OK, so it has taken a little over 20 years to drive the only HOV lanes in Pennsylvania, but who’s counting? There are many reasons why I’ve never driven them to this point. The biggest reason being is I’ve only lived east or south of Pittsburgh. So it didn’t make sense to utilize them when taking the Parkway North. That was until today. After a quick stop in Shadyside, I continued on my journey north to Ross Park Mall.
The lanes comprise the third Port Authority of Allegheny County busway, built as part of Interstate 279 and Interstate 579. However, personal vehicles are permitted to use this busway unlike the other three. They are HOV+2 and inbound one-way for the morning rush and outbound one-way for the evening rush and weekends.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in May that the next G-20 Summit would be held in Pittsburgh. As a result, there was more than a few laughs from the White House Press Corp. And why not, what does anyone there know about finance and banking or surviving an economic downturn? After all, it is an area where people pay a fair market value for a house. How quaint! However, the world came to discuss all of the above.
The reason President Obama chose the “City of Champions” was due to visiting the area during the 2008 campaign. He saw how it changed from a center of steel to one with a more varied economic base. One focused on medicine, finance, and high-tech industries. Fortunately, the industrial fore-fathers of the city were not misers and gave back to their community in the form of libraries and universities. These were the crutches by which Pittsburgh could pull it self up by its bootstraps and start over.
Leaders from around the world began arriving on Wednesday. This prompted rolling roadblocks on the Parkway West between Pittsburgh International Airport and Downtown. The motorcades passed through the US 22/US 30-PA 60 interchange project. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 partially funded the work. Passage of the ARRA was to dig (no pun intended) the country out of the global recession. The topic of which would be the focus of the next two days.
While the leaders of the 20 largest economies and the European Union were arriving, so were the protesters. Members of Greenpeace repelled off the West End Bridge. They displayed a banner protesting the lack of attention paid to the environment by these leaders. Arrests took place at the Fort Pitt Bridge where five others tried to do the same.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl deputized 1,000 men and women. They came from police departments as far away as Miami and as close as Johnstown. In addition to National Guardsmen and state police troopers, they made up a force of more than 3,000 officers.
The world’s leaders had an easier time getting around the city than the locals. Only residents with a driver’s license with a Downtown address, delivery trucks (with deliveries made between 5 AM and 7 AM), taxis, hotel shuttles, armored cars, ACCESS vehicles, and medical suppliers could continue into the Golden Triangle. Three police checkpoints were established. The locations were Smithfield Street Bridge at PA 837/West Carson Street, Fifth Avenue at Ross Street, and the Roberto Clemente Bridge at Isabella Street. However, motorists could exit anywhere. Meanwhile, barricades closed ramps from Interstate 279, Interstate 376, and Interstate 579 and other bridges and streets.
The two-day summit went off without a hitch. Pittsburgh was able to do something no other city could: host a blood-less G-20. Only 193 arrests took place, a few minor fires happened, and some minor damage to stores occurred. The nearly 6,000 law enforcement personnel outnumbered the 5,000 protesters who had come to the city. Needless to say, crime dropped steeply. On the other hand, so did the need for EMTs. For instance, at times every ambulance in the city sat idle! Thousands of police vehicles, driven by mostly out-of-towners, managed to navigate the maze of city streets without a single accident. That was perhaps the most surprising thing to come out of the two days.
VisitPittsburgh hopes that the G-20 Summit helps tourism and attracting conventions. It did raise interest on the global stage. As a result of the summit, the city was awarded another international event. Pittsburgh will be the North American host city for the 2010 United Nations World Environment Day. Meanwhile, perhaps the highest praise came from the Italian-born songwriter, singer, former model, and the current French First Lady. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy said, “I think I wish I could stay a little longer because we only stay one-and-a-half days.”
She added, “But I think it’s beautiful.” I don’t think VisitPittsburgh could have asked for a better spokeswoman in the world.
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. 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 St. Louis Cardinals, while the Steelers 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.