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2011 Williamsport Meet Notes

After the 65th Little League World Series champion was crowned last month, the first Williamsport Road Enthusiast Meet was held this month, specifically today.  I’d like to thank all who attended and for making the trip for the first meet in north central Pennsylvania.

View of the Interstate 180/US 15 SPDI from my hotel room window
The newly refurbished Market Street Bridge and newly built Single Point Diamond Interchange in Williamsport.  Prior to construction of the interchange, US 15 exited farther south (or to the right of the picture) onto a then four-lane Via Bella to connect to the bridge.  Now that street is two lanes with roundabouts at various intersections.  When Interstate 99 is signed north to New York, expect the US 15 designation to be truncated here.

The meet began as usual at 12 PM at the Bullfrog Brewery in downtown Williamsport.  The food was good as well as the conversations. Mike Pruett brought some Maryland official highway maps and I brought copies of the new Turnpike System map as well as some old copies of the Pennsylvania official highway map for everyone.

After lunch, we hopped in our cars and followed US 15 to see the improvements made to the corridor over the past decade in order for it to be designated Interstate 99.  There are numerous signs along the way denoting it as the “Future I-99 Corridor.”

The first stop was at the Cogan House interchange just north of the PA 14 interchange.  What is interesting about this particular interchange is that the road that connects the two directions of US 15 are the original southbound lanes.  They needed to be replaced due to sharp curves at the bottom of the Steam Valley hill, but the section here was retained and turned into an interchange for Cogan House.

We continued north to the next stop, at the next interchange, at PA 184 in Steam Valley.  Prior to 2010, this was an at-grade intersection but of course had to be upgraded to an interchange for the Interstate 99 designation to be applied.  In order to create the junction, the right-of-ways of both US 15 and PA 184 were changed.  As I mentioned above, the existing southbound lanes could not be used so the new ones were shifted eastward and the alignment of PA 184 was shifted southward.  An interesting anomaly was created in that PA 184 technically doesn’t end at US 15, but rather just to the east of the diamond interchange at Steam Mill Road.

I asked the group if they wanted to clinch US 15 from Williamsport to the New York state line, and everyone agreed we might as well since we were that far north.  Crossing into New York, the roadway narrows down to two lanes through an interesting temporary interchange with very modern-looking light poles to illuminate the path.  We made the first right to head back into Pennsylvania onto a road that connects to the old route of US 15 now known as Steuben County Route 115.  Once in Lawrenceville, a few continued onto PA 287, which was extended northward after the expressway was completed to the west, and the rest onto PA 49 to head south on US 15.

The final stop of the tour was the beautiful Tioga Welcome Center, just south of the PA 287 interchange, which overlooks the Tioga Reservoir.  Many have compared the recent flooding in the northern part of the state to that seen in the wake of Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  That event was the impetus for construction of the reservoir, as the Allegheny Reservoir demonstrated the need by saving western Pennsylvania the destruction seen in the eastern part of the state.

I showed the group the original path below of US 15 through Tioga and how it’s alignment is now under water.  Everyone was able to pick up brochures and maps, not only the 2010 official state one but also the 2008 Trucker’s Guide to Pennsylvania.  It is a black-and-white version of the regular map and the only colors on it denote the various truck routes as well as specific information for “gear jockeys” such as low clearance points and locations of steep grades.  After taking the group picture there with the spectacular backdrop, we said our farewells, and headed to our respective destinations.

 
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Winter 2010 SWPA Meet

It has been three years since there was a holiday edition of the longest running road enthusiast meets in southwestern Pennsylvania.  That and the streak of Saturday-only meets came to an end today with the Winter 2010 SWPA Meet.  I’d like to thank all who traveled both near and far to attend.  They did so even with the snow falling in the area and the winter storm churning up the Eastern Seaboard.

The meet began at 12 PM at the Route 40 Classic Diner on what is now Business US 40 in Brownsville.  Food was good as well as the conversations.  My Maryland counterpart, Mike Pruett, brought a copy of an old trails guide book, a precursor to the modern road atlas, from the late 1920s for everyone to peruse.  I brought some recent Pennsylvania officials from 2006 to 2010 for anyone who needed to fill gaps in their collections.

Since these holiday meets are on a smaller scale than the ones during warmer months, the tour was not too extensive.  After lunch, we headed down Business US 40 into Brownsville for a taste of the old National Road and to check out the work on connecting PA Turnpike 43 to the PA 88 expressway in West Brownsville.  The new alignment, which leaves PA 88, is quite evident as swings east to cross the Monongahela River.  The former intersection of old and new PA 88 has been reconfigured to be a continual route through the future interchange.  This leaves up for debate whether or not PA 88 will be moved back to its former route into West Brownsville, or join with PA Turnpike 43 to US 40.

The cloverleaf at PA Turnpike 43 and US 40 is temporarily a partial one due to ongoing construction to upgrade the segment of PA 88 that will be incorporated into the Mon-Fayette Expressway.  The northbound lanes are being rebuilt and what is interesting is that the overhead gantry that was before the cloverleaf has been replaced with a blue, mono-tube gantry that is seemingly becoming standard on the Mon-Fayette.

