Thursday, November 26, 2015

Aerial Photos of Breezewood 1958 and 1967

People have a love hate relationship with Breezewood, Pennsylvania.  It's either loved as a unique piece of America and road travel.  (Editor's note: In writing this entry, I couldn't find any article, blog post or webpage that says how wonderful Breezewood is.) Or it is hated, despised, or even boycotted.

This post isn't about my personal opinion of it. In the past five or six years, our family typically goes through Breezewood between 9pm and midnight on our way from Eastern North Carolina to Pittsburgh - and I have never experienced the notorious backups that people dislike so much.  But I digress.

Earlier this week, I came across an amazing website that features aerial photos of Pennsylvania from the late 1930s to the early 1970s.  It is called Penn Pilot - and is hosted by Penn State University.  Trust me, you can waste a whole day looking at this site.  It's a wonderful resource.  So one of my first looks was Breezewood to see if they have pictures of the evolution of the town.  Fortunately, I did luck out.

The first image below is of Breezewood in 1958.  The Interstate Era was in it's infancy.  The PA Turnpike System was still the pride of the Commonwealth, and a connection to Baltimore and Washington via Interstate 70 was in the very early planning stages (if at all).

The original turnpike alignment is still going strong.  The connection was solely with US 30.  However, if you expand the photo to full size, there are still some key pieces of Breezewood being the gateway and connection point from PA and the Midwest to Baltimore and DC can be seen.   PA 126 runs from US 30 - just west of the interchange - south out of the picture towards Maryland.  What I find interesting is the more modern design for the turning movement from 126 North to 30 East and eventually the Turnpike.  Breezewood was the Gateway to the South before Interstate 70 even arrived.

For reference, I-70 will eventually tie in between 126 and the original Breezwood interchange.  Also of note, sitting on the north side of US 30 between the interchange and 126, is the then recently opened Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge.  The Gateway Travel Plaza sits right below it.

Now let's fast forward to 1967.  The Interstate 70 connection has been open a couple of years and Breezewood was entering its heyday of being known as the "Town of Motels".

The turnpike was well underway in constructing a new 13.5 mile alignment.  This aerial shot shows the brief time period of how Interstate 70 connected to the old turnpike alignment.  Also, the US 30 intersection with the now defunct PA 126 has changed.  US 30 to the east has been twinned as it heads westwards to Everett.

Breezewood changed a lot in the nine years between photos.  The popular Post House opened in 1963 and sits just east of the 70/30 intersection.  The beloved Post House closed in 2004. (Editors Note: I stopped there at least twice in the 1990s on various college bus trips.) The Howard Johnson's added a new building.  And many many other motor lodges and motels have since opened.

So in 1967, Breezewood most likely looked something like this. 

Postcard from 1970 - Blown up photo via
Of course nearly 50 years later, a lot of these motels have been re-branded, abandoned or even torn down.  The old alignment of the Turnpike is now an attraction for bicyclists, roadgeeks, and the adventurous.  And who knows what Breezewood will look like in the next 20 years. Yet one thing that hasn't and most likely will not change is that you will still have to experience the 2000 or so feet of the Breezewood Strip to get where you're going.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Drive Along (Part of) I-395

Got a chance this past Saturday to drive along Connecticut's I-395 from where the route joins the original Connecticut Turnpike, that is secretly designated (not signed) as CT 695 to where CT 2A leaves the interstate south of Norwich. I-395 is the first freeway to be given milepost-based exit numbers by the State of Connecticut (along with CT 2A and CT 695). The original numbers run from 77 to 100 and are those of the Connecticut Turnpike (up to 90) which start at the New York border The new numbers will run from 2 to 53. The state's plan is to convert the rest of its freeways over the next 10-20 years as part of exit sign replacement contracts. The I-395 project was split in two with the first section to be started that between I-95 and old Exit 88. Many photos have already been taken of signs along this section, check out Jay Hogan's I-395 Flickr Page.

Here are some of the photos taken of new exit signs and numbers north of Exit 88.

I only got to take photos of this exit northbound. The new signs are ground-mounted, replacing overhead signs. The overheads are still in place with I-395 pull-through signage:

Here's the next overhead assembly with the new exit sign in the distance:
Here' a closeup view of the 1/2 Mile Sign:
The same situation approaching the exit ramp itself, old overhead with missing Exit sign and new sign ground-mounted beyond:
Hopefully, they'll cut back some brush and move the sign in front. They've also replace the exit signs after the off-ramp on SR 695, photos below.

