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 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.
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. Afterwards 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.