Driving down to 8A; a straight line through a haphazard mix of sun glare, flat sheets of horizon snow, warehouses and speeding SUVs. A terrifying near-collision as a car ahead of me blew out a tire; boxed in on the right and behind, I was forced onto the shoulder. I'm upset with myself for allowing it to happen. I think I was distracted, looking at the snow and sky, thinking that I wanted to describe to you the rhythm of the power lines' rising and falling against the skyline; normally I'm extremely conscientious about making sure I have several escape routes to follow should something unexpected happen. Going onto the shoulder was not a good thing; there's lots of broken glass and loose concrete.

A toll road which runs from the south end of the state, passes near to Pennsylvania, and terminates in New York. Various exits in the state of New Jersey include Rahway, Jersey City, Newark International Airport, the Holland Tunnel leading to New York City, and the George Washington Bridge which also leads to the City of New York. There is also an exit to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A short segment in New Jersey from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to route 40 is toll free.

There are approximately 15 exits and the toll ranges from as low as 35c from one low numbered exit to another, to as high as $6.50, which is from exit 1 Delaware Turnpike to the George Washington Bridge.

The New Jersey Turnpike, maintained by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA), runs about 117 miles north-south through New Jersey, forming a piece of the major east coast corridor (roughly Interstate 95 - but not exactly, more about that below). The Turnpike uses a ticket toll system, in which you get a ticket, telling you how much to all the exits, when you get on, and give your ticket and pay when you exit. It costs $5.50 to travel end to end by car. The first section, between exit 1 and exit 5, opened on November 5, 1951. The rest of the mainline was open by January 15, 1952. It is composed of the mainline, eastern spur, Newark Bay Extension, and Pennsylvania Extension. Below I will detail the Turnpike by exit number, since that is how everyone knows it. I give the original exit names, which have changed over the years in some instances.

Southern Terminus: The Turnpike, officially unsigned State Route 700 (south of the Pennsylvania Extension) begins at the US Route 130/State Route 49 overpass. To the south is Interstate 295/US Route 40, the Delaware Memorial Bridge approach, maintained by the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA). Interstate 295 leaves the main corridor here and runs closer to the Delaware River; it is mainly used by traffic bypassing tolls and accessing local destinations. US Route 40 uses the Turnpike for a short bit to the north of here; this is the only free portion of the Turnpike. The only direct Turnpike access here is Interstate 295/US Route 40 to/from the bridge and a northbound onramp from US Route 130/State Route 49. However there is also an exit southbound after merging into Interstate 295 for State Route 49 east, the last exit before the toll bridge.

Just north of the beginning is the first full interchange, at US Route 40, which uses the Turnpike south of this interchange. Most maps show it as exit 1 but the real exit 1 is the toll booth. State Route 140 and County Route 540 are also accessed from this exit, as is US Route 130 from the southbound Turnpike.

Exit 1 (Delaware Memorial Bridge) is the southern toll booth, not the US Route 40 interchange as most maps show.

Exit 2 (Swedesboro-Chester) serves US Route 322.

Exit 3 (Woodbury-South Camden) directly serves State Route 168, which is the old alignment of State Route 42. There are indirect connections to State Route 42 and Interstate 76 (to the Atlantic City Expressway).

Exit 4 (Camden-Philadelphia) serves State Route 73, and is the primary route to Philadelphia from New York City.

Exit 5 (Mount Holly-Burlington) serves County Route 541.

Exit 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) is a toll plaza on the Pennsylvania Extension, which opened on May 25, 1956. It is signed on the mainline as Interstate 276 and US Route 130. In reality, Interstate 276 begins at the state line, and the Pennsylvania Extension is officially part of Interstate 95. However, it will not be signed that way until the interchange between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and existing Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania is completed. At the Pennsylvania Extension, Interstate 95 joins the Turnpike, and unsigned State Route 700 ends. Before it was part of Interstate 95, the Pennsylvania Extension was unsigned State Route 700P.

Exit 6A (Florence) serves US Route 130 on the Pennsylvania Extension. It was added between 1960 and 1965 as an eastbound exit and westbound entrance, with its own toll booths at the exit 6 toll plaza, because traffic entering would not have a ticket and traffic exiting would not need a ticket. In January 2000, the interchange was relocated to the east; it is now right at US Route 130. Tolls are only paid by traffic going to/from the west, since the interchange is west of the exit 6 toll plaza.

