System, as a commuter linking Jersey City and Manhattan. Six months after it was opened, 3,655,000 passengers used the tunnel. In 1927, Route 11 had been legislated as a high-speed bypass of US 22, running from Route 28 in White House east to Route 29 in Warrenville, roughly following the alignment of present-day I-78; it was never built.
The part of I-78 between exit 3 and exit 13 opened in the 1960s; this segment runs concurrently with US 22 with the old alignment of US 22 becoming Route 173. In building the road between CR 614 and exit 13, the eastbound lanes of US 22 became westbound I-78 and the westbound lanes of US 22 became the Route 173 frontage road. By 1969, I-78 had also been completed between exit 13 and CR 525. In July 1963, New Jersey Governor Richard J. Hughes approved a plan to build I-78 through the city of Newark at a cost of $204,696,637. This plan had been opposed by several communities along the route. The section of I-78 between Route 24 and the New Jersey Turnpike was completed in the mid-1970s. Along this stretch, exit 56 was to connect to the proposed Route 75 freeway, which was never built.
The section of freeway between CR 525 and Drift Road (Exit 41) in Watchung was completed in 1974. The section from Drift Road to Route 24 (Exit 48) in Springfield Township was delayed because of environmental impacts to the Watchung Reservation. In order to mitigate opposition to the original plan, that was shifted closer to the northern edge of the Reservation, which required extensive cuts into the Second Watchung Mountain. Extra land was added to the Nikesite Road overpass and a separate land bridge was built to allow for animal migration. The road was also designed to use a narrower right-of-way with no median strip and just a Jersey barrier dividing the highway, to minimize the amount rock to be removed. This stretch of I-78 opened in 1986.
A section of I-78 in Newark was closed off in August 1989 when a debris pile under a bridge caught fire and damaged the elevated highway. The road was opened nine days after the fire occurred. The westernmost section of I-78 in New Jersey opened in November 1989 after a more northerly alignment along present day US 22 through Phillipsburg was rejected due to community opposition. This led to I-78 being rerouted to the south of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The additional length of roadway that resulted from this rerouting is the reason exit numbers 3 through 52 (which were assigned before this westernmost section opened) are mismatched by approximately one mile when compared to their corresponding mile marker.
I-78, like many other highways in New Jersey, once had solar powered emergency call boxes every 1 mile (1.6 km), however with the advent of cell phones the usage of these call boxes became extremely limited. To save on maintenance costs, the NJDOT removed these call boxes in 2005.
In 2006-07 the highway between Route 24 (Exit 48) and the Garden State Parkway (Exit 52) was rebuilt. This included re-decking of bridge decks, and covering the deteriorated concrete pavement with an asphalt overlay. Exit 52 (Garden State Parkway) in Union Township and Hillside was reconstructed due to missing ramps from the Garden State Parkway and I-78 since the I-278 connection was canceled. Construction began in June 2008, with the ramp from the northbound Garden State Parkway to westbound I-78 being completed in September 2009. The connection between the southbound Garden State Parkway and eastbound I-78 was completed in December 2010. In 2012-2013, the highway between the Garden State Parkway (Exit 52) and US-1/9 and NJ-22 (Exit 57), which involves covering the deteriorated concrete pavement with an asphalt overlay, the last section of I-78 within New Jersey that was still concrete.