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New Jersey 'Direct Connection" project gets approval

Plans for a $900 million upgrade to New Jersey’s Interstate 295/I-76/Route 42 interchange can move forward now that federal officials have given final environmental approval, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced.

The record of decision signed by officials from the Federal Highway Administration allows the project’s right-of-way acquisition and construction planning to begin. When completed, the improved interchange will improve safety and relieve congestion significantly.

This project—dubbed "Direct Connection"—calls for reconstruction of the interchange to separate drivers on I-295 from local traffic. It will include a new roadway and bridges and completes a missing link on I-295 that will allow drivers to continue straight through on the interstate.

Currently, I-295 drivers going through the interchange are forced to reduce speed drastically to merge onto 35-mph ramps also used by local traffic. The improvements will allow a safer drive without dangerous merging and weaving movements on existing ramps.

Located in Camden County, New Jersey, near Bellmawr, Mount Ephraim, and Gloucester City, the interchange is considered one of the busiest in the region. It is a major carrier of Philadelphia commuter traffic via the Walt Whitman Bridge and is a connection to the southern New Jersey shore via Route 42 and the Atlantic City Expressway.

Construction is expected to begin in 2012.

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