Exit 7 (Bordentown-Trenton) serves US Route 206. The interchange was slightly reconfigured in 1990 (the Turnpike side of it was relocated), and again in 2001 for a connector to Interstate 295.

Exit 7A (Trenton-Hamilton) serves Interstate 195; it opened in January 1974.

Exit 8 (Hightstown-Trenton) serves State Route 33, and State Route 133 indirectly.

Car/Truck Split: Just south of exit 8A, the Turnpike splits into four roadways (from two). The inner roadways are for cars only, while the outer roadways are open to all traffic, but are often called the truck lanes. In the future, this dual-dual configuration will be extended south. Until 1989, it ended just south of exit 8. The car/truck split setup was added in January 1974.

Exit 8A (Jamesburg-Cranbury) serves State Route 32 and County Route 612. It was probably built in 1966.

Exit 9 (New Brunswick) serves State Route 18, and US Route 1 indirectly.

Exit 10 (Metuchen-Perth Amboy) serves Interstate 287, State Route 440, and County Route 514, connecting to the Outerbridge Crossing to Staten Island. Originally, it was a northbound only exit to the Garden State Parkway northbound (and from the GSP southbound to the Turnpike southbound); the new interchange was built in 1969 (?). Until the 1980s, Interstate 95 was planned to exit/enter here on its trek to Trenton; only after that was canceled was Interstate 95 officially added to the Turnpike between exit 6 and exit 10.

Exit 11 (Woodbridge-The Amboys) serves the Garden State Parkway, and connects indirectly to US Route 9. The original interchange was directly at US Route 9; it was relocated by 1969 (?).

Exit 12 (Carteret) serves County Route 602. Originally it was a southbound only exit and northbound only entrance.

Exit 13 (Elizabeth) serves Interstate 278 and State Route 439, connecting to the Goethals Bridge to Staten Island. The interchange used to connect to city streets a bit to the north. When the new interchange was built, ghost ramps were built for State Route 81, but eventually a new exit 13A was built for State Route 81.

Exit 13A (Newark Airport-Elizabeth Seaport) serves State Route 81, connecting indirectly to US Routes 1 and 9. It was built in June 1982.

Exit 14 (Newark Airport) serves Interstate 78, and just to the west are US Routes 1 and 9, which connect to US Route 22. Interstate 78 to the east is the Newark Bay Extension; officially exit 14 is the toll booth on Interstate 78 west of the mainline Turnpike. The Interstate 78/Turnpike (Interstate 95) interchange is officially exit 59 on Interstate 78, but is unnumbered on signage. Westbound on the Newark Bay Extension, a ramp exiting before the mainline Turnpike ramps and coming back onto the right before the exit 14 toll booth is signed as exit 14 for US Routes 1 and 9 and US Route 22; the continuation towards Interstate 78 (as well as the mainline Turnpike ramps) is unnumbered. The Newark Bay Extension opened in April 1956; before that ramps still served the exit 14 toll booth.

Exit 14A (Bayonne) serves State Route 440, which used to be State Route 169.

Exit 14B (Jersey City) serves Bayview Avenue.

Exit 14C (Holland Tunnel) is the toll booth on the Newark Bay Extension. East of the toll booth, The Extension continues with an eastbound offramp and westbound onramp at Grand St, and then combines with State Route 139 (former US Routes 1 and 9 Business) onto 12th Street and 14th Street towards the Holland Tunnel. The State Route 139 interchange is officially Interstate 78 exit 65, but this is not signed.

Eastern/Western Spur Split: Between exit 14 and exit 15E, the car/truck split ends and the Turnpike splits into two completely separate roadways. The eastern alignment is the original Turnpike, and the Western Spur was built later as a bypass in September 1970. Officially Interstate 95 uses the eastern alignment, and the Western Spur is Interstate 95W. But signage on the mainline Turnpike northbound takes Interstate 95 on the Western Spur. To spread traffic out, the eastern alignment is signed for US Route 46 and Interstate 80, although these exits occur after the two alignments rejoin. Southbound, the eastern alignment is signed only for exit 17. In addition, traffic coming from US Route 46 or Interstate 80 to Interstate 95 south is routed via the eastern alignment, with the Western Spur being signed for exit 16W only.

Exit 15E (Newark-Jersey City) serves US Routes 1 and 9 Truck, which connects indirectly to US Routes 1 and 9. Access is provided from the eastern alignment as well as the southbound Western Spur. After exit 14B opened in 1956, Jersey City was dropped from exit 15E.

