NJ drivers should know this: Top 10 worst traffic merge points
It’s October so it’s the perfect time to list the horror of New Jersey’s WORST traffic merge points.
These award-winners fulfill my criteria of obsolete structural design, imminent danger to motorists and a long history of crashes and perpetual delays.
#10 — New Jersey Turnpike South at Exit 4 in Cherry Hill
Prior to the Turnpike-widening project in 2014, which practically doubled lane capacity north of Exit 6 in Florence, the worst Turnpike merge was always southbound just past exit 8A/Cranbury, where up to six lanes would merge into three.
Now, the new worst merge point is south at Exit 4, where the road merges from three lanes down to two for the last 34 miles to the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Studies are underway to expand the highway to three lanes each way but the actual work may not begin for several years. Considering the amount of regional traffic that depends on this highway and the need for improved safety that a third lane would bring, this expansion can’t start soon enough.
#9 — Route 202 at the Somerville and Flemington Circles
Both outdated roadways have seen reconstruction over the past 25 years yet if you ask most drivers they would probably say that things are not much better. Especially because most motorists are unfamiliar with right-of-way rules at traffic circles.
#8 — I-295, I-76 at Route 42 in Bellmawr
For decades this merge has always been a traffic aggravation. It’s the classic South Jersey traffic scrum. All directions can backup at any time. Traffic to and from the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges as well as trying to survive the odyssey of getting to either side of this interchange of misery. Although the long-term reconstruction is progressing nicely we will withhold judgment on whether your commute is better or not.
#7 — I-287 North onto I-78 West in Bedminster
It’s like X’s and O’s on a football coach’s clipboard: The Northbound traffic from I-287 is coming onto West 78 via a two-lane ramp with a small cement/grass median. Traffic merging at full highway speed into the far left lane while having to watch for oncoming I-78 traffic ALSO going at highway speed. Who was there first? Then add in traffic getting on from South 287 onto West 78 from the other side of the roadway. What could possibly go wrong?
#6 — I-80 West onto I-287 South in Parsippany
Same horror show and similar design as North 287 at West 78 – Read #7 above. Again, what could possibly go wrong?
#5 — I-80 East onto I-287 in Parsippany
Ahh, it’s the daily game of chicken with Eastbound 80 traffic trying to squeeze, squiggle and beg their way into the one-lane ramp for both directions of I-287. Delays can stretch well over a mile at all times of the day. Once you make it onto I-287 it’s then a survival challenge entering onto Northbound 287 from the left lane. Zero to 70 mph and hold your breath. East 80 to South 287 motorists have to deal with oncoming I-287 traffic plus the traffic coming on from West 80 near exit 40. Good times!
#4 — Route 24 West onto I-287 North in Hanover
Three lanes of traffic with 90% of the flow heading to the one-lane exit ramp for Northbound 287. The backups have been chronic since Route 24 opened in the mid-1990s. The daily delays can easily cost you at least 20 minutes.
Can’t say you can blame some motorists for driving up the far left lane (which is intended for South 287) then trying to cut you off after you have patiently waited your turn. You’ve never done THAT right? Or perhaps you stick out your vehicle to put a chop block on some wiseguy as to say “Don’t try that crap here.”
If ever an extra lane was needed, this is the place. Can we get some infrastructure bucks over here?
#3 — I-280 between Garden State Parkway and Route 21 in Newark
Three lanes into two with very little shoulder. Traffic is always heavy and dangerous. This area has been undergoing a major transformation, but you can’t completely redesign an area that does not have room for proper expansion.
Too bad the original proposal for an expressway on the west side of Newark was not approved. That would have created two main north/south highways to access New Jersey’s largest city. Yeah, that’s what the large left portion of East 280 at Exit 13 in Newark was designed for. That’s also why you are squished into two tight lanes on I-280 into the downtown area.
#2 — I-287/440 onto the Garden State Parkway and Driscoll Bridge/Woodbridge
The crumbly bumpy section of South 287/440 at the Parkway is notorious for crashes and delays. It seems everybody is heading down the shore over the Driscoll Bridge and this one-lane exit ramp is a terrible merge point. Add in the traffic coming from Smith Street and this is a real Jersey Jam.
#1 — I-287 at Route 17/NY Thruway in Mahwah
Top of the state and Top of the list. THREE major highways with six directions of traffic trying to navigate in this free-for-all game of survival. Don’t even think of blinking or taking your eyes off the road here. I always hold my breath and say a prayer that nobody is going to crash into me from either side at the worst merge point in the entire state.
These are my personal favorites merges to hate but there are many more. Send me your worst NJ traffic merge point and tell me why at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe we can keep this list going in a future article.
The chance of seeing any new highways being built here in New Jersey is not good but maybe some of these existing roads can be improved through expansion and redesign. Happy Motoring.