JOURNEYS INTO NEW JERSEY
A recent toll hike on the New Jersey Turnpike has folks, for at least a moment, talking and thinking about U.S. Route 1.
There have even been articles comparing the cost and time of travel on the Turnpike and Route 1, respectively.
There was a time in which Route 1 was, in fact, the road of preference for Northeast travelers. Back then, in an era before Turnpikes and Interstates, it was the primary East Coast Highway, running from Key West, Florida in the south to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border in the north.
Of the entire length of the route, 66.06 miles of it runs through New Jersey.
What was to become Route 1 was first developed as an artery of communications among regions, between which, primary travel in a young colony occurred. These regions were Eastern Massachusetts, Connecticut River, New York Bay (eastward to Long Island), Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay region.
It was as early as 1636 that initial efforts were made to create a line land path. On or near the present Route 1, trees were blazed to make the way, and bridges were created if waters and ravines were shallow enough. Ferries were established where not.
The route follows a "fall line" from New Jersey to Georgia and has both a physical and an historical reason.
It was along this that rivers came down out of the hills into the coastal plain. This physical fact influenced the location of Trenton, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia, and Augusta, all situated at the head of navigation on their respective rivers.
Colonial settlements were made at these points because they were the most inland points to which the colonists could penetrate by boat.
First there was foot traffic. Then came horse packs. Eventually, artificial surfaces were installed.
It was by the end of the 17th century that horses and pack horse traffic were common between Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
There is a record of common carrier service having been granted by the Governor of New Jersey by 1707. Interestingly, when horse owners protested what they considered to be monopolistic practices, the Governor invoked an early “public interest defense” in the following manner: "At present everybody is sure, once a fortnight, to have an opportunity of sending any quantity of goods, great or small, at reasonable rates, without being in danger of imposition; and the sending of this wagon is so far from being a grievance or monopoly, that by this means and no other, a trade has been carried on between Philadelphia, Burlington, Amboy, and New York, which has never known before, and in all probability never would have been."
The modern day Route 1 in New Jersey was originally chartered as the Trenton and New Brunswick Turnpike in 1803. This turnpike over the years faced competition from canals such as the Delaware and Raritan and railroads such as the Camden and Amboy. By the late 19th century, the turnpike had to fold and was ultimately taken over by the Pennsylvania.