Exit 15W (Newark-Harrison) serves Interstate 280 and County Route 508. Access is provided from the Western Spur as well as the southbound eastern alignment.

Exit 16E (Lincoln Tunnel) serves State Route 495 (former Interstate 495, really old State Route 3) and State Route 3. This is a northbound exit and southbound entrance only, accessible only on the eastern alignment.

Exit 16W (Sportsplex, East Rutherford) serves State Route 3 on the Western Spur.

Exit 17 (Secaucus) serves State Route 495 and State Route 3 on the eastern alignment. It is a northbound entrance and southbound exit only, and has its own toll booth, since its ramps intersect the eastern alignment north of the exit 18E toll plaza. Originally, it was a full 4 ramp interchange directly at State Route 3; it now directly connects to State Route 495.

Exit 18E (George Washington Bridge) is the northern mainline toll on the eastern alignment. It lies between the exit 16E and exit 17 ramps.

Exit 18W (George Washington Bridge) is the northern mainline toll on the Western Spur, a bit north of the exit 16W ramps. Just to the north is a 3-ramp interchange with Meadowlands Sportsplex; the missing ramp is from the Turnpike northbound (for which you can use exit 16W). This interchange is only open when there is an event at the sportsplex, and is toll-free to/from the north.

Eastern/Western Spur Merge: North of the exit 18s, the two alignments merge back together. North of this interchange, the Turnpike is again split into four roadways; two connect to Interstate 80 and two continue Interstate 95.

Northern Terminus: The Turnpike ends at the US Route 46 interchange, where Interstate 95 continues north. Around 1990, Interstate 95 from here north to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza (maintained by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)) was transferred from the New Jersey Department of Transportaton (NJDOT) to the NJTA. It will however not be tolled, just toll-supported. The US Route 46 interchange was originally the northern terminus of the freeway; George Washington Bridge traffic went east along US Route 46. US Route 46 is signed as exit 68 on Interstate 95 southbound, which would have been 68 miles from Pennsylvania had it been built to Trenton. The dual-dual roadway continues to the Interstate 80 interchange, where a local-express setup picks up from Interstate 80 and over the George Washington Bridge.

sources:
http://www.nycroads.com/roads/nj-turnpike/
http://web.mit.edu/spui/www/oldint/njtp.html

For some reason, the New Jersey Turnpike has become embedded in the consciousness of a small, but statistically significant group of Americans as the Symbol of the Predatory state. Never mind the fact that the Turnpike is built with about thirty lanes with only trees on either side so that you could easily be driving through Windhoek as New Jersey; and the problem is not easily reducable, either to the eerie carbon arc lighting from the refineries near Rahway or the BASF chemical plant. (How many people know that BASF was a division of IG Farben?) The most frightening part of the NJT are the New Jersey State Troopers. They know you're not from there. They know you're just trying to get the kids to Disney World and that you're either a low-class minority or a stinking upper class toff that just looks down on the working man. And so they wait for you, along the little greenery planted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the side of the road. I'm from NY, and our cops are fat. And we like them that way; a fat cop is part of the community, for better or worse. But here on the NJT, some willowy Aryan stops you, six feet tall with a buzz cut, and you suddenly become uncomfortably aware that the US is not primarily composed of liberal cities where everyone is just doing their own things and the cops are happily munching donuts - No, the New Jersey Turnpike is your personal exposure to The Zone, that place you should never have gone to if the kids weren't whining that they want to see Mickey.

From the diary of a Black Panther who shall remain anonymous: " Dear Black Brothers and Sisters I betrayed you. How did I betray you? I betrayed you by foolishly driving along the New Jersey Turnpike although I knew that that was a racist trap where the man was just waiting to stop and search our cars and feed us to the system. I should have known better. I should never have taken the New Jersey Turnpike in the first place. But I did, and I was caught, and I betrayed the revolution. I apologize."

So you’re heading up north to Connecticut for that trip to Grandma’s, and when you reach the great city of Wilmington, you’re presented with a fateful choice:

Take I-95 up to Philadelphia, through Trenton, then take US 1 into NYC?

Or cave in to temptation and cross right over that Delaware Memorial Bridge onto the New Jersey Turnpike?

After all, you think, it’s a straight shot to NYC, and it’ll probably be much faster. And nothing of note happened the last time I took the Turnpike, right? Plus it’s only $6.50, less than the cost of one of those quarterway-decent sandwiches at McDonald’s.
With those flimsy justifications in mind, you give in to temptation, make the exit for the bridge, and cross the point of no return.

