Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the historic roadway in New Jersey. The General Casimir Pulaski Skyway also referred to Boston's Central Artery before it was rebuilt under the Big Dig, and may still refer to the elevated part south of downtown.
The General Pulaski Skyway, commonly referred to as the Pulaski Skyway, is a series of cantilever truss bridges in New Jersey that carry four lanes of U.S. Highways 1 and 9 5.6 km (3.5 miles) between the far east side of Newark and Tonnelle Circle in Jersey City, passing through Kearny. The Skyway spans the Passaic River and Hackensack River, the New Jersey Turnpike, many local roads, and several railroads. It is named for General Kazimierz Pulaski, the Polish military leader who assisted in training and commanding United States troops in the Revolutionary War. It is known as a 'skyway' because it travels high (41.1 meters/135 feet at its highest point) above the meadows to avoid drawbridges across the two navigable rivers.
The Skyway was opened in 1932 as the last part of the Route 1 Extension, considered by many to be the first "super highway" in the United States , and is still in use in its original form, with only minor changes. As part of this road, and on its own merits, it may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places .
Trucks (and other large vehicles) are prohibited on the Pulaski Skyway due to its outdated design. They must use an alternate route known as Truck US 1-9, a series of local roads through Jersey City, Kearny and Newark that carried traffic before the Skyway was built. Pedestrians and bicycles are also banned, as the road is a freeway with no sidewalks.
The Skyway is used as a main route to the Holland Tunnel and Lower Manhattan, New York City; the rest of the route to the Tunnel is Route 139, a depressed four-lane cut topped by a four-lane surface road (adjacent to the former Erie Railroad's Bergen Arches cut) and a one-way pair on 12th Street and 14th Street.
Although the Skyway carries two north-south routes, it runs mostly east-west. Going east, from Newark to Jersey City, the road is signed north, and vice versa the other way. The current speed limit is 45 miles per hour (72 km/h).
The structure includes two 167.6 meter (550 foot) cantilever spans, one over the Hackensack River between Jersey City and Kearny, and the other over the Passaic River between Newark and Kearny. The spans are joined by a long viaduct over an industrial area, formerly meadows. In Jersey City, two trestle spans cross over Conrail and PATH railroad tracks, respectively. In Newark, the New Jersey Turnpike passes under the Skyway with little room to spare.
The Skyway was built as part of the Route 1 Extension carrying traffic from New York City via the Holland Tunnel to the rest of the country. The main part of the Extension was built from 1927 to 1930, but the Skyway didn't open until late 1932 because of delays in deciding how to build it, and the need for Army Corps of Engineers approval for the crossings of the navigable Passaic and Hackensack Rivers. Originally, three possibilities were considered for the Diagonal Highway or Newark-Jersey City Viaduct section of the Extension:
- Two parallel two-lane tunnels, or
- An elevated road with lift bridges over the rivers, or
- An elevated road with high fixed spans over the rivers
The tunnel option was removed quickly due to cost. The lift bridge option was favored by the New Jersey State Highway Commission, but the Army Corps denied permits due to "opposition voiced by navigation interests to additional bridges on these rivers." The third option (elevated road with high fixed spans) was finally agreed upon and approved in late 1929.
Near the east end at Tonnelle Circle, the roadway is at the same level and right next to a parallel viaduct carrying Truck US 1-9. This was opened in 1928 as part of the Route 1 Extension, and was originally intended as the beginning of the Diagonal Highway.
Construction began in mid-1930. During construction, fifteen workers lost their lives due to accidents, and a labor-related murder claimed another life.
Owing to the Great Depression and problems with funding, Governor Moore directed the Highway Commission on October 25, 1932 to make a formal request to the U.S. Bureau of Roads to charge tolls on the Diagonal Highway. It was thought that tolls would be illegal due to federal aid being used to build the road, but it might be possible to transfer the $600,000 of federal aid to another project. A bill was introduced into the state legislature on May 1, 1933 asking to add tolls to the road, at a rate of 10 cents for cars and 20 cents for trucks. The legal obstacle of federal aid was also resolved by getting approval to transfer the funds. However, tolls were never added; money was found elsewhere or other road projects were delayed.
