Schuylkill Expressway

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This article is about the section of Interstate 76 in the Philadelphia area. For the entire length of the highway, see Interstate 76 (Ohio–New Jersey).

Interstate 76 marker

Schuylkill Expressway
Route information
Maintained by PennDOT
Length: 25.2 mi[1] (40.6 km)
Major junctions
West end: I-76 / I-276 / Penna. Tpk. near Valley Forge
  US 202 in King of Prussia
I-476 in Conshohocken
US 1 in Northwest Philadelphia
US 13 / US 30 in Fairmount Park
I-676 / US 30 in Center City
PA 611 in South Philadelphia
I-95 in South Philadelphia
East end: I‑76 on the Walt Whitman Bridge
Location
Counties: Montgomery, Philadelphia
Highway system

The Schuylkill Expressway /ˈskkəl/,[2] locally known as "the Schuylkill", is a 4 to 8 lane freeway through southwestern Montgomery County and the city of Philadelphia, and the easternmost segment of Interstate 76 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It extends from the Valley Forge exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in King of Prussia, paralleling its namesake Schuylkill River for most of the route, to the Walt Whitman Bridge in South Philadelphia. It serves as the primary corridor into Philadelphia from points west. Maintenance and planning are administered through PennDOT District 6. This expressway is the only non-tolled section of I-76 in Pennsylvania.

Constructed over a period of ten years from 1949 to 1959, a large portion of the expressway predates the 1956 introduction of Interstate Highway System; many of these portions were not built to contemporary standards.[3] The rugged terrain, limited riverfront space covered by the route and narrow spans of bridges passing over the highway have largely stymied later attempts to upgrade or widen the highway. With the road being highly over capacity, it has become notorious for its chronic congestion.[4] In recent years, it is the busiest road in Philadelphia, as well as in the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania.[5] An average 163,000 vehicles use the road daily in Philadelphia County,[6] and an average of 109,000 use the highway in Montgomery County.[7] Its narrow lane and left shoulder configuration, left lane entrances and exits (nicknamed "merge or die"), common construction activity and generally congested conditions have led to many accidents, critical injuries and fatalities, leading to the highway's humorous nickname of the "Surekill Expressway" or in further embellishment, "Surekill Distressway".[8][9]

Route description[edit]

The Schuylkill Expressway near Conshohocken, close to the interchange with Interstate 476.

The Schuylkill Expressway begins at the Valley Forge Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in King of Prussia. The Interstate 76 designation continues west on the Turnpike from this point, while the Turnpike from this point east is designated Interstate 276. Immediately southeast of the interchange, the expressway interchanges with U.S. Route 202, U.S. Route 422, and the King of Prussia Mall. It continues eastward though Upper Merion, interchanging with Pennsylvania Route 320 in Gulph Mills. It continues towards Conshohocken, where it interchanges with Interstate 476 and Pennsylvania Route 23.[10][11]

The highway then begins to run along a narrow cliff-top route high above its namesake Schuylkill River, which it parallels from this point. This section of the highway is very prone to flooding and mudslides during periods of heavy rain, due to water runoff from the cliffs above. It is not uncommon to see this section of the highway closed as a result.

East of Conshohocken at about mile marker 331, it curves sharply southeast in a 90-degree turn locally known as the "Conshohocken Curve" or "Conshy Curve", which has a history of traffic congestion and dangerous conditions.[12][13][14][15] The western terminus of the Ten Mile Loop was to be located near this area.

