Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy helped the First State open the first section of I-95. The creation and eventual expansion of the interstate has helped shape much of northern New Castle County over the past half century.
Originally called the Delaware Turnpike, the road was only 11.2 miles when it opened, stretching from the Delaware/Maryland state line to Route 141 near Newport. President Kennedy joined Delaware Governor Elbert Carvel and Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes at the state line for the ceremony which was held along the Mason-Dixon line. The Mason-Dixon border celebrated its bicentennial anniversary on that day as well.
The appearance was one of the last for President Kennedy as his assassination in Texas came just eight days later. The Delaware Turnpike was renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway just a few weeks after the assassination.
Eventually, the highway was expanded beyond the Newport area to connect with Pennsylvania in the 1970’s. That connection brought the highway’s length in Delaware to 24 miles. Since opening in 1963, more than one billion vehicles have passed through the toll plaza at the state border.
Major interstate overhaul
Over the past ten years or more, the Delaware Department of Transportataion has undertaken a major overhaul of the highway which has seen a massive increase in traffic since its humble beginnings 50 years ago. Those improvements include the addition of a fifth lane along the most congested portion of the highway. Just this year, new flyover ramps have been opened to reduce traffic at the I-95 interchange with Rt. 1.
Before construction of those flyover exit ramps, WHYY visited with a Maryland farmer who used to live and run a farm at the site of the I-95/Rt. 1 interchange before the interstate came through. Even after the highway construction forced the farm to close, the farm’s silo stood for years beside the highway as a reminder of the way the area used to be. You can watch the story of the old Stafford farm here.