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Garden State Parkway

The Garden State Parkway (GSP) is a 172.4-mile (277-km) limited-access toll parkway that stretches the length of New Jersey from the New York line at Montvale, New Jersey, to Cape May at New Jersey's southernmost tip. Its name refers to New Jersey's nickname, the "Garden State." Most New Jersey residents refer to it as simply "the Parkway" or "the Garden State". The Parkway's official, but unsigned, designation is Route 444. At its north end, the Parkway becomes the Garden State Parkway Connector, a component of the New York State Thruway system that connects to the Thruway mainline in Ramapo. The Parkway has been ranked as the busiest toll highway in the country based on the number of toll transactions.

The Garden State Parkway begins in Lower Township at a traffic light with Route 109. For the first three and a half miles, the Parkway crosses over streams. At 3.48 miles (5.60 km), the Parkway crosses over Taylor Creek and enters Middle Township. Exit 4A is for Route 47 North to Rio Grande, and exit 4B is for Route 47 South to Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. At 6.54 miles (10.53 km), Parkway exit 6, which is for Route 147 and North Wildwood, leaves to the right. The first traffic light exit, exit 9, is for Shellbay Avenue. The second traffic light intersection, exit 10, is for County Route 657, also known as Stone Harbor Blvd, at Cape Regional Medical Center, the county's only hospital. Exit 11 is for U.S. Route 9 at the Cape May County Park & Zoo. In May 2009, guardrails were installed in between the northbound and southbound lanes between mile markers 7 and 11.5. This was due to the numerous fatal accidents that occurred in the past year where a driver who lost control of the car (or in more extreme circumstances, a drunk driver) inadvertently ended up facing head on traffic. Exit 13 is for Avalon Boulevard. At 14.85 miles (23.90 km), the Parkway enters Dennis Township after crossing Uncle Aaron's Creek. At 17.5 miles (28.2 km), exit 17 leaves to the right for County Route 625. At milepost 19.38, the Parkway enters its first toll, the Cape May Toll Plaza. A little more than 20 miles (32 km) in, exit 20 leaves for Route 50. In Upper Township, exit 25 leaves for County Route 623. At 27.77 miles (44.69 km), the Parkway enters Atlantic County.

Just before exit 29 (northbound only) for U.S. Route 9, the Parkway enters the Great Egg Toll Plaza. Exit 30 (southbound only) leaves to the right at milepost 30 for Laurel Road in Somers Point which leads to Ocean City via the Route 52 causeway. Now in Egg Harbor Township, exit 36 opens onto County Route 563 southbound and County Route 651 northbound. Exit 37 is the Parkway's interchange with the Black Horse Pike (US 40/322). Exit 38 interchanges with the Atlantic City Expressway. Eastbound travelers on the expressway take the last few miles to Atlantic City. Westbound travelers head for Camden and Philadelphia. Now entering Galloway Township, U.S. Route 30 interchanges with the Parkway at exit 40. exit 44 is next, leading to County Route 561 Alternate. Just after exit 48 for U.S. Route 9 near the Mullica River and Bass River State Forest, the Parkway enters Burlington County. Exit 50 is for Route 9 as well, while exit 52 is for Burlington County Route 654.

Now in Ocean County, exit 58 is for County Route 539, exit 63 is for Route 72, and exit 67 is for County Route 554. Exit 69 leaves to the right in both directions at milepost 70.45. Exit 74 leaves to the right, which heads to Forked River. Exit 77 is for Bayville. Exits 80 and 81 are for county roads and U.S. Route 9. Route 9 then merges in for a few miles.

Between exits 80 and 83, the Parkway has a concurrency with U.S. Route 9 just south of the Toms River Toll Plaza. It was from here that the Driscoll Expressway was to start (south of exit 83) and run to the New Jersey Turnpike.

Route 37 interchanges with the Parkway at exits 82 and 82A in Toms River. At exit 83, U.S. Route 9 leaves the Parkway and heads north. Exit 88 comes at 89.4 miles (143.9 km) for Route 70. In Brick Township, exit 90 (northbound) and exit 91 (southbound), leave for County Route 549. At this point the road is in Monmouth County. Exit 98 leads to Interstate 195, Route 34 and Route 138. Exit 100 leaves southbound for Route 33. Route 66 also exits northbound. Exit 102, a southbound only exit leaves for Neptune Township.