Continuing southeast, interchanges provide access to the Main Line community of Gladwyne and the Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk.[16][17]

The expressway then enters the city of Philadelphia, interchanging with City Avenue (US Route 1); US-1 briefly overlaps with the expressway at this point. Entering Fairmount Park, U.S. 1 splits off as the Roosevelt Expressway to the northeast. The Schuylkill Expressway continues south through the park towards Center City, with Boathouse Row on the opposite bank of the river. At the southern end of the park, the Vine Street Expressway (Interstate 676) splits off to the east.[18][19]

The road then dips down below street level, running immediately adjacent to the river on the eastern edge of University City. This section is frequently the most congested because it is at its closest point to Center City, and it is only two lanes wide in each direction, with a few left lane exits and entrances. The road is so narrow because it is squeezed between the River and a large set of passenger railroad tracks. At this narrow point are Amtrak/SEPTA 30th Street Station, Cira Centre, the city's former main Post Office facility, and streets leading to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to the west, and Center City Philadelphia to the east. It then crosses the river and skirts the eastern edge of the Philadelphia Gas Works, until its interchange with Pennsylvania Route 291 and Oregon Avenue. South of the interchange, the expressway curves sharply east. It interchanges with Pennsylvania Route 611 and Interstate 95, and crosses the Delaware River on the Walt Whitman Bridge into New Jersey.[20]

History[edit]

Plans for a limited-access highway along the west bank of the Schuylkill River originated in 1932, as part of a proposed cars-only parkway system for the Philadelphia area similar to the contemporary system being built in New York City. The "Valley Forge Parkway" was to have run from Fairmount Park to Valley Forge State Park, with plans for a later extension to Reading via Pottstown. However, planning for the proposed parkway system stalled and the plan was eventually abandoned.[3][4]

Skyline of Philadelphia from the Expressway

Planning for today's expressway began in 1947, when the city of Philadelphia approved plans to develop a highway connecting the city with the terminus of the planned Philadelphia Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Valley Forge. The highway was designed by engineers Michael Rapuano, who had previously aided in the design of the Garden State Parkway, and Bill Allen of Gannett Fleming. The new expressway largely followed the earlier planned parkway route from Valley Forge to Fairmount Park, while also extending into southern Philadelphia and across the Delaware River into New Jersey. Two alternatives were proposed south of University City: one routing would continue along the west bank of the river into Southwest Philadelphia to its confluence near Philadelphia International Airport, where it would tunnel underneath the Delaware to Paulsboro, New Jersey; the other would cross the Schuylkill south of University City and bisect South Philadelphia, crossing the Delaware into Gloucester City, New Jersey. Planned expansions of the airport in the path of the former proposal led to adoption of the routing through South Philadelphia.[3][4]

Construction of the road began in 1949. The road was completed in stages, with a short segment near King of Prussia opening in 1951 along with the Turnpike's Philadelphia Extension, with the section from King of Prussia to Conshohocken opening a year later. The section between Conshohocken and City Avenue opened in 1954. The Walt Whitman Bridge opened in 1957. The expressway was completed through Fairmount Park in 1959, and in 1960 the entire expressway was complete with the opening of the segment through University City.[4]

Immediately after its completion, operational studies performed on the Schuylkill Expressway found that the route would be unable to cope with the area's growing traffic demands, due to the many substandard design elements and compromises incorporated to cope with the rugged, difficult routing of the road. In 1962, plans were announced for a parallel expressway along the east bank of the Schuylkill, known as the Manayunk Expressway; however, these plans were quickly withdrawn due to substantial opposition.[3] An alternative plan was then introduced to widen the entire highway to eight lanes in time for the United States Bicentennial in 1976; however, these plans were also shelved due to local disapproval. A scaled-down widening project was successfully undertaken from 1969 to 1972 to widen a short section of the road to six lanes through Fairmount Park.[3]

Approaching the South Street exit

In the decades since its opening, congestion on the expressway has steadily increased. Plans to expand the expressway to eight lanes by building an upper deck, including high-occupancy toll lanes, were advocated by former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel, but have not come to fruition due to a lack of funding.[4] PennDOT has planned a $23.7 million project, with testing by fall 2008, to add 29 webcams on the Schuylkill Expressway between the Conshohocken Curve and Passyunk Avenue.[21]

On the afternoon of June 8, 2011, a section of the Schuylkill Expressway near Grays Ferry Avenue buckled from temperatures around 100 °F (38 °C), causing lane closures. The closed lane of the road was later reopened after temporary repairs, but will require full repairs.[22]

On September 8, 2011, heavy rains caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused a rockslide in the vicinity of the Conshohocken Curve, flooding near Belmont Avenue and a mudslide by Girard Avenue. For hours, motorists were either stuck between the Blue Route and Girard Avenue or had to get off at the I-476 interchange until the mess could be cleaned up.