The first new signs I saw heading southbound were for the CT 14 exit. These photos show the typical new signage set-up for each interchange. Starting with the 1-Mile Advance Sign:
In addition to the new number on the exit tab, there is an additional tab above with the old exit number which will stay up for 2 years to acclimate motorists to the new numbering system. The 1/2 mile advance sign does not have the Old Exit tab:
In this case, the sign apparently is not finished with the bottom panel still needing to be installed. Between the 1-Mile Advance and the Exit signs at the interchange's off-ramp there are typically several auxiliary and blue informational signs with the new number. Here's an auxiliary for CT 14:
A blue services sign can be seen in the distance. The final signs are at the off-ramp itself:
Connecticut exit signs seem to feature larger exit tabs than most states. At the gore point the signs show both the new and old number, as with the 1-Mile sign the Old Exit tab will stay up for two years:
Similar signage for CT 14 is also installed northbound. Here's the progression as seen above, starting at the 1/2 mile advance sign:
Here's signage at the interchange itself:
With the new number/old number gore sign in the background.

With the new milepost numbers has come new mileposts which are posted every 2/10 of a mile with an I-395 shield and direction provided at the mile. Here's two examples, southbound:
And northbound:
New route shields, or reassurance markers have been placed following each exit, again southbound:
Here' with a route marker for CT 2A East where it runs concurrently with I-395 south of Norwich. And northbound:

In addition to I-395, CTDOT has started placing new signs on the section of the original Connecticut Turnpike that runs between I-395 and US 6, with Secret Route (SR) number 695. The signs have only been placed heading east toward US 6 as of now. Here's the 1/2 mile advance sign for Ross Road with new Exit 1 tab (the previous sign had no exit number):
Again, some pruning could be done to make the sign more visible. Here's the signage at the off-ramp:

Here's some additional photos taken mostly southbound of signs from the first phase of the project that have not appeared elsewhere online.
The one mile advance sign southbound:
And the 1/2 mile advance sign:
The one mile advance sign southbound:
The 1/2 mile advance sign southbound:
In this case, the new sign hasn't been installed but the new Exit and Former Exit tabs have been placed on the existing sign.
The 1/2 mile advance sign southbound
And here's the signage at the exit itself, an overhead mixture of the old and new:
New numbers, old signs.
Here's the new 1/2 mile advance exit sign southbound:
Here's a shot northbound both of reassurance markers and new exit sign for Exit 13:
And finally, an exit sign that seems to be missing its exit tab:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Massachusetts Joins the Mile Post Club

On September 12, 2015 MassDOT posted an advertisement calling for bids on a contract (Project No. 608024) that will convert the state's interstates an other US and State Route expressways to the Geographic Reference Location or Milepost Exit Numbering System starting in 2016. The winning bidder is to be chosen on November 17, 2015. This ends a process started with the 2009 Massachusetts Supplement to the federal MUTCD, section 2E.31 stating: "Massachusetts will be changing all its interchange exit signs statewide to the reference location numbering system, with the entire state highway system to be converted to the new numbers over the next five to ten years." According to a MassDOT source, a chief sign engineer, however, when the state approached the FHWA about funding an ongoing conversion project, they insisted the only way Massachusetts could get 90% federal funding was if they did the project all at once, in what is termed a blanket contract. According to the same source, the project will start in the western part of the state and move east. Short routes like I-84 and I-385 probably being the first to receive the new numbers.


When MassDOT committed to the blanket contract for changing the numbers all at once, they already had two projects in the works to update the signage along I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, from the NY border to Exit 20 in Allston/Brighton. They decided to change the numbers along I-90 under these two contracts instead. The first project, that will change the numbers from the border east to I-290/I-395 in Auburn was let on August 18. The eastern project is to be advertised on October 31 and will probably be let in December (the remaining signs east of Allston-Brighton date from the extension of I-90 to East Boston in the 1990s and the numbers will be changed under the blanket contract).


I was able to get a copy of the signage plans for the western part of I-90 with the new exit numbers. Heading west to east, the first (currently 1) will become 3:

And the final exit under the contract, now 10, will become 90:

The most frequently jammed exit, at least westbound, at Sturbridge, now 9, will become 78:

This exit will be the only one to feature diagrammatic signing heading westbound:

US 20, that was formerly on the Exit 9 signage, will be relegated to a ground-level auxiliary sign:

All the I-90 signs on the Turnpike and Ramp will also feature the Mass Pike Logo:

And a Toll Banner at Turnpike Entrances:

For a complete listing of the new exit numbers for the Mass Pike, go to the Future I-90 Mass Pike Exit List. To see more signing plans, go to the I-90 Sign Plans Gallery.

With Massachusetts converting to milepost based numbering, and Connecticut starting to convert with a project currently going on along I-395 (for a gallery of the new signs already put up, visit this Flickr Site). This only leaves three New England states (NH, RI and VT) plus New York (and Interstates in Delaware) as the only remaining consecutive exit number states. With federal mandates calling for a switch, it probably will only be a short time before these states change as well.