Exit 105 for Route 18 and Route 36 leading to Long Branch is the point at which all trucks are forced to leave the Parkway. At Exit 105, the Parkway divides into a local and express lanes configuration. The express lanes have no direct access to any exits, except for exit 105 in Tinton Falls (southbound only) and exit 117 in Hazlet. Exits 109 and 114 are for Middletown and Holmdel. The next exit, exit 116, is for the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. Exit 117 is for Routes 35 and 36. Exit 117A (southbound only) is for Lloyd Road in Aberdeen. Exit 120 is for Laurence Harbor Road and Cheesequake State Park.

At this point, the road enters Middlesex County in Old Bridge Township. Southbound exits 123 and 124 leave to the right, but only on the local lanes. The express and local lanes merge and become one highway again shortly after. Northbound exit 125 makes a sudden exit for Route 35. Afterwards, you cross the Driscoll Bridge over the Raritan River. After the bridge, exit 127 leaves for Routes 9, 440 and Interstate 287. At milepost 129.5, the New Jersey Turnpike leaves to the right at exit 129. Southbound exits 127 and 129 are merged into one exit, which is marked as exit 129. A southbound only exit, exit 130 is for U.S. Route 1. The next three exits are marked 131, 131A and 131B. The lettered ones are for Metropark, while exit 131 is for Route 27.

Exit 135 is for Clark Township in Union County. Exits 136 and 137 are for Cranford Township and Route 28. Exit 138 is in Kenilworth for County Route 509. Exits 139A and 139B are northbound exits only for a local road (Chestnut Street) and U.S. Route 22. Exits 140 and 140A are for U.S. Route 22 and NJ Route 82. Exit 141 is for Vauxhall Road and exit 142 is for Interstate 78. The 143s are for Lyons Avenue, exit 144 is for Irvington and 145 is for Interstate 280. Exit 147 is for Renshaw Avenue in East Orange, and exit 148 is for Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield. Exits 149, 150, and 151 are for Essex County roads. Exits 153A and 153B are for Route 3 and U.S. Route 46 in Passaic County.

As the Parkway leaves Clifton, it heads into Elmwood Park by crossing the Passaic River. Exit 156, which comes before the river, is for U.S. Route 46 and New Jersey Route 20. There is also access to New Jersey Route 21 just south of the interchange. Cedar Lawn Cemetery is also located northbound along 20 from exit 156. As the Parkway continues to the northeast, it interchanges with Route 46 again in Garfield. Riverside Cemetery is accessible off exit 157 by going east along 46. At exit 159, the Parkway interchanges with Interstate 80 in Saddle Brook. Going southbound, there is also access to Bergen County Route 67 (Midland Avenue). The Bergen Toll Plaza is next, before crossing over Saddle River County Park.

Exit 160 comes next, as the Parkway enters Paramus and interchanges with West Passaic Street, which heads to New Jersey Route 208. Not far afterwards, at exit 161 is New Jersey Route 4. Westfield Garden State Plaza is visible from the Parkway and is off exit 161. Exit 163 is for New Jersey Route 17 in Paramus, which heads north to Ridgewood, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Ramsey and Mahwah before entering Rockland County, New York (on the southbound side of the Parkway, the exit is for New Jersey Route 17 south toward the Meadowlands area and Hudson County). The Parkway goes between Paramus Park Mall and Bergen Regional Medical Center as it heads north. Just after, exit 165 intersects for Bergen County Route 80 (Oradell Avenue and East Ridgewood Avenue) in Paramus. The Parkway turns to the northwest and heads into the Pascack Valley Toll Plaza going northbound. There is a plaza southbound along the Parkway as well as exit 166 for Bergen County Route 110 (Linwood Avenue).

As the Parkway inches closer and closer to New York, exit 168 comes along, interchanging for County Route 502, which heads towards Ho-Ho-Kus and Alpine. 3 miles (4.8 km) later, at exit 171, the Parkway interchanges with Glen Road, which terminates soon after at Chestnut Ridge Road (CR 73). The Parkway's Montvale Service Area comes at milepost 171 after exit 172 which is for Bergen County Route 94. There is also access to CR 94 from the Montvale Service Area's service road. At 172.4 miles (277.5 km), the Parkway becomes the Garden State Parkway Connector at the New York state line.

Two short spurs are given numbers by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Route 444R is the connector at exit 117 (in Hazlet) to Route 35 at the north end of Route 36 in Keyport. Route 444S is the connector at exit 105 to the south end of Route 36 at Hope Road (CR 51) near Eatontown.

On the Garden State Parkway, the emergency assistance number is #GSP, which is #477 in number form.

