The project area lies along an essential Mid-Atlantic section of the much broader I-95 corridor, holding national and regional significance for East Coast passenger and freight movement. This section serves as a critical part of the local, regional, and national multimodal system within northern Delaware, supporting connections such as: Amtrak; SEPTA; CSXT; and Philadelphia International, BWI, Wilmington Philadelphia Regional and New Castle Airports. SR 896 (South College Avenue) is a state roadway that runs north from the unincorporated community of Boyd’s Corner to the Maryland state line, northwest of the City of Newark (City). SR 896 is also the primary north-south route for traffic travelling to and from the City from areas to the south, such as Glasgow, the US 40 corridor, and Middletown.
Plans for a road along the I-95 corridor, through Wilmington to the Pennsylvania border, predate the Interstate Highway System (IHS). After the Delaware Memorial Bridge was built in 1951, the Delaware Turnpike was proposed between the bridge approach and the Maryland border to alleviate traffic congestion on parallel US 40. With the creation of the IHS in 1956, both roads were incorporated into I-95. Construction began in 1957 and ended in 1963.
Numerous improvements to Delaware’s segment of I-95 have been made since its original construction, and the I-95 & SR 896 interchange is no exception. DelDOT has completed several projects in recent years to rectify minor deficiencies at the interchange or adjust lane configurations on I-95:
DelDOT Project Timeline
Addressed geometric deficiencies on SB I-95 to SB SR 896 exit ramp (Ramp C)
Signing and pavement marking changes to provide E-ZPass priority lane on SB I-95
Reconstruction of I-95 Newark Toll Plaza and geometric changes to separate NB and SB high-speed E-ZPass lanes
Bridge maintenance for SR 896 overpass including deck rehabilitation
Emergency work to rectify cross-slope deficiencies on the SB I-95 to SB SR 896 exit ramp and add signage along NB I-95 in Maryland to direct vehicles traveling to Newark to exit at MD 279 instead of SR 896
Signing and pavement marking changes to make NB 896 travel lane drop at NB I-95 exit ramp to allow SB I-95 to NB SR 896 ramp to enter as a lane addition to eliminate the short acceleration lane and improve safety of the merge in the PM peak
Purpose and Need
While the listed completed projects addressed some of the interchange’s immediate short-term needs, addressing overall capacity, operational, and safety needs remain necessary. Of the estimated Annual Average Daily Traffic of about 127,000 vehicles per day (89% passenger vehicles, 11% heavy-duty vehicles) traveling through this part of the I-95 corridor, over half (60%!) of these vehicles utilize this interchange to enter/exit I-95.
The interchange is a major congestion point along I-95 and SR 896 corridors in Delaware. Routine and significant backups impact operations and safety along both corridors, particularly during peak traffic periods.
- Movements are predominantly influenced by rush hour commuters travelling to and from points to the north by way of I-95. Within the project area, I-95 is mainly affected by the merging and diverging of through and entering/exiting traffic. Long queues occur along SB I-95 just north of the ramps to SB and NB SR 896 during PM peak hours.
- SR 896 is mainly affected by the merging and diverging of traffic located at the weaving section between the ramp from I-95 SB (Ramp C) and the exit ramp to I-95 NB (Ramp D), in addition to sharp alignments for entering and exiting ramps. Long queues also occur during the weekday AM peak along NB SR 896 and the ramp to NB I-95.
The interchange’s main operational deficiency is the weaving section between SB I-95 ramp traffic merging onto SR 896 and the SB SR 896 ramp diverging to go NB on I-95, which slows exiting SB I-95 traffic, generating long queues along the mainline. Unexpected decreases in speed leads to safety risks when combined with the higher speed traffic continuing south on I-95. It also leads to drivers trying to merge by forcing their way into the exit lane, not expecting the queue to exist. Deficiencies are also related to existing ramp geometries, including sharp curves with advisory speeds of 15 and 35 mph, and inadequate acceleration/deceleration lane lengths for several ramp movements.
Project development involved coordination with FHWA, environmental resource agencies, and input provided by stakeholders and the public to best improve interchange options and mitigate or eliminate impacts to the traveling public, the environment, right-of-way (ROW), and costs, a double flyover interchange design was chosen. The design creates a flyover for SB I-95 traffic to SB SR 896 (Ramp C), as well as a flyover from SB SR 896 (carrying traffic leaving Newark) to NB I-95 (Ramp D). These flyovers remove the existing SR 896 weave condition by reconfiguring Ramps C and D. The NB SR 896 to NB I-95 ramp (Ramp J) is spaced out from the Ramp D merge onto I-95 so that Ramp J traffic is fully integrated prior to Ramp D traffic merging onto NB I-95. Ramp J is realigned and widened to allow for a two-lane exit from NB SR 896 and a two-lane merge onto NB I-95. Ramp A traffic is added to SR 896 as an additional lane instead of merging into SR 896 SB traffic. The SB I-95 to SR 896 exit ramp is consistent with a major diverge to account for the projected traffic volumes exiting SB I-95 at SR 896. It is a full speed two-lane ramp that quickly opens to add a third lane to separate traffic heading into Newark and traffic heading to Middletown. The NB I-95 to SR 896 Ramp (Ramp I/H) is realigned to the existing location of Ramp D, which minimizes right of way and environmental impacts.
Separating the high-speed SB I-95 toll-bound traffic from the low-speed exiting SR 896 traffic, while lengthening exiting lanes for rush hour backups, improves accessibility and safety and shortens mainline backups. Removing the SB SR 896 weave condition will improve traffic flow and safety on I-95 and SR 896. The project also lengthens the merge onto I-95, lengthens the diverge from NB SR 896, and adds a second lane to Ramp J to improve the backups experienced in the AM rush hour.
The project also significantly improves SR 896 connectivity and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists by adding a new multimodal overpass facility that crosses I-95, linking the City of Newark and the University of Delaware on the north to the residential areas located south of I-95.