Back across the Lane Bane Bridge, we picked up the old road and stopped at the Searights Toll House.  Unlike the last Winter SWPA Meet, there were no broken windows nor damaged screen doors to report.  It was good to see that a security system was installed as indicated by a sign by the entrance.  Here we said goodbye to half of the attendees and the rest of us continued east on US 40 to drive through the new PA Turnpike 43/US 119 stack interchange.  While we took the old route east, we took the new route back to bring the Winter 2010 SWPA Meet to an end saying our farewells, and headed to our respective destinations.

 
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2010 SEPA Meet

After a six year hiatus, the second SEPA Road Enthusiast Meet was held today.  I’d like to thank all who attended and for making the trip for the 2010 SEPA Meet, which took the record for attendance at a Pennsylvania meet from the 2003 SWPA Meet.

View of US 422 from my hotel room window on the morning of the 2010 SEPA Meet
View of US 422, also known as the Pottstown Expressway, from my hotel room window that morning.

The 2010 SEPA Meet began as usual at 12 PM at the Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery, home of the Route 113 Indian Pale Ale, on what else, PA 113 in Phoenixville.  Some of the attendees did partake of the Route 113 IPA, or as PennDOT would call it, the SR 0113 Indian Pale Ale.  It just might end up being the official beverage for road enthusiasts over the age of 21.  The food was good as well as the conversations.

Many of the attendees brought road-related materials to peruse as well as to keep:  Adam Froehlig – various state official maps from Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania; Doug Kerr – I-87 Northway maps; and H. B. Elkins – goodie bags full of Kentucky maps and other Kentucky Transportation Cabinet paraphernalia.  I brought a planning map for the Keystone State’s Interstate System from the early 1960s for guests to view.  In 2006, I had acquired that from eBay.

After lunch, we hopped in our cars and followed PA 23 to the first stop which was at the Philadelphia Traffic Management Center in the PennDOT District 6-0 headquarters in King of Prussia.  Thanks go to Len Pundt, who worked for PennDOT and who helped arrange the tour. The TMC, which was called the Traffic Control Center when I toured it in 2004, has been upgraded since then.  Two video walls show feeds from traffic cameras around Philadelphia as well as content from the Internet and TV.  There was a bit of excitement as we were witness to an accident on the Platt Bridge tying up traffic.  Accidents seems to have become a constant with Pennsylvania meets involving a traffic management center tour.

Continuing east on PA 23, we stopped at the Schuylkill Parkway overpass just north of Bridgeport.  Len described what was to have happened with that project.  It would have been the eastern end of the “Goat Path” Expressway which was to begin in Lancaster.  Len provided some background on this abandoned project.  One of its current uses is as a driver training course for the State Police.  He explained PennDOT’s funding issues which led to it cancelling this and numerous other expressway projects in the 1970s.  One of the points he made was that cancelling these projects did initially save money; however there is no way to build these to solve the traffic issues of the 21st Century.  Right-of-way acquisition alone would be astronomically high to carve these highways through dense urbanized areas.

We bid Len adieu and took I-276/PA Turnpike eastbound to PA 309 northbound to observe some of the rehabilitation project.  Work has been taking place since 2003 along the Fort Washington Expressway.  As soon as joining the expressway, we experienced a vastly improved roadway from the one that had been serving commuters since it was built as a new alignment for US 309.  We encountered the last remaining section to be undergoing rehabilitation heading north and exited in the construction zone at Norristown Road to go west to Bethlehem Pike.  That roadway was the pre-expressway route of US 309.  Traveling north to Cedar Hill Road allowed us to view the progress on the northern-most segment from an overpass.

After stopping at the overpass to see the work, we continued northeast to PA 63 then turned northwest to go to the intersection with US 202 to see the progress on the US 202 Parkway project.  A new alignment is underway at PA 63 and work is taking place south along the current alignment.

We passed some of the work along US 202 as we headed back to the Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery to conclude the 2010 SEPA Meet. Back at the restaurant, we said our farewells and headed to our respective destinations.

 
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2009 State College Meet

Today was the second meet in Happy Valley but unlike the first edition, Mother Nature gave us a rain-free day.  I’d like to thank all who attended and for making the trip for the 2009 State College Meet.

The meet began at 12 PM at Hoss’s Steak & Sea on Business US 322 (North Atherton Street).  Food was good as well as the conversations.  Many of the attendees brought road-related materials to peruse as well as to keep:  Steve Alpert – Florida Turnpike maps; H.B. Elkins – new Kentucky and West Virginia maps; and Doug Kerr – Interstate 87 Northway maps. I brought some recent official state maps from Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, and of course, Pennsylvania.

Group picture of those who attended the 2009 State College Meet.
Left to right: Oscar Voss, Doug Lowmaster, Mike Barron, John Krakoff, Jeff Kitsko, Doug Kerr, Brian Rawson-Ketchum, Denny Pine, Brian Powell, Scott Onson, and Adam Froehlig

After lunch, we hopped in our cars and drove down via former US 220/US 322 to PA 550. On this road is the location of the first stop on the 2005 Meet tour. It provides a good view of the completed Interstate 99.  Where the two roads cross is where some of the acid rock problems had occurred. The large retaining pond, constructed on the south side of the Interstate to catch acidic run-off, contained a good amount of water.