Route S101 was a northern extension of Route 101 planned from Hackensack through Paramus to the New York state line near Montvale. The section from Hackensack to Paramus was never built; the section from Paramus to the state line would become part of the Garden State Parkway.

The Parkway was originally designated as the Route 4 Parkway when it was started in 1947 in Union County, but, due to lack of funds, only 11 miles (18 km) were completed by 1950. The solution was for the state to establish the New Jersey Highway Authority in 1952 to oversee construction and operation as a self-liquidating toll road. Much of the original section, between exits 129 and 140, was long administered by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and has always been untolled. The segment can be distinguished by the stone facing on the overpasses.

The Parkway was constructed between 1946 and 1957 to connect suburban northern New Jersey with resort areas along the Atlantic coast and to alleviate traffic on traditional north–south routes running through each town center, such as US 1, US 9, and Route 35. Unofficially, it has two sections: the "metropolitan section" north of the Raritan River and the "shore section" between the Raritan River and Cape May. Only 18 miles (29 km) had been constructed by 1950, but taking a cue from the successful New York State Thruway, on April 14, 1952, the New Jersey Legislature created the New Jersey Highway Authority, empowered to construct, operate, and maintain a self-sufficient toll parkway from Paramus to Cape May.

The landscape architect and engineer in charge of the newly named "Garden State Parkway" was Gilmore David Clarke, of the architectural firm of Parsons, Brinkerhof, Hall and MacDonald, who had worked with Robert Moses on the parkway systems around New York City. Clarke's design prototypes for the Parkway combined the example of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a model of efficiency with parallels in the German Autobahn routes of the 1930s, with the Merritt Parkway model that stressed a planted "green belt" for beauty. Both design models featured wide planted medians to prevent head-on collisions and mask the glare of on-coming headlights. The Garden State Parkway was designed to have a natural feel. Many trees were planted, and the only signs were those for exits—there were no distracting billboards. Most of the signs were constructed from wood, or a dark-brown metal, instead of the chrome bars used on most other highways. The guardrails were also made from wood and dark metal. Most early overpasses were stone, but then changed to concrete, with green rails and retro etchings, popular around the 1950s and 1960s. These are now in decay and being replaced by sleek, new bridges. The Parkway was designed to curve gently throughout its length so that drivers would remain alert and not fall asleep at the wheel.

Most of the metropolitan section is like any other expressway built in the 1950s through heavily populated areas. The shore section parallels U.S. Route 9 and runs through unspoiled wilderness in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In Cape May County, the Parkway has three traffic lights (at exits 8, 10, and 11 respectively), but these will be eliminated in the future, with construction of an overpass at exit 10 in Cape May Court House and Stone Harbor scheduled to begin in September 2012.

The Parkway had an old alignment before the Great Egg Harbor Bridge was completed. It was detoured onto U.S. Route 9 and over the Beesley's Point Bridge. This old alignment still exists today and is slowly being consumed by nature.

The Garden State Parkway was off-limits to motorcycles until Malcolm Forbes pushed successfully for legislation to allow them.

On July 9, 2003, Governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey's plan to merge the operating organizations of the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike into one agency was completed.

Literature from the time of the Parkway's construction indicates that the Parkway would become toll-free once bonds used for its construction were paid off. However, additional construction projects, plus the expectation that the Parkway will pay for its own maintenance and policing (and the massive E-ZPass project) make it unlikely it will become toll-free in the foreseeable future.

The Parkway was also planned to be the southern terminus for NJ 55 at milemarker 19. This was cancelled after the conclusion that the highway ran through too many wetland areas. The idea is still being revisited after frequent traffic jams on NJ 47.

The speed limit on the Parkway is 65 mph (105 km/h) with the following exceptions: 55 mph (89 km/h) between Mileposts 123.5 and 163.3, 55 mph (89 km/h) between Mileposts 80.0 and 100.0, 50 mph (80 km/h) between Mileposts 8.0 and 11.5, and 45 mph (72 km/h) between Mileposts 27 and Milepost 29, approaching and traversing the Great Egg Harbor Bridge, and between Milepost 126.7 and 127.7, approaching and traversing the Driscoll Bridge.