You dumb schmuck. Now look what you’ve done.

You leave the toll plaza for the bridge, and go right into the toll plaza for the Turnpike. It looks like some kind of 1980s airport terminal, complete with control tower, which appears to have managed, through some freak of entropy or time travel, to aged some 150 years since it was constructed 30 years ago. As those E-ZPass snobs rush by in the E-ZPass lanes, you’re given an entrance ticket by some ticket machine probably designed and installed by Edison himself. You speed off and onto the Turnpike proper.

Sure, for those first ten miles of Turnpike, you’re still feeling pretty confident about yourself. Look at the time I’m making, you think. I’ll be off this road in no time! Ha, look at those cowards bailing at the Clara Barton service station!

Such foolish thoughts are fleeting, though, when you realize you haven’t seen an exit in those ten minutes, or indeed any sign of civilization at all besides the service station. Sure, cars and trucks and buses are rushing by all the time, but where did they all come from? Surely these cars with Jersey plates didn’t all come from Delaware, right? There are no exits around from them to come from though, only trees. Miles and miles of trees.

Isn’t New Jersey a very densely populated state? you think, as you pass more trees. Evidently people from New Jersey live in trees or something.

Questions such as these have no readily available answers, of course, so to distract yourself, you think about the lines on the road. Look at those lines, you think. They’re slightly thicker than they are on most other roads. Isn’t that odd?
Distractions like these are fleeting, and about when you hit Exit 2, it finally hits you. You’re going to be on this road for another two hours. Oh dear.

Crazy, half-formed escape plans begin forming in your mind.
Could I bail and go through Philly? No, that would require going through the desolate wasteland that is Camden, where the parking spaces outnumber the cars by a factor of twenty, and roving bands of half-crazed neo-highwaymen roam the streets waiting for an unsuspecting out-of-towner to pounce on.
Could I just make a 180 and head back home? No, grandma is expecting you, and she makes such nice French toast. Plus, there’s a jersey barrier in the way.
You got yourself into this situation, now you’re going to have to see it through.
As you head further north, you begin to notice the number of trucks on the road is increasing. Exponentially. As in, every ten miles you see about 1.5 times as many trucks as before. And they’re big trucks. Big trucks with hazmat placards on them.


This, of course, inevitably leads to the classic Turnpike traffic jam.


Benjamin Franklin discovered that lightning was electrical in nature, and by extension, he realized that electricity could give off light. It was with that in mind that he had large electrical “REDUCE SPEED” signs built in 1780 to slow down the invading British. After the war, they were left to rust in place until 1950s highway engineers designed the New Jersey Turnpike to make use of the already-existing Enlightenment-era signage.
At least that’s the only reasonable explanation for the condition of the lighted signs on the Turnpike, urging you to “RED CE SPE “ for “CO ESTIA “ ahead. The nearby changeable speed limit sign, designed by Leonardo Da Vinci on a napkin during the Renaissance and constructed in Rome over 500 years ago, flips down to 45, then 35, then 25. You’re going to be here for a long time.

As you nudge your way through endless tractor trailers, you begin to note what the hazmat placards actually say. “CORROSIVE” reads one. “FLAMMABLE GAS” reads another. Then there’s that 53’ trailer with six placards on it, with warnings from “RADIOACTIVE” to “EXPLOSIVES 1.1A”. Of course, the inattentive driver of said tractor-trailer begins to move into your lane, and you’re forced to dodge between the oil tanker and the truck full of poison to prevent some kind of atomic explosion.

Twenty miles of twenty-mile-per-hour traffic later, and you’re out of the jam. The cause? Nothing, apparently. Traffic clears out for no apparent reason. By this time, of course, there are about three trucks for every one car, not to mention the buses.

Now you’re back up to 55 miles per hour, but this isn’t any better. There’s still no sign of civilization, only trees. In fact, so far there has been almost nothing to suggest that New Jersey is a populated area. For a moment near exit 7A you saw a warehouse, but it was fleeting. No matter how far you go, the road looks the same. If it weren’t for the changing exit numbers, you could swear you hadn’t gone anywhere. You drive on. Endlessly. Monotonously. If it weren’t for the erratic truck drivers, you could do it in your sleep.

All this changes at the split. About 30 minutes before New York City, the Turnpike splits, with trucks and buses only allowed in the outer lanes, to free up space for regular cars.

This is when you make another fatal mistake.

I’ll outsmart the system, you think. I’ll avoid the traffic by using the truck lanes!

