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The Schuylkill Expressway ( ), locally known simply as the Schuylkill,, is a freeway through southeastern Montgomery Countymarker and the city of Philadelphiamarker, and the easternmost segment of Interstate 76 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvaniamarker. It extends from the Valley Forge exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in King of Prussiamarker, paralleling its namesake Schuylkill River for most of the route, to the Walt Whitman Bridgemarker in South Philadelphia. It serves as the primary corridor into Philadelphia from points west.

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. 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, despite the road being highly over-capacity; it has become notorious for its chronic congestion. It is the busiest road in Philadelphia, as well as in the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker. An average 163,000 vehicles use the road daily in Philadelphia County, and an average of 109,000 use the highway in Montgomery County. Its narrow configuration, left lane entrances and exits (nicknamed "merge or die") and generally congested conditions have led to many accidents and the highway's nickname of the "Sure-Kill Expressway" or "Surekill Distressway".

History

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 Philadelphiamarker area similar to the contemporary system being built in New York Citymarker. The "Valley Forge Parkway" was to have run from Fairmount Parkmarker to Valley Forge State Parkmarker, with plans for a later extension to Readingmarker via Pottstownmarker. However, planning for the proposed parkway system stalled and the plan was eventually abandoned.

Planning for today's expressway began in 1947, when the city of Philadelphia approved plans to develop a freeway 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 Jerseymarker. Two alternatives were proposed south of University Citymarker: one routing would continue along the west bank of the river into Southwest Philadelphia to its confluence near Philadelphia International Airportmarker, where it would tunnel underneath the Delaware to Paulsboro, New Jerseymarker; the other would cross the Schuylkill south of University City and bisect South Philadelphia, crossing the Delaware into Gloucester City, New Jerseymarker. Planned expansions of the airport in the path of the former proposal led to adoption of the routing through South Philadelphia.

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 Conshohockenmarker opening a year later. The section between Conshohocken and City Avenue opened in 1954. The Walt Whitman Bridgemarker 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.

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. 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.
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. 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.

Conshohocken Curve

The Conshohocken Curve is a point on the expressway which features a 90 degree turn. It has a history of traffic congestion and dangerous conditions. The point lies at about mile marker 331.

Route description

The Schuylkill Expressway begins at the Valley Forgemarker 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 Mallmarker. It continues eastward though Upper Merionmarker, interchanging with Pennsylvania Route 320 in Gulph Millsmarker. It continues towards Conshohockenmarker, where it interchanges with Interstate 476 and Pennsylvania Route 23.

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, it curves sharply southeast in a 90-degree turn locally known as the "Conshohocken Curve".Continuing southeast, interchanges provide access to the Main Line community of Gladwynemarker and the Philadelphiamarker neighborhood of Manayunkmarker.

The expressway then enters the city of Philadelphiamarker, interchanging with City Avenue (US Route 1); US-1 briefly overlaps with the expressway at this point. Entering Fairmount Parkmarker, U.S. 1 splits off as the Roosevelt Expressway to the northeast. The Schuylkill Expressway continues south through the park towards Center Citymarker, with Boathouse Rowmarker 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.

The road then dips down below street level, running immediately adjacent to the river on the eastern edge of University Citymarker. 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 30th Street Stationmarker. At this narrow point are the city's main Post Office facility, its main railroad station, and the main streets to the University of Pennsylvania and the center of the city. It then crosses the river and skirts the eastern edge of the Philadelphia Gas Works to an 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 Walt Whitman Bridgemarker into New Jerseymarker.

Exit list

County Location Mile # Destinations Notes
Old New
Montgomerymarker King of Prussiamarker 327.28 Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
 – New Jerseymarker Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Valley Forgemarker toll plaza
327.70 25 327 North Gulph Road, Mall Boulevard - Valley Forgemarker Serves the King of Prussia Mallmarker
327.98 26A 328A
328.23 26B 328B
Upper Merion Twp.marker 330.30 27 330
West Conshohockenmarker 332.36 28 331 Signed as exits 331A (south) and 331B (north)
332.61 28 332 Eastbound exit is part of exit 331B
Gladwynemarker 337.39 30 337 Gladwynemarker Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Belmont Hillsmarker 338.73 31 338 Belmont Avenue, Green Lane To Manayunkmarker and Roxborough
Philadelphiamarker Philadelphiamarker 340.20 33 339 West end of US 1 overlap
340.34 32 340A Lincoln Drive, Kelly Drivemarker
340.92 34 340B East end of US 1 overlap
342.55 35 341 Montgomery Drive, West River Drive To West Fairmount Parkmarker, Mann Music Center
343.73 36 342 West end of US 30 overlap, to East Fairmount Park
344.57 37 343 Spring Garden Street, Haverford Avenue Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
345.04 38 344 East end of US 30 overlap
345.36 39 345 30th Street, Market Street - Amtrak/SEPTAmarker
346.04 40 346A South Streetmarker CLOSED as of December 8, 2008. Re-opening planned for late 2010
346.80 41 346B Grays Ferry Avenue, University Avenue - Civic Centermarker To University Citymarker
347.41 42 346C 28th Street Eastbound exit only
347.71 42 346C Vare Avenue, Mifflin Street Westbound exit and entrance
348.01 43A 347A Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
43B 347B Passyunk Avenue, Oregon Avenue Signed as exit 347 westbound
349.14 44 348 Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
349.65 45 349 - Sports Complexmarker
350.14 46 350
350.53 47 351 - Trentonmarker, Chestermarker Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
351.98 Walt Whitman Bridgemarker over the Delaware River (state line)- $4 Toll charged westbound only
Camdenmarker Gloucester
352.69 48 354 , Waterfront Eastbound exit and westbound entrance in New Jersey; connection to US 130 is NJ 76C


References

  1. Pennsylvania Highways: Interstate 76
  2. http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/articles/13499/news



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