Continuing down former US 220/US 322, now known as SR 3042, we stopped at the top of Skytop Mountain. This provides a good vantage point which overlooks the Interstate everyone loves to hate.  Construction crews discovered pyritic rock in this area, which eventually stalled work on Interstate 99 until a solution was devised. The plan included removing the disturbed rock and keeping the remainder at the location.  It is easy to see where the undisturbed acid rock is located as it is covered with mesh and rocks to prevent erosion.

We continued on SR 3042 to SR 3040 to Port Matilda, passing through the trumpet interchange where “END” and “BEGIN” signage still exist for Alternate US 220.  I would expect it to be decommissioned before the next official state map. The reason being there is no mention of the route on new signage on Interstate 80 or before the trumpet.

In the now traffic-thinned Port Matilda, we took Interstate 99 north back to State College.  The view from the alignment as it climbs Skytop is fantastic and will be spectacular in Fall.  We got to see in greater clarity the acid rock remediation as we headed back to the restaurant.

A few of the attendees had to leave at this point. The remainder of the group continued into State College on Business US 322 and then north on PA 26 to the southern stub of the Bellefonte Bypass.  It is now a ramp onto Interstate 99/US 220; however, there were plans to continue it south to the end of the US 322 expressway north of Lewistown.

Following northbound Interstate 99/US 220/PA 26, we turned off onto the former route of 26 right before the current interchange with Interstate 80.  There is earth moving taking place for the relocation of Jacksonville Road which is part of the plan for the future Interstate 80/Interstate 99 directional “Y.”

After which we head back to Hoss’s where we said our farewells, and headed to our respective destinations after the 2009 State College Meet.

 
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Winter 2007 SWPA Meet

Saturday was the latest edition of the longest running road enthusiast meets. I’d like to thank all who traveled both near and far to attend the Winter 2007 SWPA Meet.

The meet began at 12 PM at Garfield’s in the Uniontown Mall on US 40 near the US 119 interchange.  The food and conversation was excellent as always.  I provided each attendee with a copy of the 2007 PennDOT map.

After the lunch portion, we headed down US 40 to see the new Brownsville Connector.  We decided to make the Searights Toll House the first stop, and it’s best that we did.  I noticed that one of the windows appeared to be open.  Upon further examination, it wasn’t open. Rather someone had taken one of the bricks from the steps and smashed the window.  In addition, there were rips and pulls in several placed in the screen on the screen door at the entrance.  After calling 911, they informed me that the police would investigate and the proprietors would be notified.

Searights Toll House was one of the stops during the Winter 2007 SWPA Meet.
Searights Toll House

The next stop was to see the new US 40 connector that just opened east of Brownsville.  What struck the attendees of the 2006 gathering was the former partially constructed interchange just north of PA 166, where US 40 traffic would turn to continue, has been replaced with an at-grade intersection.  Even though last year, we noticed grading for what appeared to be the other entrance/exit ramps had taken place which is noted on the US 40 page.  Also, PA 166’s northern terminus has not moved to intersect the new US 40 alignment. The route still ends at the former intersection a block to the south.  Grading at the future PA Turnpike 43 interchange, which is currently a temporary end until the loop around Brownsville opens, is complete.

On the way back to Uniontown, we took a small detour over a new connector road built between PA 51 and US 40. It will serve an interchange of PA Turnpike 43 and is five lanes wide (four travel lanes and a center turn lane). This roadway is located through the area where I attended the groundbreaking for the Uniontown/Brownsville section.

We took PA 43/PA Turnpike 43 south and stopped at the current end at Gans Road. Afterwards, we continued south into West Virginia to see how they are progressing on their section.  From PA 857/WV Secondary 857, it is possible to see the bridge on the state line is complete. It includes a “Welcome to West Virginia” sign gantry.  Turning off onto Morgan’s Run Road we had an up-close look at another pair of spans taking shape and saw a completed section of WV 43 with signage already installed.  Back at 857 we continued south to the Cheat Lake interchange. There we saw the construction taking place in preparation of the directional “T” interchange between Interstate 68 and WV 43.

After turning around we headed back to Garfield’s. There we said our goodbyes, Merry Christmases, Happy New Years, and headed to our respective destinations after the Winter 2007 SWPA Meet.

 
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National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 3)

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!

PA Turnpike 576 construction was one of the stops on Day 3 of the National Road Enthusiast Meet.
PA Turnpike 576 at Exit 2 facing westbound

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

 
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National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 2)

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.

A tour of the Pittsburgh Regional Traffic Management Center was the focus of Day Two of the National Road Enthusiast Meet.

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.

 
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National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 1)

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.  Myself 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.

Flight 93 Memorial was one of the stops on day one of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.
The flag is located at the point where United Airlines 93 impacted the ground

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 privalged 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.

 

 

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