Tom Petty said the waiting is the hardest part, and the Turnpike Commission can attest to that musical proclamation. The Mason-Dixon Link, which is the section from the state line to Exit 8 of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, was built in the late 1990s. The majority of it opened on March 1, 2000, to traffic. The exception was the piece from the West Virginia state line to Exit 2. That would remain unopened for a little over a decade. The reason due to construction of WV 43 taking longer than projected because of finance issues. Ironically, that problem would be solved during the economic downturn of the latter part of the 2000s. ARRA, or economic stimulus, dollars were provided to the states for “shovel-ready” projects. Today, PA Turnpike 43 finally opens to West Virginia!
At last, the time finally came to let that “new road smell” loose and allow vehicles other than construction company ones to drive across the state line. There were two ribbon-cutting ceremonies held: one south of the Mason-Dixon Line and one north.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation was up first at 10:30 AM. They brought their starting line-up of dignitaries, including Senator Joe Manchin III and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Below is footage of the West Virginia ceremony.
After the cutting of the ribbon, it was time to jump into the provided shuttle buses or your personal vehicle and head back north into Pennsylvania. Our ribbon-cutting event was not as long nor as well attended by officials as West Virginia’s.
The ceremonies marking the end of the 11-year wait for the Mon-Fayette Expressway’s “Mason-Dixon Link” to finally cross the Mason-Dixon Line. In short, PA Turnpike 43 finally opens to West Virginia!
It is that time of the year, commonly referred to as the holiday let down. That period in the calendar when we go from ushering in a new year to hiding eggs. People start looking forward to the Summer and vacation time it will bring. It is also that time of the year when the trucking industry magazine, Overdrive, releases the results of their latest “Worst Roads” survey. Sadly to say, we’re number one again.
For most of the 1990s, Pennsylvania held the dubious distinction of “Worst Roads” in the United States. The state’s fortunes began to change in the late 1990s, when Pennsylvania slid down to second place.
For the past decade, the number one slot has bounced between newcomers such as Arkansas and Louisiana. Pennsylvania has taken top, or bottom, billing 13 out of 19 years Overdrive has been conducting the survey. It takes the title back in 2009. I find this distinction particularly amusing this year. The reason being the replacement or rehabilitation of all the structurally deficient bridges thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In fact, a Congressional committee named Pennsylvania as the top-ranked large state, third overall, for starting and completing projects funded by the ARRA.
States are not just judged by the conditions of their highway systems, but other things related to trucking. Interstate 80 still retains the title of “Most Improved Road” from last year. However, in 2008 it was second under “Best Highway Segment” and forth under “Worst Highway Segment.”
Pennsylvania still retains third place for “Toughest on Truck Inspections and Law Enforcement.” A distinction it shares with Maryland this year. The strangest change is our truck stops. They went from third best to a tie with California and New York for third worst. Now that’s some swing!
You’re probably wondering how something like that, or the aforementioned Interstate 80 ranking, can happen. I learned from an editor with Overdrive the process of tallying the votes. Instead of averaging the good and bad scores, the good and bad are separated, then averaged. That explains how Pennsylvania was second under “Worst Roads” and five under “Best Roads” one year.
Unfortunately, no shout out this year for me or the website. It is just as well since Pennsylvania highways (the ones made of concrete and asphalt) are back on top, or bottom.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in May that the next G-20 Summit would be held in Pittsburgh. As a result, there were 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 itself 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.