Circa 1930: “Gridlock on the nation’s most expensive road”
Famous American streets include Broadway in New York City, Chicago’s fashionable Michigan Avenue, Nevada’s long strip of casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard and California’s Sunset Boulevard.
As part of his Pittsburgh Plan of 1911, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. designed the Boulevard of the Allies. The new roadway linked Downtown with Oakland and was dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 1922. Its name honors the allies who supported the United States in defeating Germany during World War I.
When it was built during the 1920s, the boulevard was the most expensive road in the history of the world because each mile cost $1.6 million. Pittsburgh Mayor Edward Vose Babcock dismissed warnings about the potential dangers of constructing a highway on a hillside called the Duquesne Bluff.
“It is anchored in the bedrock of the hill and it will be as immutable as the hills themselves, and as permanent,” Mayor Babcock insisted. Time, erosion, weather and progress would conspire to prove him wrong.
At first, Model Ts clogged the boulevard at rush hour. Later, cars with rounder, sleeker bodies flew across Grant Street and up the ramp that still offers a fine view of the Monongahela River and the city’s South Side.
More than 30 years after Mayor Babcock’s remark, construction of the Parkway East and erosion weakened the road, turning its underbelly into a boulevard of broken rocks. In the mid-1950s, tens of thousands of tons of earth were excavated from the hill’s base so the state could build the Parkway East, located below the boulevard.
On April 27, 1978, an early morning landslide sent 500 cubic yards of shale and sandstone tumbling onto the Parkway East, injuring a motorist. Seven years later, in March of 1985, the state Department of Transportation announced it would spend $2 million to shore up the boulevard’s structural stability. That work was done to prevent more rocks and earth from falling onto the Parkway East.
Despite the difficulties in maintaining the highway, it still evokes an era suffused with patriotism. Flanking the boulevard at Grant Street are two fluted granite memorial columns topped by American eagles clasping a globe. A figure of Liberty, chiseled into each pedestal, is surrounded by flags, eagle wings, the oak, the laurel and the eternal flame. Frank Vittor, a prolific local sculptor, created the columns.
Not trying to steal the thunder of The Amazing iOS 6 Maps, but I will show some of the errors found in Apple Maps with respect to Pennsylvania’s highways.
Thanks to Pennsylvania Highways’ contributor Adam Prince for the heads up on this one. PA 71 was the main route between Greensburg and Washington before US 119 and Interstate 70 supplanted it in 1964.
Town square in Chambersburg, once referred to as the “Crossroads of America” where US 11 (left to right) and US 30 intersect. The fountain is a memorial to Civil War Veterans and was planned to be removed by PennDOT because now both streets carry one-way traffic and numerous accidents have occured due to confusion.
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 I-99 is signed from Williamsport north to New York, expect the US 15 designation to be truncated here.
Legally driving southbound in the northbound lanes of the Mon-Fayette Expressway to the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
It’s easy to see why the Department of Highways removed the PA 53 designation from Frankstown Road in Cambria County. Until 1970, that route ended at the Maryland state line via what is now PA 523, PA 281, and PA 403 between the Mason-Dixon Line and Johnstown. While most of Frankstown Road is a standard two-lane roadway, there are sharp turns in South Fork and then this steep, narrow, and windy decent into Johnstown.