Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Evel Knievel ramp and the ghost of the Pulaski Expressway

You've probably noticed the huge system of ramps that passes over 95 near the Betsy Ross Bridge. They seem like overkill for such a routine intersection, don't they? That's because they were originally intended for a much bigger purpose. If you've ever looked more closely, you may have noticed the wide, unfinished "Evel Knievel ramp" off to the right when heading north on 95. This was to be the starting point of the Route 90 Pulaski Expressway, which was never completed. Let's take a closer look at this unusual set of ramps and bridges.

I parked as close to the ramps as possible. This looks like no-man's land, but there's actually a nice new-construction neighborhood right around the corner from where I parked, with the ramps in view right behind the new houses.

Here's the Betsy Ross Bridge off in the distance. The Pulaski Expressway was to have been the main approach to the Betsy Ross on the Philly side.

Here we are looking up underneath the ramps connecting the Betsy Ross to I-95, North and South. I believe these two ramps serve traffic coming off the Betsy Ross from NJ.

Here's a first look at the Evel Knievel ramp. We'll get a closer look later...

We're standing on Richmond Street looking toward the Betsy Ross. This ramp serves the stub of Route 90 that exists between the bridge and the Evel Knievel ramp. The ramps are behind me and to the right.

Here's the in-use stub of Route 90 as it passes over Richmond Street. As you can see, it's a wide roadway.

Back under the ramps, here they are curving out over 95. You can get a sense here of how truly massive these structures are.

Here's a closer look at the Evel Knievel ramp. This was to be the main roadway of the Pulaski Expressway, which would pass over 95. There are also a few unused concrete supports on the median of 95 that align with this roadway, which would have carried it over 95.

Here we are right under the split point for the ramps to 95 N and S.

A ramp coming from 95 as it leaves ground level.

Now let's see one from the top. I'm making a left from Aramingo Avenue. You can see the street sign just says "Ramp XY". This roadway I'm turning onto is actually newer construction. Originally there were several more unfinished ramps that were meant to serve the Pulaski Expressway. In the '90s, after it became clear that the Pulaski wasn't going to happen, the ramps were redesigned and finished to connect to Aramingo Ave.

Heading up the ramp...

Quite a view from the top.

And now we're heading down onto 95 S.

The Pulaski Expressway was to have connected to Roosevelt Boulevard/Route 1 somewhere near Adams Ave, but the plans were scrapped in the early 1980s after opposition from residents and regulators. If the Pulaski plans had gone through, as well as the plans to extend the Roosevelt Expressway further along the at-grade Boulevard section, there would have been a continuous freeway loop consisting of 95, the Vine, the Schuylkill, the Roosevelt Expwy and the Pulaski Expwy. Instead, we still have the Boulevard with its dangerous intersections, and we have to cut through surface streets to go from the Boulevard to 95.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Potholes 2010

Philly broke the all-time record for most snowfall in a single season, and it's showing. The pics tell the story:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

South Street Bridge

To the right of the highway, you can see the old supports for the South Street Bridge, which is being completely dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. This was a sorely needed project, as the old bridge was dropping chunks of itself onto the Schuykill regularly.

And a shot of the upper deck of the Girard Point Bridge, one of my favorites in the area. This bridge rises very steeply, up to the upper portion seen here, giving you the impression that you're ascending into the skies.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

That would be, pothole time. They filled this one soon after I took this pic, but not before it produced a few caps for me. Can you believe this road was paved in 2006 and it already looks like this?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More of I-95

Northbound traffic near Cottman Ave.

Ben Franklin Bridge off in the distance.
Somebody tagged the Jersey barrier pretty elaborately, in a place where there's really no standing room. Now that's dedication.
This cap looked like it was being absorbed into the Earth. Fortunately I snatched it from the jaws of Mother Nature.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hubcap Archaeology

This wheel cover from a '66 Mustang was almost completely buried along the 42 Freeway in Runnemede NJ. Here's how it looked when it saw the light of day for probably the first time in decades.

Early this morning I headed over the Walt Whitman into NJ. I don't normally drive this bridge at rush hour, but I bet it doesn't look like this.

42 is built on a very high berm above ground level. Here you can see where a bike path passed below it.

Over the years, lots of hubcaps have been launched over this guardrail and into the woods. As you can see here, the grade along the highway is almost vertical, so retrieving them is tricky.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Can't Drive 95

Being a very busy interstate, 95 is a highway that takes off a lot of caps, but is not an ideal place to keep stopping to pick them up one-by-one. With almost constant heavy traffic, sometimes narrow shoulders, and lots of state police patrols, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong if you keep pulling over there -- especially on a Saturday afternoon, as was the case today. (Although I typically go out on Sunday mornings when traffic is light, the weather is expected to be bad tomorrow.) Therefore, on many sections of 95, the best approach is to park on a surface street and walk it, which is how I ended up in this place today:

This was taken from between the NB and SB lanes. To get here, I had to cross a creek on stepping stones, hopscotch-style. I did manage to plant my right foot a little deeper in the water than I intended. Not a big deal, but it reminded me of a much worse situation that I once found myself in, involving capping and water, so I'll take this opportunity to tell that story now:

This took place during the winter of 2004-05, when I was in North Jersey. If you're familiar with that area, you probably know the section of I-80 near Parsippany, where the concrete sections have shifted over the years and caused a few pretty serious bumps. Driving by, I noticed a couple good caps stuck in the bushes, one of which was a desirable 16" Camry. I probably could have just stopped on 80 and grabbed them, but I know that in a place like that, there are likely to be a few more caps that aren't visible from the road. I wanted to be able to walk up there and take a leisurely stroll through the bushes.

In that particular area, Route 46 runs parallel and very close to I-80. 46 is a smaller highway with lots of commercial buildings. So, I figured, I would take an exit to 46, double back until I was in about the right spot, park safely in a lot, climb a chain-link fence (if there were an Olympic Games for hubcap dealers, the USDOT Interstate Fence Climb would be a major part of the competition), crash through the woods and come out on the side of I-80, where I could proceed to get the caps. So I got as far as climbing over the fence, when I realized I was facing a little more water than I expected. There was a drainage gully along I-80 that was something of a swamp, filled with reedy plants and nasty, oily water. With all those plants in the water, it really didn't look deep at all. I was wearing my rubber boots and I figured I could just stomp through it.


No, let me repeat that with the proper emphasis.


I got about 3 steps into the muck before I realized this was a very bad idea. My right foot was sinking fast, so I shifted my weight to my left foot, which sunk even faster. Within seconds, cold, gunky water was rushing in over the top of my boots. I grabbed a tree limb that was fortunately overhead and took the weight off my legs, which were sunk almost to the knees in this slop. I managed to ooze my way back to dry land, where I found that everything that had been underwater was coated with black oil. My boots were still full of water, or whatever it was. Not to be deterred after having come this far, I walked around until I found a fallen log across the swamp, which I was able to use to cross without touching the water. When I got to the highway I found the Camry as well as a Jetta, a Grand Marquis and a Cutlass Ciera. The drive home was disgusting -- every time I hit the brake, my slop-filled boot went, "glorp". I was wondering if my toenails would have dissolved by the time I got home, from whatever chemicals were in that stuff. It took 2 rounds through the washer to get my boot linings and jeans clean. I think I threw my socks away.

But on the other hand, that was a nice 16" Camry.