The Benjamin Franklin Bridge carries Interstate 676, US Route 30, and a PATCO light rail line across the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey.
In 1810, James Bispham piloted the first steam ferry on the Delaware River between Camden’s Copper Street to Philadephia’s Market Street. 2 Proposals for a fixed crossing between the two cities began as early as 1818 when one plan envisioned utilizing Smith’s and Windmill Islands. The islands were removed by dredging between 1893 and 1897 as they were declared an impediment to river navigation. 1 Other proposals began to surface in the early 1910s, leading to the creation of the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission in 1919. The only other fixed crossing over the Delaware between Philadelphia and New Jersey at that time was the Delair Railroad Bridge which had been completed in 1896. 6
On January 6, 1922, construction began on the Delaware River Bridge, with the project headed by Polish-born Ralph Modjeski who served as the chief engineer, Leon Moisseifff as the design engineer, Paul Philippe Cret as the supervising architect, and Montgomery B. Case as the construction engineer. 3 6 At the peak of its erection, 1,300 people worked on the bridge. 4 Notably, the superstructure was painted by a commercial painting company owned by David A. Salkind of Philadelphia who also painted the Golden Gate Bridge. 5
Two opening ceremonies were held for the new Delaware River Bridge. A ceremony held on July 1, 1926, opened the bridge to 100,000 pedestrians. 6 A second opening ceremony four days later, attended by Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States, opened the crossing to automobiles.
The Delaware River Bridge opened to pedestrians on July 1, 1926, three days ahead of its scheduled opening on the nation’s 150th anniversary. 5 The 1,750-foot main span was the world’s longest suspension bridge, a distinction it held until surpassed by the Ambassador Bridge 1929.
The crossing originally included six automobile lanes and two streetcar tracks on the main deck, with provision for a rapid transit track in each direction outboard of the deck’s stiffening trusses. The streetcar tracks were built to the non-standard broad gauge of the Public Service Company of New Jersey’s Camden streetcar system. The design provisioned for the streetcars to cross the bridge from Camden to Philadelphia where it would enter into an underground terminal beneath the bridge’s west entrance plaza, and return to Camden via an opposite track. 6 Stations were also built into the bridge’s anchorages. None of the streetcar facilities were ever placed into service as the streetcar system in Camden was abandoned in 1932. The tracks were removed and the space converted to vehicular lanes in 1951.
The outer pair of rapid transit tracks went into service in 1936 with the opening of the Bridge Line subway that connected Broadway and City Hall in Camden with 8th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. The Bridge Line, extended to 16th and Locust Streets in 1952, began carrying PATCO trains in 1969.
In 2000-01, a movable barrier was installed on the crossing to reduce the risk of head-on collisions as there was no physical barrier separating opposing traffic. The barrier can be mechanically moved to configure the lanes. Prior to its installation, one lane of the bridge was kept closed at peak times.
The rapid transit tracks and support structures on the bridge were reconstructed between June and October 2014 at the cost of $103 million. 7
A major rehabilitation project of the bridge’s suspension spans and anchorages began in 2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 at the cost of $216.9 million. 8 Work includes the replacement of the critical components of the suspension system including pin and link assembles at the main towers and anchorages, the replacement of the wind lock assemblies, repairs to the lateral bracing, maintenance painting, installation of a dehumidification system for the main cables, repairs to reinforced concrete and steel members, painting inside the anchorages, rehabilitation of the north and south walkways, the replacement of the decorative lighting, and the widening of the north walkway in Camden.
Originally signed for US Route 30, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge became co-designated with Interstate 76 in 1964 which traversed the Vine Street Expressway through downtown Philadelphia. On August 29, 1972, the interstate designation was swapped with Interstate 676 which used the Schuylkill Expressway and the Walt Whitman Bridge because of delays in completing the Vine Street Expressway, better interchange geometry at the splits, and because the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s western terminus featured traffic signals.
- The crossing’s name was officially changed to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in 1955.
- State: New Jersey, Pennsylvania
- Route: Interstate 676, US Route 30
- Type: Wire Suspension
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 9,573 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,750 feet
- Deck Width: 128 feet
- Roadway Width: 78 feet
- Total Height: 382 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 16.8 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- Ryan, Francis J. “Smith’s and Windmill Islands.” Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, 2016.
- Nepa, Stephen. “Ferries.” Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, 2015.
- “In University Circles.” Nebraska State Journal, 22 Jan. 1922.
- Howard, Michael, and Maureen Howard. The Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
- “Auto Parking to be Banned in Bridge Area.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 Jun. 1926.
- “Ben Franklin Bridge.” Delaware River Port Authority.
- “BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE PATCO TRACK REHABILITATION PROJECT.” Delaware River Port Authority.
- “BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE SUSPENSION SPAN & ANCHORAGE REHABILITATION.” Delaware River Port Authority.