In addition to my I-90 list, feel free also to check out my lists covering probable future exit numbers for all of Massachusetts's Interstates and State Route Expressways.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Local Sign Find: Vintage NC and VA Road Photos

About a year ago a gentleman e-mailed me a handful of vintage NC and VA road photos.  They are here for you to enjoy.  You can click on the photo to enlarge.

US 29 South in Concord, NC

Overheads for US 29/70 - Lee Street Greensboro, NC

US 421 Truck Route - Click on this photo and check out the US 421 Truck Route cutout circle shield

What is now I-40 at Asheboro Street in Greensboro - Check out the sign on the overpass - few of these style remain!

US 1 and 58 in South Hill, VA

Monday, March 23, 2015

Boston Signage, The Good, The Bad, and the Missing

I posted an entry back in November 2013 displaying examples of new signage being placed in the streets of Boston, some of which was completely wrong. A February 2014 'expose' report on the local Fox television station led to Boston DOT officials blaming contractor error for the sign mistakes and vows to fix them. During last Spring much of the wrong signage was removed or replaced. For example this reassurance marker for West MA 2A that had a wrong directional banner:

Was corrected with a replacement West banner. Most of the MA 2A signs put up in error further east along Mass. Ave were removed, such as these at the corner of Tremont and Mass. Ave:

A couple though stayed but had their directional banner replaced with 'To', such as by the Christian Science Plaza, before:

And After:

Mistaken signs were placed for routes that did exist as well. In the case below, drivers on Beacon Street approaching Arlington saw signs directing them to MA 28 North to turn left:
When in actuality, Beacon Street is already MA 28 North here and to stay on it you just have to take the next right (or stay on Beacon and you're now on MA 28 South). This was fixed last spring also:
Although, as you can see, the incorrect 'To' banner remains.

However, a tour of city streets taken in March 2015, showed some mistakes still remain. For example, drivers looking for the Mass Pike or I-90 West on Boylston Street still see this sign:

Directing them straight through the intersection with Mass. Ave. You can get to I-90 by going 1/2 mile to Dartmouth Street and taking a right, but it would be much easier to take a left and take the next left onto the on-ramp on the other side of the Mass Ave bridge over the Pike. Drivers on Comm Ave (MA 2) heading west into Kenmore Square still see this sign pairing:
While, again, technically true, Comm Ave becomes US 20 west of Kenmore Square, it does not, as signs placed in 2013 still say, become MA 30 also. MA 30 does not begin until the split of Comm Ave with US 20 in another mile or so from here.
Fortunately, these mistaken MA 30 signs were never placed eastbound near Kenmore Square (and yes, you can park for the Red Sox game for only $40).

Despite the increase in route signage, the city still has a strange habit of not marking the beginning of routes. For example, MA 9 West begins at MA 28/Charles Street by the Park Plaza Hotel. There's no signage though:

Go a block west though, and you see your first West MA 9 trailblazer:
MA 2 West Begins (and MA 2 East Ends) at the corner of Boylston Street and Charles Street / MA 28 North. No sign of Route 2 here though:
You have to go to the other side of the Public Garden to see the first West 2 reassurance sign:
(behind the MA 28 trailblazer):
Another MA 28 sign like the one above would be useful at the corner of Stuart and Tremont Streets where the route goes left, but, only if you see the reassurance marker on Charles Street would you know it turns there:
And don't get me started about MA 2 west of Kenmore Square. While there are several new MA 2 markers along the route back to Comm Ave:

This is one of the few trailblazers that were placed on the roads between Beacon and Comm Ave. You will not find any MA 2 shields telling you where the route west leaves Beacon or that to go East you have to turn left on Beacon. Another habit is not putting up the most important sign. Approaching the intersection of Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue you see these signs for I-93 and MA 28:
However, there is an entrance to the Mass Pike West two blocks south of Columbus Ave. You guessed it, there's no trailblazer for West I-90.

Part of the problem with signing MA Routes within the city of Boston is due to some of the convoluted paths many routes take. If I were in charge of MassDOT I would make, at least, the following changes:
1. MA 2 would revert to its old route through Cambridge (current MA 2A) and continue in Boston beyond Comm Ave. down Mass Ave. to the interchange with I-93 at Melnea Cass Blvd.
2. US 20 would be extended east from Kenmore Square to re-take its original route to Arlington Street.
3. MA 109 which currently ends at the former US 1 at the VFW Parkway, would be extended along the old US alignment to MA 9 / Huntington Avenue.
4. US 3 could end at I-95/128 in Burlington, or its path could be changed so it follows I-95 South to MA 2 East to Cambridge, then follow what was MA 2's route onto Memorial Drive. It would also replace all of MA 3 to Cape Cod, until the MA 3 / Pilgrims Highway could be designated an I-93 spur route, then US 3 could end at Leverett Circle. 

If anyone has any comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them.