Today was the Turnpike Commission’s Community Day on the Findlay Connector. The official name is the Southern Beltway and the designation is PA Turnpike 576. It was not my first visit, but my second visit to the completed roadway. However, unlike during the National meet back in August, the State Police did not chase me off the expressway this time.
This Community Day event reminded me of the first one I attended in 1993. That was the first one the Turnpike Commission did prior to PA Turnpike 66 opening.
There were things there for everyone to enjoy during what the PTC called a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. For me, it was a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I cite the aforementioned trip down the unopened expressway that came to an abrupt end.
This time around, everyone was allowed onto the expressway and not just attendees to a road enthusiast meet. Booths of all kind lined what are the northbound lanes at the US 30 interchange, or Exit 2. Food booths provided quick meals for those who attended. The West Allegheny and Moon Area high school bands and West Hills Symphony Orchestra performed for the crowd. The PTC had a booth with information on the entire Southern Beltway project, Turnpike maps, and E-ZPass applications. Port Authority buses made continual loops of the six-mile-long section so people to see the expressway. At the same time, others hiked, jogged, and biked the alignment.
I finished my Community Day on the Findlay Connector, taking a ride down the expressway. I have always enjoyed these open houses that the PTC hold, and not just for the free stuff. Hopefully they continue to be a part of the PTC’s public relations “tool box.”
The final day of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet featured differing modes of transportation. We started by taking PA 60 into the city for a cruise on the Gateway Clipper to see some of the numerous bridges as well as some of the sights along the Allegheny River. Afterwards, we had lunch at the Red Star Tavern in Station Square. It is here where I had announced a mere 364 days earlier of my intention to hold a National meet.
Back on land, we turned back to the west to take in PA Turnpike 576 at the US 30 interchange. Once on the expressway right-of-way itself, I heard what sounded like a car traveling at a quick pace. Turning around as we headed northbound, I didn’t see anything until I looked over the median mound that is common-place on Turnpike Commission extensions, only to see the “Christmas Tree” light bar of a State Police cruiser. He caught up to us and only said to turn around; however, I was only yards away from getting Adam Prince the first PA Turnpike 576 northern terminus picture. Despite not seeing the northern terminus, but considering the alternative, we were very fortunate. Sheesh, even on foot, I get pulled over by the Pennsylvania State Police!
The final event of the three-day meet was to take in a ball game at the site of the 77th All Star Game at PNC Park. Surprisingly, the Pirates managed to win 3-2 over the Saint Louis Cardinals, while the Steelers were playing NFL’s version on the same day lost.
After the game, we returned to the Comfort Inn on Steubenville Pike, where I thanked all for attending and being part of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet. Then we called it a night and went on our respective ways.
States represented/number attended: California – 1 Georgia – 1 Kentucky – 1 Maryland – 1 Michigan – 2 New York – 2 Pennsylvania – 2 Tennessee – 2 Virginia – 1 West Virginia – 1
Today was the second day of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet. We began the day at Primanti Brothers on PA 60/Steubenville Pike in Robinson Township. Everyone seemed to enjoy this slice of Pittsburgh. I highly recommend stopping to have a Primanti’s sandwich…or a Roethlis-burger at Peppi’s. That is, unless of course you’re a Cleveland Browns fan.
After that, we jumped in our vehicles and traveled down PA 60 to Crafton to see the Industrial Highway. It is the remnant of one of the many cancelled highways in the Pittsburgh area. It now serves as an access road for businesses along Chartiers Creek.
Following that stop, we headed back north on PA 60 to Interstate 79 south. The first official stop was to visit the Pittsburgh Regional Traffic Management Center. It is located at the PennDOT District 11-0 office in Bridgeville. On the way, we saw some of the Interstate 79 reconstruction taking place south of the Parkway West interchange.
Dominic Munizza of PennDOT gave us a tour of the center, and showed us features of the Intelligent Transportation System, or ITS, network. He gave demonstrations of the Variable Message Sign (VMS) boards, as well as the Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) system. We also got a demonstration of the cameras that line the expressways. In fact, we happened to arrive at the TMC just after legendary Pittsburgh Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope was involved in an accident at the Banksville Road interchange.
The group met for dinner at a restaurant with a road theme: Quaker Steak & Lube. We ate at the Point at North Fayette location. Afterwards, we took to our vehicles and headed into the city to check out the view from Mount Washington. It is the hill that overlooks the “Golden Triangle.”
That marked day two of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.
Pennsylvania has been the site of many firsts, such as the first computer (Philadelphia) and first commercial radio station (Pittsburgh). It was also the site of the first road enthusiast meet (Greensburg). So what a better place to hold the first National Road Enthusiast Meet than where it all began.
The first day was a journey back in time with some aspects of the present. I and four attendees traveled the Lincoln Highway from Robinson to Somerset County. Brian Butko, author of several books on the Lincoln Highway and other road-related products, joined us for part of the trip.
We began our trip by taking PA 60 from the US 22/US 30 cloverleaf in Robinson Township into Pittsburgh, then heading south on PA 837 to the Fort Pitt Bridge. Once across the bridge, we exited at the Boulevard of the Allies and followed that back to the Parkway East. Taking the US 30 exit, we followed it to Greensburg where we then traveled on Toll Gate Road to enter the city, as those who traveled then PA 1 did many times. On the eastern side of the city, we followed old segments near Westmoreland Mall, Hyundai of Greensburg, and a long section known locally as Frye Farm Road.