The only problem with your clever plan is that everyone else has the same clever plan. (Great minds think alike, I suppose.) So now the outer three lanes are packed with traffic, and the inner three are totally empty. Whoops.

Crawling forward at under ten miles an hour, you hit the first landmark that tells you you’ve reached North Jersey: Joyce Kilmer Service Station. Nature has been calling quite urgently over the past hour, and so you plan to pull off there for a restroom break and to get some gas for the rest of the trip.

As you pull into the exit ramp, you are caught almost immediately in the line for the gas pumps. Great.

Half an hour later and you’ve covered the 500 feet to the turn-off into the parking lot. You pull into a parking spot near the Sbarro and run inside and try to find the restroom, conveniently located at the third door on the left down the second hallway after the secondary entrance to the Burger King.

It’s grimy, it’s ugly, and it clearly hasn’t been cleaned since Viking explorers led by Leif Eriksson built the service station in the early 1000s AD. But the next service station isn’t for miles, so you grit your teeth and get it over with.

You run back to your parking space, get in the car, and drive to the pumps. After another 15 minutes of waiting, you finally reach the pump, get out, and reach for the gas pump before being yelled at by an attendant.

Self-serve gas stations are illegal in New Jersey. An attendant has to pump the gas for you. So you tell him how much gas you need and then try frantically to remember if you’re supposed to tip him or not, and if so, how much you’re supposed to tip. You lean over the dashboard, trying to look at other people being served to see if they’re tipping, to no avail. You put down the sunroof and poke your head out the roof to look, but still can’t see anything. The attendant yells at you again.


Fine, you think. If you wanted a tip, you shouldn’t have yelled at me that much, you reason, and you so you speed off. With the gas pump still attached to your tank.

It falls off, of course, onto a cigarette that someone threw out the window, and catches on fire, triggering the gas station fire suppressant system that covers the entire service station in two feet of thick foam. Lucky you that you made it out in time.

Rejoining the main highway after only briefly pulling over to put the gas cap back on properly, you pull in to the center lanes, away from the trucks. The Turnpike looks radically different now: the trees are gone, replaced by smokestacks, warehouses, and oil refineries. The trucks are safely contained in the truck lanes. The signs all look different too: they all have changeable destination plates.

These plates were considered quite progressive when Emperor Hadrian had them installed in 127 AD, but since then they have only been altered twice: once to change the toll rates from Roman gold coins to US dollars, and once to change the language to English from the original Latin after Vatican II ruled that road signs should be printed in the vernacular.

You roll up the windows to keep out the foul North Jersey air, which is frequently compressed, bottled, and labeled as CO2 for the paintballing industry. You set the air conditioner to “recirculate”, and hope against hope that you can make it out of Jersey before you run out of breathable air.


Traffic beings to thicken as you approach perhaps the highlight of the trip: Newark Airport.


Newark Airport’s runway 4R parallels the highway at a distance of 700 feet. Runway 29 runs perpendicular to the highway, with the touchdown markings less than 500 feet from the highway. Both the FAA and for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority say this is more than enough room for the airplanes to maneuver safely around the Turnpike, and you ought to be comforted by that fact as large FedEx cargo aircraft roar overhead at less than 30 feet, smothering the highway in jetwash. As you weave through the onslaught of airborne Priuses and Smartcars which proved too light to withstand the wake vortex from such a large aircraft, you reflect upon what a wise decision it really is to own a Hummer in the suburbs.

After a mind-boggling array of overpasses, underpasses, under-overpasses, over-underpasses, and the three and a half feet of clearance under the Pulaski Skyway, you hit the toll, and it hits you. It’s not $6.50 any more, no, it’s $9.05. You just paid a full nine dollars and five cents for that trip. That trip cost you your sanity; that trip took three hours of your life from you; that that nearly caused the destruction of a whole service station. Now they expect you to pay for it?

Unfortunately you don’t have much choice. As you approach the toll booth, constructed by the Alexander the Great in 320 BC, you hand the attendant the exact change, and speed off, determined to get off this mad highway, resolving to cross the Hudson at the Tappan Zee instead of dealing with the pseudo-Turnpike leading to the George Washington Bridge. With this in mind, you exit the Turnpike, at long last, and get on the Palisades Parkway, giving you another hour of endless trees, albeit with fewer trucks.

When it’s time to come back from Grandma’s, you’ve forgotten your lesson already, and you do it all over again in reverse. Such is the curse of the New Jersey Turnpike.

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