In October 2022, news broke that the western end of the Atlantic City Expressway would finally be widened to three lanes, but since then, it seems not much has happened.

Widening the Atlantic City Expressway

In fact, you may have completely forgotten that plans are in the works to expand the busy roadway between Exit 31 in Winslow Township and the 42 Freeway, thus allowing traffic to get to and from the shore much quicker.

In the 21 months since the plan was announced, not one road construction sign has been erected, and not one traffic cone has been placed. No blinking arrows, and no construction equipment.

Not that commuters expected a multi-million-dollar project like this would be done in a matter of weeks, but back then, even was optimistic when they reported groundbreaking should happen sometime in 2024.

Atlantic City Expressway goes from 3 lanes to 2 in Winslow Township NJ
Atlantic City Expressway goes from 3 lanes to 2 in Winslow Township NJ - Photo: Google Maps

But behind the scenes, work is moving along at getting rid of a thorn in every South Jersey driver's side (at least one of them).

The need for the project is to alleviate the recurring congestion, particularly during the peak summer periods, which has resulted in an excessively high number of rear-end and side-swipe crashes. The project will improve safety, mitigate existing geometric deficiencies, and maintain a state of good repair for this essential transportation connection.

As best we can tell, the timeline published by the South Jersey Transportation Authority still stands:

  • A concept development study was completed in 2022
  • We are now in a preliminary engineering phase, which was set for 2022-2024
  • A final design phase, including multiple design contracts being awarded, is still planned for this year
  • The last phase, the actual construction of the third lane in each direction is still listed as "TBD"

Obviously this is a big project, estimated at $180 million, that requires a lot of work, including widening two major overpasses where the AC Expressway goes over Route 42 by the exit for Route 168 in Turnersville.

Atlantic City Expressway over Route 42 in Washington Township NJ
Atlantic City Expressway over Route 42 in Washington Township NJ - Photo: Google Maps

So exactly how long will it take to widen about 14 miles of the busiest part of the Atlantic City Expressway? The answer appears to be quite a few.

Officially the SJTA says, "The anticipated start of construction is still being determined."

Work Continues at Route 42/I-76 and I-295 in Bellmawr, NJ

Meanwhile, on the other end of the 42 Freeway, the "Direct Connect" project at Interstate 295 in Bellmawr continues — and it's hard to believe that work started over a decade ago.

Route 42 / Interstate 295 ramps have opened in Bellmawr NJ - Photo: Google Maps
Route 42 / Interstate 295 ramps have opened in Bellmawr NJ - Photo: Google Maps

Groundbreaking on that $900 million project occurred on March 11, 2013, following a decade's worth of planning. That construction is expected to end sometime in 2027.

Driving Between Philadelphia and Atlantic City

So exactly when will drivers be able to drive quickly between Philadelphia and Atlantic City? Can the Direct Connect and the Expressway widening projects both be done by 2028? Is that an optimistic goal? Is 2030 more likely?

One project has nothing to do with the other, but it would be nice to not have to dodge construction barrels commuting from that part of South Jersey to that part of South Jersey.

As we sit here pondering how many decades it'll take to finish some road work in South Jersey, consider this fact: the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike — all 117 miles of it — was built in only 22 months. Yes, less than two years from start to finish. Today, it can take us two decades to rework just one interchange.

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Gallery Credit: Chris Coleman

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