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  Route 55 (Cape May Expressway)
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Route 55 - Cape May Expressway

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Interstate 195 - Central Jersey Expressway

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Total Length - 60.3 Miles (Four Lane Limited Access)

*This is all fictional and elaborated as what I think may have happened if the powers that be had decided to build these highways*


Route 55 is a major north-south corridor serving both shorebound traffic to Cape May and commuting traffic to Philadelphia from Vineland and its surrounding areas.  However, it had a hard struggle to be completed and several problems to overcome.  The first being it's path through some of southern New Jersey's most sensitive areas.  The developing city of Vineland certainly pushed hard for the highway's completion to better make the city a hub for commuters and shoregoers alike.  The first 35 miles mapped out were from Vineland to just south of Woodbine.  The remaining 25 miles were in the planning stage but were not ready for construction yet.  The officials insisted that the completion of the highway lied in building its hardest part first.  The section from Vineland to south of Camden could easily be built first, but freeholders from Cumberland County did not want a half finished highway, and knew that Route 55 would become just that if the easiest section was built first.

The freeway inches forward...

Construction started spring of 1965 in Dennis Township near the intersection of Route 47 and Route 83.  The NJDOT was careful to only cut down the trees in the path of the highway and leave the natural landscape unscathed.  Environmentalists constantly protested at the construction sites, some even trying to prevent bulldozers from marching forward.  The alignment of Route 55 may have carried it through wildlife areas, but the right of way was very large and allowed for a wide forrested median and large buffer zones on each side of the highway.  To help curb sprawl there would only be exits at Route 83/47 (Exit 4), Route 47 (Exit 6), and CR 550 (Exit 14).  Once the freeway approached the Vineland area the exits would become more frequent, with connections to Route 47, Route 49, and CR 555.  Approximately five miles of the freeway would be multiplexed with the Route 60 freeway already planned from Penns Grove to Ocean City. 

The road to nowhere...

By the summer of 1974 Route 55 was complete from Route 83/47 (Exit 4) to U.S. Route 40 Exit 39 and provided for great bypass of Route 47 through Vineland's busy commercial district.  However, the highway was labeled the "road to nowhere" since the connection to neither the Garden State Parkway or Camden had been made.  Counts were extremely low in the southern section that passed through the Belleplain State Forest, the highway wasn't much of a shortcut to tourists.  Officials for the NJDOT and Cumberland County insisted that the highway would not reach its full potential until it was fully completed.  Plans soon began to move forward for the extension further north, originally the freeway was meant to end at U.S. Route 130 (Camden Freeway), but it was decided that traffic would flow better if Route 55 ended at the free section of the Atlantic City Expressway.  This would also prove beneficial for the newly relocated Exit 3 on the NJ Turnpike (I-295) to better meet the Atlantic City Expressway.

Completion gets 21 miles closer...

After more than a decade of studies and plans after plans, Route 55 construction was finally set to begin.  The stub end cloverleaf that existed at U.S. Route 40 saw construction first, and the highway began its march further north.  As with it's earlier stage, protesting environmentalists tried stopping the construction workers.  Often police would have to be brought out to control them from breaking into riots.  Those protesting insisted that Route 55 would bring a new wave of sprawl to southern New Jersey and damage the fragile ecosystem.  To help curb this problem the median was kept wide and exits were limited as much as possible, this didn't mean however that the NJDOT didn't plan for the future.  Many of the exits along the Route 55 corridor were designed to leave room for expansion, most were partially completed cloverleafs with excess right of way for later improvement.  The final miles of the freeway were tallied in the late summer of 1989 making the freeway a full 56.3 miles long.  After fully opening it was quite clear that Route 55 was sorely needed in growing southern New Jersey, immediately relief was felt on the aging Route 47 and other paralleling roads.  It seemed that Route 55 was now enjoying some well deserved recognition.  However, there was still the four mile extension to the Garden State Parkway to complete, and that section would prove to be the hardest of them all.

Last peice of the puzzle...

Five years after the northen extension of Route 55 was complete, it's southern extension was still on the planning board.  The freeway had become a popular shortcut for those trying to reach the southern shoreline,  and no one felt this harder then the residents of Dennis and Middle township.  Friday nights in the summer would bring long lines of cars that would jam up Route 47 and Route 83 trying to reach the shore.  Often tourists would drop garbage out their windows and onto front lawns.  Residents finally had enough and began pushing for the NJDOT to complete the final section to the Garden State Parkway.  However, it was not as simple as it sounded, in the passing years environmental regulations became stricter and more prohibitive.  The path of the freeway would take it right through the Beaver Swamp WMA, and evironmentalists used this as fuel to stop the project.  Local meetings for the highway proposal saw those originally opposed to the highway now in support of its completion.  Several designs saw the highway making a straight shot for the Parkway, while the few others tried to provide a partial connection to U.S. Route 9 as an option before the toll road.  To help mitigate congestion problems on U.S. Route 9 from Cape May, the Parkway Authority and NJDOT rebuilt Exit 15 and eliminated the circle at Route 83 and U.S. Route 9.  This only provided temporary relief as both Route 83 and Route 47 still saw continuous backups.  Finally, in spring of 1995 nearly thirty years after the highway first saw construction, work on the final peice began.  There was less protesting this time around despite a strong presence during the last stage.  As with before the highway got a wide median and large buffer zones to preserve the natural vegetation.  The final section was complete in fall of 1997 at a cost of nearly $35 million.  The total 60.3 mile long freeway was officially opened on November 15th and just in time for Thanksgiving travelers.  The highway performed very well, and there were no major incidents to report.  The Route 55 freeway in the coming years would prove to be a vital part of southern New Jersey, both for hurricane evacuations and bringing economic prosperity.

Exit 31

Here Route 60 & Route 55 meet to multiplex for a good five miles through Vineland.  Once the four lane freeways merge, the multiplex remains a six lane highway until they split south of the city.  With connections to the Vineland International Airport via Route 100, this multiplex route sees a good deal of traffic during peak hours.  There are very few congestion spots since the entire freeway section is beyond standards.  However, to accommodate future demands, the NJDOT has plans at some point to add a fourth lane in each direction for the multiplexed section of freeway.

Exit 26

Here Route 60 leaves the multiplexed alignment of Route 55 and continues to head east towards Ocean City.  The small connector road provides access to and from CR 555. Four miles ahead is the interchange with Route 54 (Burlington Freeway).

Exit 26

BGS at the interchange

Exit 20

Route 55 & Route 47 (Exit 20)

Exit 4

Route 55 & Route 47 (Exit 4)

End of Route 55 BGS

Here is the BGS you would see as Route 55 ends, alerting you of the last free exit before hitting the tolled Parkway.

Exit 1

Here three major arteries meet, Route 55, U.S. Route 9, and the Garden State Parkway.  Two lane ramps are provided for northbound drivers exiting the Parkway, and those entering it southbound.  Small toll plazas are also on the ramps, for those bypassing the Cape May Toll Plaza.  Access is provided for Route 55 southbound traffic to U.S. Route 9 and back.  This interchange was given the nickname "Manta Ray" by those building it.  Once opened in 1997, this new connection provided an evacuation route for the Cape May Peninsula.