The $19,000,000 road was opened on November 24, 1932, Thanksgiving Day, after an official ceremony the previous day on the Kearny ramp. On May 3, 1933, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill naming the road after Pulaski, sponsored by Assemblyman Eugene W. Hejke of Jersey City.
A survey in early 1934 proved that the road saved time. Not only was the distance shortened, from 4.2 to 3.7 miles, but it took about 6 minutes less to travel the new route. Trucks gained even more time, saving anywhere from 5 to 11 minutes. It was found that the highway also diverted a good deal of traffic from other routes.
A median barrier was added in mid-1956, in addition to a new coat of pavement designed to make the road less slippery. These improvements were done because of large numbers of car accidents; 430 had been reported in 1954. Other than that, and possibly other new coats of pavement, the Skyway is the same now as it was when it opened in 1932.
Four access points to the skyway are provided, two at the ends and two in the middle. The two middle access points only provide access in one direction, and consist of a single ramp that rises into the middle of the Skyway, producing left entrances and exits (which are no longer used on new highways unless absolutely necessary). Here is a list of the exits (and corresponding entrances):
- traffic continues on the Newark Viaduct
- northbound entrance from Roanoke Avenue
- Truck US 1-9 north/New Jersey Turnpike/I-95 northbound exit/southbound entrance, with access only via the local lanes
- Raymond Boulevard southbound exit
- South Kearny (Adams Street) southbound exit/northbound entrance
- Broadway northbound exit/southbound entrance
- Truck US 1-9 south to I-280/Jersey City/Kearny southbound exit
- US 1 NORTH/US 9 north/Tonnelle Avenue/Lincoln Tunnel all directions; the northbound entrance is on the left and also serves traffic from Truck US 1-9'
- traffic continues on Route 139
Before the Skyway was built, the Newark Viaduct sloped down to end at Raymond Boulevard, and the main road turned east. The Pulaski Skyway incorporated this ramp as a median off-ramp and on-ramp. A northbound on-ramp was added from Foundry Street onto the existing Viaduct south of Raymond Boulevard, and a southbound off-ramp was built from the Skyway to Raymond Boulevard (this ramp originally ended at Lockwood Street).
A new northbound Newark Viaduct was added in mid-1950, doubling capacity south of the Skyway. Soon after, on December 20, 1951, the New Jersey Turnpike opened south of there, and it opened to the north on January 15, 1952. Access was provided between the Turnpike and Raymond/Truck US 1-9, which had a ramp to the Newark Viaduct and indirect ramps to the Skyway. By that time, the left ramps at Raymond Boulevard had been changed to right-side ramps, and left turns were prohibited from the northbound off-ramp onto Raymond Boulevard.
In 1960, a new southbound on-ramp was built from the right side of Truck US 1-9, avoiding a left turn for trucks to continue south. Because of the new ramp, traffic could no longer turn right from Raymond Boulevard onto the Newark Viaduct.
Jersey City end
The Skyway overpasses Tonnelle Circle with ramps in all directions; that article expands on the configuration and history.
As with cars, trucks found a large time savings using the new road, saving about eight minutes, more than half the time between the two ends.
In November 1933, Jersey City passed an ordinance, pushed by Mayor Frank Hague, banning trucks from its section of the Skyway, effectively banning trucks from the whole road. The ordinance was passed because of large numbers of accidents on the Skyway, many involving trucks. On January 15, 1934, Jersey City police began arresting truck drivers using the Skyway. On January 23, the New Jersey State Highway Commission approved the ban.
Because of this, trucks went back to the old route, which was designated Truck US 1-9 in addition to Route 25M (along and west of Communipaw Avenue) and Route 1 (north of Communipaw Avenue). Ramps at the south end of the Skyway provided easy access to the truck route, and trucks used ramps from Tonnelle Circle to rejoin the main route to the Holland Tunnel.
As a result of controversy caused by the ban, on February 6, 300,000 ballots were distributed to motorists on the Skyway, asking whether trucks should be banned. Mayor Hague promised to go with the majority, which agreed with the ban. The matter was also taken to court, with one of the truck drivers convicted arguing that the ban was an unreasonable restraint of interstate traffic , and that since the federal government contributed money towards the road, Jersey City lacked the power to ban trucks. On August 14, Justice Thomas W. Trenchard of the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the ban, stating that "the court is not at liberty to substitute its judgment for that of the municipality's as to the best and most feasible manner of curing traffic evils and traffic congestion where such regulation bears a direct relationship to public safety and is reasonable and not arbitrary."
On May 21, 1952, large numbers of trucks were spotted by Jersey City police entering the city on the Skyway. Upon pulling over the drivers, they were told that the exit in Newark for the truck route was closed for construction. A call to Newark police confirmed the situation. Hudson County police refused to force trucks to exit before Jersey City, since there was no state law banning trucks from the Skyway. Jersey City Police Chief James McNamara gave in, and trucks were temporarily allowed to use the Skyway, though only in one direction.
I-78, the New Jersey Turnpike's Newark Bay Extension, opened on April 4, 1956 as an alternate route from Newark to the Holland Tunnel, one that allows trucks. Nowadays, the New Jersey Department of Transportation bans trucks from the Skyway not due to safety issues, but because of weight restrictions.
Prior to the 1927 New Jersey State Highway renumbering, Route 1 and US 1 went from Newark through Jersey City to the Holland Tunnel. US 9 followed most of this route, leaving to go north at Tonnelle Circle. The Skyway and adjacent improvements were planned as the Route 1 Extension, legislated in 1922, before which Route 1 ended at the south border of Elizabeth.
After the 1927 renumbering, the route west and south from the Holland Tunnel became Route 25 . The north-south part in Jersey City also became part of Route 1 , which went south to the Bayonne Bridge and north along the west side of the Palisades. When the Skyway opened, Route 25 and US 1 were moved onto it. The old route on and west of Communipaw Avenue became Route 25M , while the rest was part of Route 1.
Between 1931 and 1934, US 9's route was changed to continue past Tonnelle Circle with US 1 into the Holland Tunnel. By the end of 1934, both routes had been rerouted to go north at Tonnelle Circle and over the George Washington Bridge, with the old route to the tunnel becoming BUS US 1 as well at Route 25. Also in 1934, the old route was given the additional numbers Truck US 1-9 due to trucks being banned from the Skyway.
In the 1953 New Jersey State Highway renumbering, the State Highway numbers (1, 25 and 25M) were removed, leaving only the U.S. Highways (1, 9, Business 1 and Truck 1-9). Since then, BUS US 1 has been renumbered to State Route 139.
New Jersey Turnpike
The Skyway was a constraint in the building of the perpendicular New Jersey Turnpike near the west end; the Turnpike had to be built low enough to provide clearance underneath the Skyway but high enough to clear the nearby Passaic River. A horizontal constraint was also given by the location of Skyway supports.
New Jersey Turnpike Exit 15E (Newark/Jersey City) indirectly accesses the Skyway, via Truck US 1-9. Direct ramps carry traffic between the Turnpike interchange and the Newark Viaduct , which extends the Skyway towards Elizabeth, but traffic between the Turnpike and the main part of the Skyway has three options:
- Use Turnpike Exit 14 (Newark Airport) for a freeway connection via I-78
- Use local streets to access Skyway ramps at its west end
- Avoid the Skyway altogether and use the truck route
- Pulaski Skyway at nycroads.com
- Jersey Forces Toll Issue, New York Times October 26, 1932 page 4
- Auto Express Route Dedicated in Jersey, New York Times November 24, 1932 page 27
- Bars Trucks on Skyway, New York Times January 9, 1934 page 17
- 10 Held in Skyway Ban, New York Times January 16, 1934 page 12
- Skyway Truck Ban Approved by State, New York Times January 24, 1932 page 19
- Tolls on Viaduct Set by Jersey Bill, New York Times May 2, 1933 page 7
- Jersey Honors Pulaski, New York Times May 4, 1933 page 19
- Skyway Ban Up for Vote, New York Times February 7, 1934 page 10
- Raised Way Saves Time, New York Times March 18, 1934 page XX8
- Skyway Truck Ban Upheld in Jersey, New York Times August 15, 1934 page 7
- Banned Trucks Roll Along Pulaski Skyway While Jersey City Police Fume All in Vain, New York Times May 22, 1952 page 29
- Pulaski Skyway to Get New and Safer Surface, New York Times September 13, 1955 page 26
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