Commercial trucks with a registered weight of over 7,000 pounds (3.18 metric tons) are not allowed to use the northern parts of the Parkway . All trucks must exit at exit 105, just past the Asbury Park Toll Plaza. From Tinton Falls to the southern end of the Parkway at Cape May, trucks are allowed, but must pay additional tolls. Buses are allowed for the entire length of the Parkway. The "truck" ban includes all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (the vehicle's maximum fully loaded weight including fuel, passengers and cargo) over 7000 pounds, which encompasses dozens of large passenger vehicles, such as the Chevy Suburban, which can weigh in at 8,500 pounds, though in practice police do not ticket such vehicles. In April 2011, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner James Simpson announced the NJTA was looking into the possibility of allowing trucks on the northern portion of the Garden State Parkway. However, the idea was quickly abandoned after the agency found the road had engineering concerns that would make the consideration of allowing trucks on this segment impossible.

Whereas the New Jersey Turnpike uses a system of long-distance tickets, obtained once by a motorist upon entering and surrendered upon exiting at toll gates (a "closed" system), the Garden State Parkway uses no tickets but collects tolls at toll plazas at semi-regular intervals along its length and at certain exits (an "open" system). The standard car toll is $0.75 on the main road at two-way toll plazas and $1.50 at one-way toll plazas. Some individual exits require a toll of either $0.50, $0.75, or $1.50. The Parkway has implemented the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system, with the first plaza opening in December 1999 and the system completed September 19, 2000. Parkway tokens continued to be available until January 1, 2002, and were invalidated effective January 1, 2009. Customers using exact-change lanes are required to pay with coins only. The Union Toll Plaza was the first to use an automated toll-collection machine. A plaque commemorating this event includes with the first quarter collected at its toll booths.

Tokens originally cost $10 for a roll of 40 tokens (the toll was 25 cents when tokens were introduced), but when the toll was increased to 35 cents, rolls were 30 tokens for $10. Before invalidating the tokens, the NJHA gave several months' warning and gave motorists the opportunity to redeem tokens. Tokens were originally brass, but were changed to a bimetallic composition with an outer silver-colored ring and a brass core. There were also larger bus tokens that existed in each composition, primarily for the use of Atlantic City-bound buses. These were sold in rolls of 20 for $20.

To reduce congestion, some toll plazas on the roadway were converted into one-way plazas between September 2004 and February 2010, dubbed "one-way tolling". Under this program, a $1.50 toll (70 cents or two tokens when first implemented from September 2004 to November 2008 and $1.00 was implemented from December 2008 to December 2011) is collected in one direction, and the other direction is toll-free. The Cape May (in Upper Township), Great Egg (in Somers Point), New Gretna (in Bass River Township), Barnegat (in Barnegat Township), Asbury Park (in Tinton Falls), Raritan (in Sayreville), Union (in Hillside Township), Essex (in Bloomfield Township), Bergen (in Saddle Brook Township), and Pascack Valley (in Washington Township) Toll Plazas had been converted to one-way toll plazas. The Toms River (in Toms River Township) Toll Plaza is the only $0.75 toll barrier plaza that is collected in both directions.

Beginning on November 19, 2001, E-Z Pass customers were charged the approximate token rate, that is 33 cents (peak travel) or 30 cents (off-peak travel), instead of 35 cents. Due to tremendous cost overruns in implementing the E-ZPass system on New Jersey's toll highways the discount was eliminated the next year. NJHA E-ZPass customers were charged a $1-per-month account fee, causing many customers to turn in their NJHA E-ZPass transponders in favor of a transponder from an out-of-state authority which did not charge a monthly fee.

Most toll plazas have dedicated lanes of three varieties:

The "E-ZPass" will only accept drivers with E-ZPass tags. Also, money already put in their online account for payment.

All "Exact Change" tolls will not accept E-ZPass nor Cash/Paper Currency.

The "Cash Receipts" will also accept Exact Change & E-ZPass. This toll wouldn't be recommended for E-ZPass users (unless there is no E-ZPass lane when entering tolls or all E-Z Pass lanes are closed).

Photo enforcement of all exact change lanes went into in effect on October 17, 2011.

Tolls at entrances or exits may not have all three varieties, depending upon the number of lanes available. The location of similarly marked lanes is not identical at each plaza. Lanes are numbered both on the booth and on the pavement leading up to them to assist drivers seeking the proper lanes. Some lanes leading up to plazas are dedicated for E-ZPass holders only.

Signs on many of the toll baskets warn against throwing paper currency into them, which jams them.