South of Latrobe, we turned onto PA 981 south to access the old alignment. We spotted a rare Lincoln Highway marker located on the front lawn of a home in Youngstown. Shortly after, the caravan passed Latrobe Country Club, whose proprietor is professional golfer Arnold Palmer. Our cruise continue on the old alignment through the borough and to where it joins the current eastbound lanes.
We stopped at the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor office in Ligonier where a few picked up some Lincoln Highway merchandise. Continuing eastward on US 30 we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial and the site of the Quecreek Mine Accident.
I offered to show everyone the Sipesville Fire Hall, where the families waited for word of their trapped relatives. While we were waiting, a member of the Sipesville VFD stopped and asked us if we wanted to see inside. It was quite a change from when I was an extra back in 2002 in The Pennsylvania Miners’ Story. Afterward we were privileged to be offered a tour of the new hall which was built as a replacement. Plans were to move the original building to the Quecreek site as part of a display. However, the building can not make the journey in one piece, but rather would have to be cut into four sections. Unfortunately, the choice will probably be to demolish the structure instead.
That marked day one of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.
Today I had the honor to be a part of Pennsylvania’s commemoration of the signage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which took place at the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg. It was a birthday celebration for the Interstate System. It’s so hard to shop for a highway!
Dignitaries, media, and those who were a part of the re-enactment of the 1919 Army convoy, gathered at the Eisenhower farm. As a result, the original convoy showed a young kid by the name of Eisenhower the necessity of good transportation. Not to mention his time in World War II.
The bus ride from Gettysburg Middle School was a nice jaunt through the historic borough. I sat next to a gentleman from Omaha, Nebraska who was representing Werner Enterprising trucking. He gave me a foam stress reliever in the shape of the familiar Werner 18-wheeler. He mentioned that he had never visited anything in Pennsylvania, but had driven through the state many times. Not surprising considering there are only two routes from New England to the rest of the country that bypass the state.
Once at the farm, we toured the main house, where the Eisenhowers had entertained dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Nikita Khrushchev. It is a very beautiful and sprawling holding. After everyone had finished taking the tour, it was time for the press conference.
First to speak was Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation, Allen Biehler. After him were Joe Brimmeir, CEO of the Turnpike Commission, J. Richard Capka from the Federal Highway Administration, and Ted Leonard from the Pennsylvania AAA Federation.
After the press conference, I introduced myself to Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT’s Press Secretary, who invited me to the event. He praised the work I have done on the website and said it is a great resource. Specifically, he commended my work on the histories of the highways. While we were talking, Secretary Biehler came over to speak with Mr. Kirkpatrick. At that point, I introduced myself and Mr. Kirkpatrick remarked, “This is the guy who does that website.” He gave me an Interstate 50th pin, which is similar to the image below.
While waiting for our bus back to the school, I overheard a man talking about the weather. I introduced myself and he did likewise. He mentioned he was a representative from the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, which by the way own pahighways.org. I had discovered they owned the .org of my domain once. So, I mentioned that I own the .com. He said, “We know. We tried for the .com only to find you owned it.” Hey, you snooze, you lose.
Back at the school, we had a lovely catered meal. I had the honor to sit at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. While standing in line for lunch, I struck up a conversation with the Director of ODOT, Gary Ridley. I told him that I liked the new Oklahoma route marker, and we began discussing the states that used their outlines for their markers. I also mentioned having been to Oklahoma while storm chasing, and had talked to Gary England of KWTV-TV while researching a paper in college. Mr. Ridley said that Gary helps them with winter forecasts to determine where and when ODOT crews will be needed. The others at the table asked me what organization I was a member. I said, “I do a website called Pennsylvania Highways,” while Mr. Kirkpatrick happened to be walking behind me. He overheard and said, “It is a great website and resource.”
All in all, I enjoyed the event. I was honored that PennDOT even considered inviting me. Many thanks to Rich Kirkpatrick and the PennDOT Press Office. It was indeed a happy birthday for the Interstate System. You know what, it doesn’t look a day over 49! In conclusion, it is ironic to think that President Eisenhower’s farm can not be accessed directly via any Interstate.
I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Uniontown to Brownsville section of PA Turnpike 43/Mon-Fayette Expressway today. As a result, its exit guide and Mon-Fayette Expressway/Southern Beltway Progress Map have both been updated. Pictures of the ceremony are on the PA Turnpike 43 page.
This was the first groundbreaking I have attended, and it was basically what I expected. Local and state officials there to give speeches on how each had a hand in helping to bring the Mon-Fayette Expressway to fruition. Then there was the ceremonial first spade toss of dirt to signal the start of construction followed by a catered lunch for all who attended that included Stromboli, hot wings, BBQ wings, vegetables, cake, and cookies. I gave it four stars out of five.
One of the speakers was Senator J. Barry Stout, who is one of many state officials who spearheaded the project. The senator also happens to be the Chairman of the State Transportation Committee. After the ceremony, I introduced myself and asked if I could interview him. He gave me his business card and told me to call his office sometime.
Once the speeches from the various state and local officials were over, it was time to get down to business. We left the tent where we had lunch and headed out to the spot where the ceremony would take place.