Skip to main content

An end of a simpler time - Steps to the Church on the PA Turnpike to be removed

The nearly 70-year old Pennsylvania Turnpike has many quirks that you can't find on a modern freeway today. Large motorist pulloffs, numerous tunnels, a service plaza with a tunnel underneath the highway are some of the unique features that add to the Turnpike's lure. However, one unique piece that has been a special spiritual gem for many motorists will soon be removed.

The two sets of steps that allow motorists to access St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Baltimore will be removed by 2009 in a Turnpike upgrading and widening project.

The steps to the church were part of what is now believed to be a verbal agreement between the Church and the Turnpike in the late 1930s. In exchange for church land, the Turnpike built two sets of stairs -- one on each side of the highway -- to allow motorists access to the Church. For over 65 years, countless travelers -- including myself -- have stopped for mass or just to look around out of curiosity.

For more: Johnstown (PA) Tribune Democrat, "Turnpike changes bring end to church steps."
Holy Turnpike! - A photo essay on St. John's the Baptist Catholic Church has photos I and others have taken from visits there.

Commentary:

This is a bittersweet loss for the Turnpike. As a result of making much needed upgraded and widening to the highway, one of the most unique and to many people extremely special features of the turnpike will be lost. Over the course of the six years that I have had a feature on St. John's Church, I have received numerous e-mails of people asking about when masses are or sharing stories of their experiences of the church. I was lead to this story from a visitor's e-mail.

Many are upset by the upcoming loss of access to the Church. Sadly, it is necessary for safety of motorists and those who have parked their cars there. Although, there have not been any - to my knowledge - accidents because of vehicles pulled over to visit the Church, a number of years ago a deadly accident at another motorist pull-off caused closure of nearly half of the pull off areas.

Are there any compromises? I doubt it. The only one that can be possible is that the Turnpike build an interchange at New Baltimore. New Baltimore sits nearly in the middle of a 36 mile stretch between the Bedford and Somerset exits. An interchange would break up the lengthy 36 mile distance between interchanges, allow the village of New Baltimore access to the Turnpike, and motorists access to the Church.

I'd like to thank the visitor's to my feature on the Church for scooping me onto this story. I plan to learn more about it and keep you all informed.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 88 the Carson Pass Highway

Between 2016 and 2017 I drove the majority of California State Route 88 from CA 99 in Stockton east over Carson Pass to CA 89.






CA 88 is a 122 mile state highway from CA 99 in Stockton east over the Sierra Nevada Range to the continuation route Nevada State Route 88 at the Nevada State Line.  CA 88 is known as the Carson Pass Highway.  Carson Pass at 8,574 feet above sea level along CA 88 is an all-year Mountain Pass in the Sierras and on occasion designated as Temporary US Route 50 when conditions are bad over Echo Summit. 

CA 88 was not one of the original Signed State Highways.  CA 8 was the original designation over Carson Pass which can be seen on the 1938 California State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

CA 8 was substantially different than CA 88 west of Jackson as it largely follows the current route of CA 26.  From US 99E in 1934 and later US 50/99 in 1936 from Stockton CA 8 originally used the following route to reach Jackson:

-  Legislative Route 5 from US 99 in Stockton …

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 41 north to CA 16)

Last year I traveled California State Route 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89 in one continuous trip.  This year and in early 2016 I traveled the rest of CA 49 south to CA 41 in Oakhurst.  This blog post consists of photos of the highway from those time periods and historical information about the southern part of CA 49.


This blog post is meant to be a continuation of the previous one I did regarding CA 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89.  A link to said blog post can be found below:

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 16 north to CA 89)

As stated in the previous blog post; CA 49 is an approximately 295 mile long north/south highway which traverses the traditional Gold Rush Country of California.  While I intend to discuss county level historical alignments of CA 49 as I did in the first blog post I thought this would be a good place to discuss the backstory of highway.

CA 49 was first signed in 1934 along a series of Legislative Route Numbers ("LRN") that were large…

Caliente-Bodfish Road/Kern County Road 483

Back in 2016 I took Caliente-Bodfish Road south towards California State Route 58 while leaving the Sierra Nevada Range after looking for the town site of Old Kernville.






Caliente-Bodfish Road is also known as Kern County Road 483 which I believe is an internal designation for mountainous roadways within the Sierra Nevada Range.  Caliente-Bodfish Road begins at Kern Canyon Road (Old California State Route 178) at the southern extent of Bodfish and climbs over the southern most extent of the Sierra Nevada Range approximately 35 miles to Bena Road near Caliente.  Caliente-Bodfish Road is a full two-lane road despite traversing some narrow terrain in the Sierras.  The high point on Caliente-Bodfish Road appeared to be near 4,000 feet above sea-level and I would estimate that there grades as high as 10% in places.

South of Bodfish Caliente-Bodfish Road ascends quickly above the community on a series of switchbacks.  There is no official overlook but there is a hell of a view of Bodfish an…