After three years of construction, commuters can again go direct from the Betsy Ross Bridge to I-95, instead of filling up local roadways. (PennDOT)

Drivers who have for years been struggling to navigate the seemingly endless roadwork along the Betsy Ross Bridge highway interchange are getting a bit of a relief.

After three years of construction, PennDOT today reopens the ramp from the bridge to I-95 South, marking the substantial completion of a $96.5 million revamp that reinstates a direct connection for people traveling from the Cherry Hill area to the city.

It’s just one part of an ongoing series of highway and road rehabs and upgrades along I-95 in Philadelphia, some of which started as long ago as 2009 and others that will continue through at least 2030.

The reconstructed on-ramp is part of a spaghetti of connections where the road from the bridge (I-90) approaches the highway on the lower edge of Bridesburg, south of Aramingo Avenue and north of Allegheny Avenue. 

Drivers coming from New Jersey take an exit that turns into a big left curve over I-95 and Frankford Creek and then descends to merge with the interstate. The Center City skyline is visible ahead in the distance and off to the right, and until recently a distinctive cylindrical metal structure called a “gasometer” used to dominate the horizon to the left. 

The ramp reopening can’t come soon enough for regular highway drivers like Arthur Sharon, a Francisville resident who crosses the bridge to and from New Jersey once or twice a week.

He’s been using PennDOT’s recommended detour, which directs drivers up toward the Bridge Street interchange. It’s not fun. 

“You wind up on Torresdale Avenue, and you have to go up to Harbison and come back down to get on to 95 south that way. It’s another 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the traffic, and the traffic in that area is usually pretty slow,” Sharon said. 

Like other commuters, he’s been watching the project finish up with increasing anticipation over the last few weeks. “It just seems interminable,” he said.

The ramp from the Betsy Ross Bridge to I-95 South had been closed for three years. (PennDOT)

Reopening the ramp and its attendant connectors from Aramingo Avenue and Adams Avenue is a major milestone, per PennDOT spokesperson Brad Rudolph. The ramp to southbound 95 had been closed since November 2020. 

The three-year chunk of roadwork now wrapping up is only the second of five construction projects focusing on the Betsy Ross Bridge interchange and adjoining parts of I-95. An earlier segment was completed in 2017, and the next three are set to launch in 2024, 2026, and 2027. They’re tentatively scheduled for completion by 2030.

In addition, several other sets of projects on and around the highway are simultaneously underway at Allegheny, Bridge Street, Cottman Avenue, and Girard Avenue, with the goal of expanding the road’s capacity, making it safer, and accommodating evolving driver demand, Rudolph said. More than $2 billion has been spent so far.

I-95 “is very complex,” Rudolph said. “It needs modernization, it needs to be reconnected to communities, it needs to adapt to some of the changes we’ve seen in neighborhoods and patterns of travel behavior. A lot of new technologies are being used. It’s an old highway and it needs to be reconstructed.”

The six-lane, 1.6 mile-long Betsy Ross Bridge connects Philly with Pennsauken, New Jersey. Opened in 1976, it is heavily used, with 7.3 million vehicle trips annually, according to the Delaware River Port Authority. 

Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...