The Answer Guy Online

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Monday, December 29, 2003

New Jersey

My rental car, a red sported-up version of a Dodge Stratus, is gone. It was a pretty sweet ride, and certain curving, scenic roads - Rock Creek Parkway in DC, Connecticut's Merritt Parkway, and Interstate 95 along the Delaware River in Philadelphia were more fun as a result.

But, oh, the traffic snarls... annoying toolbooths, and idiots spending lots of time rubbernecking at stopped cars even when there was nothing at all to see, and too many people wanting to use the same roads to go in the same direction as I did this holiday season.

And of course, there was New Jersey.

Twice in one week I waited about 45 minutes in line at a toll plaza at the end of the New Jersey Turnpike (the northern end last week, the southern end today.) And having E-Z Pass wouldn't have even helped that much, as E-Z Pass won't get you to the front of a line that stretches for a couple miles.

On the way north, it was already late at night and I was hoping the traffic had died down a bit and that I could drive through New York rather than going around. Bad idea. Not only was the Turnpike backed up something fierce at the final toll plaza, the lower deck of the George Washington Bridge was closed. I had to exit onto some random road and embark on a search for the Palisades Parkway, which meant facing the horrors of the construction on I-287.

On the way south, I figured it would be a bad idea to drive through Philadelphia and a waste of time to bypass it to the west, so I stayed on the Turnpike until the end. Bad idea. It became a worse idea when for some reason the entire stretch of road in Delaware was clogged, well before 5:00.

While we're on the subject, why isn't there an obvious, unambiguous road that connects New York City with Philadelphia? Note that I-95 disappears from the map in New Jersey - in the northern part of the state, the Turnpike is labelled as 95, but there is no direct connection between that road and the I-95 that later resurfaces in Pennsylvania.

Following "official" directions from signs suggests that the best routes to Philly from Jersey all involve driving on random surface streets, most of them in Camden. I think I speak for all drivers from all 50 states - including New Jersey itself - when I say "No thank you."

For some reason, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276) connects with neither I-95 (the highways cross, but drivers are asked to drive into Philadelphia on Route 1 and use some other random road to connect to I-95 further down) nor I-295 (the "free" road that runs parallel to the Turnpike from Trenton until just before the Delaware Memorial Bridge.)

With the completion of NJ-29 through Trenton, there is a route that comes as close to replicating what I-95 should be as exists at the moment. (For the curious, that would be exiting the NJT at exit 7A and following I-195 West until it turns into NJ-29, and following 29 North into Trenton, then taking US-1 South (which is a limited access highway at that point) into Pennsylvania until it intersects with I-95. Although the alternative of picking up I-295 from I-195 and then connecting with either the Ben Franklin (I-676) or Walt Whitman (I-76) Bridges into Philadelphia exists.

It's easy to make fun of New Jersey, but at least when New Jersey charges you $5 to drive through the state, you're actually in the state for a while. Which is more than one can say for the Home of Tax-Free Shopping, where $5 is the price for driving 20 miles or so.


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