The I-95 corridor follows the east coast from Florida to Maine. Of its 1,917 miles, 51 miles are located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania between the Delaware and New Jersey state lines. It parallels the Delaware River for its entire route through the city of Philadelphia and its suburbs to the north and south and as a result received the alternative name “Delaware Expressway”.
While planning for this corridor began in the 1930s, opinions differed for decades on form, function and funding of this interstate segment. Consideration included landscaped parkway or industrial express highway, a Delaware ‘Skyway’ or covered roadway and a freeway or toll way. Construction of the 51 miles was first initiated in 1959. The 1956 passage of President Eisenhower’s 90% federally funded interstate highway program abruptly resolved the debate on “Free or Toll”, incorporating the Delaware Expressway into the interstate network. Nonetheless, the construction was undertaken in ‘fits and starts’, as issues surrounding land acquisition, community opposition to design and roadway access plans, federal litigation and cost increases delayed completion of the entire 51 miles until 1985.
As reconstruction of Pennsylvania’s now aging I-95 is initiated, many of these challenges of form, function and funding again require the attention of all stakeholders in the future viability and utility of this critical transportation corridor. This corridor, which links the Commonwealth’s most populous city with a tri-state metropolitan region and the entire east coast, encompasses an array of land uses, neighborhoods and transportation facilities. I-95 is also a critical intermodal road, linking transportation facilities including ports and airports, local fixed-route transit lines and services, regional and national passenger and freight rail, local residential streets and major arterials. Any decision made effecting the flow of traffic on I-95 will result in a domino effect on all means of mobility in the region.
While the road has become an integral part of the mobility fabric of the region over the past 50 years, the years and usage of Pennsylvania’s I-95 have taken a toll on the condition and capacity of the roadway and bridge structures, creating disruptions that impact both users and neighbors throughout the corridor.