On January 8, 2008, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine proposed increases of fifty percent in tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike effective in 2010, to be followed by similar fifty percent increases every four years through 2022. Each time tolls increased, there would be an additional increase for inflation since the last toll increase (for the first, since 2006). This increase in tolls, which would take place on all three of New Jersey's toll roads, would, according to Corzine, help pay the state's debt. The roads would be maintained by a nonprofit "public benefit corporation" which would pay back bonds to the state. Without considering inflation, the proposal would have increased the standard 35-cent toll on the Garden State Parkway to approximately $1.80 by 2022, with tolls for the entire length of the northbound Garden State Parkway rising from $4.55 to $30.10 in 2022. It was considered possible that commuters will receive discounts from the higher toll rates. The proposal was not enacted due to fierce opposition from the state of New Jersey. On September 5, 2008, a proposal to increase Parkway tolls substantially was reported. The first phase of the toll increase on the Garden State Parkway went into effect on December 1, 2008. As of January 1, 2012, toll rates on the Garden State Parkway are $0.50 for ramp tolls, $0.75 for two-way toll barriers, and $1.50 for one-way toll barriers.

The Cape May, Barnegat, Toms River, Asbury Park, Raritan, and Pascack Valley Toll Plazas also feature Express E-ZPass lanes, a form of open road tolling that allows motorists with E-ZPass to maintain highway speeds of up to 65 mph (100 km/h) through the toll plaza. Officials have already converted the Barnegat (in Barnegat Township) Toll Plaza to one-way tolling and will build it with Express E-ZPass for southbound drivers, which started on March 10, 2007 and the project was complete on Memorial Day of 2011. There are three phases of the Parkway Widening involves converting from two lanes to three lanes in both directions from Exit 80 all the way to Exit 30. The first phase of the Parkway Widening between Exit 80 to 63 in both directions was complete by May 2011. The second phase of the Parkway Widening between Exit 63 to 48 in both directions has been scheduled to begin in Fall 2011 and will be complete by May 2013. Construction on the third phase of the Parkway Widening between Exit 48 to 30 in both directions is scheduled to begin in 2014.

One of the objectives of the Parkway was to become a State Park its entire length and its users would enjoy parklike aesthetics with minimal intrusion of urban scenery. Along the ride, users were permitted to stop and picnic along the roadway to further enjoy the relaxation qualitites the Parkway had to offer. All picnic areas had tall trees that provided shade and visual isolation from the roadway. Grills, benches, running water and restrooms were provided. Over time as the Parkway transformed into a road of commerce, the picnic areas were being closed for a variety of reasons. Their ramp terminals became insufficient to accommodate the high speed mainline traffic and in addition to the decreasing amount of users, the picnic areas were becoming more effective as maintenance yards and were converted as so or closed altogether.

The history of the picnic areas includes an infamous story in the murder of Maria Marshall orchestrated by her husband Robert O. Marshall in the Oyster Creek picnic area on the night of September 7, 1984. The story was made into a novel and television movie on NBC.

The three remaining picnic areas are closed from dusk to dawn. Posted signs within the picnic area prohibit fires and camping.

There were a total of 10 operational picnic areas:

All service areas are located in the center median, unless otherwise noted.

The first service area to open was Cheesequake on May 1, 1955. Prior to that grand opening, the New Jersey Highway Authority had constructed and operated two temporary service areas that offered only gasoline and other vehicular essentials.

In the 1950s, four petroleum companies were hired to provide gasoline and vehicular necessities - Esso, Texaco, Atlantic and Cities Service. The Cities Service company was the petroleum provider at Monmouth, Forked River, Atlantic City (Absecon at the time) and Ocean View (Seaville at the time) and offered a service where female employees were hired for those service area showrooms, wore uniforms and were known as the Park-ettes. Their duties included providing directions and other information to motorists as well as rendering odd bits of service such as sewing a missing button on a patron's coat.

Many entrances and exits have tolls. In general, exits have tolls when they precede a barrier toll, and exits are free when they follow a barrier toll. Conversely, entrances that precede a barrier toll are free; and tolls are paid at entrances just beyond a barrier toll. This avoids double tolling (e.g., paying a barrier toll and then immediately paying again to exit) and under-tolling (e.g., driving a long distance and then exiting for free just before a barrier toll).

At exit and entrance tolls cars pay $0.50, $0.75 or $1.50 unless otherwise noted. While the standard exit toll is $0.50, the higher amounts apply to exit and entrance tolls that immediately precede or follow a higher-priced barrier toll.

Cars pay $0.75 at barrier tolls that collect in both directions, and $1.50 at barrier tolls that collect in one direction only.

There are no tolls between exits 141 and 127, inclusive, as this was the original road segment that predates the New Jersey Highway Authority.

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