In May 2011, a new westbound entrance was completed at South Gulph Road and South Henderson Road in King of Prussia. A westbound exit opened at this same location in November 2011. The new interchange cost $10.5 million and used money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[23]

Exit list[edit]

Mileposts reflect the distance from the Ohio border (I-76 runs from there along the Pennsylvania Turnpike until exiting the turnpike at Valley Forge). Before the turnpike went to milepost-based exit numbers, exit 24 was the Valley Forge interchange.

County Location Mile[1] km Old exit New exit[24] Destinations Notes
Montgomery Upper Merion Township 327.28 526.71 I-76 west / Penna. Tpk. – Harrisburg
I-276 east / Penna. Tpk. to I-476 (Northeast Extension) – Allentown, New Jersey
Valley Forge toll plaza
327.55 527.14 25 327 North Gulph Road / Village Drive – Valley Forge Eastbound access only; serves Valley Forge National Park
327.70 527.38 25 327 Mall Boulevard Westbound access only; serves the King of Prussia Mall
327.98 527.83 26A 328A US 202 south to US 422 west / Swedesford Road – West Chester, Pottstown
328.23 528.23 26B 328B US 202 north – King of Prussia
329 South Gulph Road / South Henderson Road – King of Prussia, Norristown Westbound access only
330.30 531.57 27 330 PA 320 – Gulph Mills No westbound entrance
West Conshohocken 332.36 534.88 28 331A
331B
I-476 (Blue Route) – Chester, Plymouth Meeting
PA 23 – Conshohocken

Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
332.61 535.28 29 332 PA 23 – Conshohocken Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Originally planned western terminus of the Ten Mile Loop
Lower Merion Township 337.39 542.98 30 337 Gladwyne Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
338.73 545.13 31 338 Belmont Avenue / Green Lane To Manayunk and Roxborough
Philadelphia Philadelphia 340.20 547.50 33 339 US 1 south (City Avenue) To Saint Joseph's University; western terminus of US 1 concurrency
340.34 547.72 32 340A Lincoln Drive, Kelly Drive To Germantown, Wissahickon Park
340.92 548.66 34 340B US 1 north (Roosevelt Boulevard) To Northeast Philadelphia; eastern terminus of US 1 concurrency
342.55 551.28 35 341 Montgomery Drive / West River Drive To West Fairmount Park, Mann Music Center
343.73 553.18 36 342 US 13 / US 30 west (Girard Avenue) – Philadelphia Zoo To East Fairmount Park; western terminus of US 30 concurrency
344.57 554.53 37 343 Spring Garden Street / Haverford Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
345.04 555.29 38 344 I-676 east / US 30 east – Central Philadelphia Eastern terminus of US 30 concurrency
345.36 555.80 39 345 30th Street / Market Street To 30th Street Station and Drexel University
346.04 556.90 40 346A South Street To University of Pennsylvania
346.80 558.12 41 346B Grays Ferry Avenue / University Avenue – Civic Center To University City
Originally planned eastern terminus of the Five Mile Loop [25]
347.41 559.10 42 346C 28th Street Eastbound access only
347.71 559.59 42 346C Vare Avenue / Mifflin Street Westbound access only
348.01 560.07 43A 347A To PA 291 (Penrose Avenue) / I-95 south – Philadelphia International Airport Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
348.01 560.07 43B 347 Passyunk Avenue / Oregon Avenue
349.14 561.89 44 348 PA 291 west (Penrose Avenue) Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
349.65 562.71 45 349 PA 611 (Broad Street) – Sports Complex
350.14 563.50 46 350 7th Street South / Packer Avenue No westbound entrance
350.53 564.12 47 351A-B I-95 / Front Street – Trenton, Chester
Delaware River 351.98 566.46 Walt Whitman Bridge
$5 toll westbound only
Camden Gloucester City 351.98 566.46 I‑76 east – Atlantic City New Jersey state line
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b DeLorme Street Atlas USA 2007, Toggle Measure Tool. Retrieved on2007-03-26.
  2. ^ "Accidents, delayed flights and travel headaches across the region". The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 16, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Roads of Metro Philadelphia: Schuylkill Expressway (I-76)". Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 76". Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  5. ^ "Schuylkill Expressway Work Entering Time of Worst Jams". The New York Times. February 23, 1986. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  6. ^ PennDOT (2007) (PDF). Traffic Volumes for Philadelphia County (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_pdf_files/MAPS/Traffic/Traffic_Volume/2007/philadelphia_2007_tv.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  7. ^ PennDOT (2007) (PDF). Traffic Volumes for Montgomery County (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_pdf_files/MAPS/Traffic/Traffic_Volume/2007/montgomery_2007_tv.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  8. ^ Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 76
  9. ^ "Penn students propose a plan to connect their campus to the Schuylkill."
  10. ^ PennDOT (PDF). Pennsylvania Official Tourism and Transportation Map 2007 (Southeast section) (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_PDF_FILES/MAPS/Statewide/otm/2007/otmse_2007.PDF. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  11. ^ Google Maps. Overview of Schuylkill Expressway between I-276 and I-476 (Map). http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&time=&date=&ttype=&q=King+of+Prussia,+PA&ie=UTF8&ll=40.074459,-75.361061&spn=0.028767,0.086517&z=14&om=1. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  12. ^ "MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO UNVEIL NEW VIDEO MONITORING CAPABILITY FOR AREA HIGHWAYS". Montgomery County Press Release. April 13, 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  13. ^ "Conshohocken Curve". WPVI. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  14. ^ "Rain Closes expressway east of Conshohocken Curve". Associated Press. 2009-08-02. Retrieved 2009-08-09. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Rains flood region". Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  16. ^ PennDOT (PDF). Pennsylvania County Type 10 Maps — Montgomery County (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_pdf_files/Maps/GHS/Roadnames/montgomery_GHSN.PDF. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  17. ^ Rand McNally (2007). Motor Carriers' Road Atlas (Map) (Deluxe ed.). p. 90, section B2, C3.
  18. ^ PennDOT (PDF). Pennsylvania County Type 10 Maps — Philadelphia County (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_pdf_files/Maps/GHS/Roadnames/philadelphia_GHSN.PDF. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  19. ^ Google Maps. Overview of Schuylkill Expressway between US-1 and I-676 (Map). http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&time=&date=&ttype=&q=I-76,+Philadelphia,+Philadelphia,+Pennsylvania,+United+States&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=30.544155,59.765625&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=0,39.958001,-75.180200&ll=39.97074,-75.189142&spn=0.028811,0.086517&z=14&om=1. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  20. ^ PennDOT (PDF). Transportation Map Metropolitan Areas — Philadelphia Area (Map). ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/BPR_pdf_files/Maps/Statewide/OTM/2007/web_philly_enlg.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
  21. ^ Mucha, Peter (March 14, 2008). "PennDot readies Web cams for Schuylkill Expressway". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  22. ^ McCarthy, Kevin (June 8, 2011). "Excessive Heat Causes I-76 to Buckle: PENNDot". Philadelphia, PA: WCAU-TV. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  23. ^ Nussbaum, Paul (2011-11-04). "New I-76 ramp opens in King of Prussia". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  24. ^ "Mileage-Based Exit Numbering System" (PDF). PennDOT. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  25. ^ "Cobbs Creek Expressway". 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing