This holiday season New Jerseyans are hopping in the car and heading over the hill to Grandma’s house but they’re not lugging suitcases through the airport, waiting on long TSA lines and crossing their fingers that the airline won’t cancel their flight. These New Jerseyans will be driving and most of them will be using the New Jersey Turnpike at some point of their trip.

The New Jersey Turnpike opened its road on November 5th, 1951, it’s ironic that it was 71 years ago. This November when the New Jersey Turnpike opened making life so much easier for Thanksgiving travelers when cars could hit the highway and head all the way down to Salem County. The road had 148 miles of no stop lights, a toll or two or three but no stop lights. Now this week it was announced that the turnpike will be EZ pass and electronic pay acceptance which will ease up on grid lock at some of the tolls.

I grew up in the Bronx and we used to spend a lot of time at the Jersey Shore. Our relatives lived down there and we spent summers and holidays chugging down the Turnpike and then the Garden State Parkway which opened in October of 1956. I can remember driving in my grandfather’s Oldsmobile down there with him smiling saying “how we’re going to make great time”.

Southbound exit ramp toll of the Garden State Parkway
Southbound exit ramp toll of the Garden State Parkway (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

I’ve know nothing but the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in my lifetime as they were both open before I was born but for my grandfather coming down to the shore on the two lane route 9 was absolutely a brutal trek and it would take 3 or 3 ½ hours and my mom would say that they would have to leave at some god forsaken time to get there at a “decent hour”.

Now when I go to the Bronx from my Jersey Shore home I can get there in an hour and ten minutes door to door, sometimes even quicker.

In 2021, there were over 205 million vehicles that traveled the New Jersey Turnpike. An average of 560,000 vehicles travel the turnpike each day and rest areas pump an amazing 50,000,000 gallons of gas each year. New statistics show that since the Covid-19 pandemic there are 38 million less cars that have used the Turnpike, over 48 million less have used the Garden State Parkway. While both roadways have their issues, I’m still glad that we have them. Makes getting to where I want to go just a little quicker. Stay safe this Christmas.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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