Skip to main content

Breezewood in the Fall....The Abandoned PA Turnpike

Editor's Note: Bernie Newman's Breezewood in the Fall was the first real feature that I had on my fledgling website in late 1999.  It was also one of the first online features about the abandoned turnpike and its tunnels.  From November 1999 to about 2003-04, I would receive numerous e-mails about the tunnels and accessing the old roadway as a result of Mr. Newman's work.  Today, there are numerous webpages and social media groups devoted to this abandoned stretch of highway.  

In 1968, The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission successfully completed a bypass of two tunnels - Sideling and Ray's Hill - one service plaza - Cove Valley - and nearly 13 miles of roadway.  Since then this forgotten section of road has been a destination point for turnpike enthusiasts, hikers and bicyclists, curiosity seekers, and the Turnpike Commission itself.  The abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike serves as a living history of the nearly 80 year old highway.  

The Breezewood Interchange incorporates a small segment of the old Turnpike alignment - serving as a connector route for Interstate 70 from the Turnpike to the Town of Motels.  It is just prior to the connector's interchange with US 30 that the abandoned section of the turnpike begins.

This where the former alignment of the PA Turnpike begins - just prior the ramps at the Breezewood Interchange (Bernie Newman)
The former ramps of the Breezewood Interchange.  Like nearly all turnpike interchanges, the original Breezewood interchange was of a trumpet design. (Bernie Newman)

 
What would have been the Breezewood interchange ramps going underneath the turnpike. (Bernie Newman) 

What was most likely the last of the original turnpike guardrail. (Bernie Newman)
Another view of the original interchange ramps and cement median from the former Turnpike overpass. (Bernie Newman)
Beyond the former Breezewood Interchange is 13 miles of the old turnpike.  In 2001, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission sold nearly all of the former alignment to the Southern Alleghenies Conservancy for $1.  THe Conservancy's goal was to convert the abandoned Turnpike into a bike trail.  However, in the over 15 years since that transaction there has been minimal progress towards that goal.  The Pike 2 Bike Trail is "unofficially" open and all users travel at their own risk.

Old turnpike bridge over US 30. The PTC actually painted the bridge in the 1980s, the bridge would be demolished in 2005. (Bernie Newman)
The bridge in the photo above once carried the abandoned turnpike over US 30.  The Turnpike Commission dismantled this bridge - along with a similar overpass at Pump Station Road - to eliminate the liability and expense in maintaining the two structures and also to restrict access to parts of the abandoned Turnpike still owned by the PTC.  As a result, an ad hoc parking lot off of nearby Tannery Rd. was built for trail access.

Looking East on the abandoned Turnpike towards Ray's Hill. (Bernie Newman)
The western portal of Ray's Hill Tunnel. When compared to Bill Symon's photo of this same entrance in 1981 - the 'RAYS HILL' lettering above the entrance is gone and graffiti is much more prevalent.  (Bernie Newman)
The short distance allows for you to see the "Light at the end of the tunnel".  I am guessing that the double yellow line in this photo was from a PTC paint test. (Bernie Newman)
Most likely an original streetlight near the western entrance of Ray's Hill Tunnel. (Bernie Newman)
Site Navigation:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Relief Route That Wasn't: The Never Built I-70 Bypass in the Mid-Mon Valley

In June 1963, a small blurb in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read that The Westmoreland Engineering Company was awarded a $24,060 bid to study the proposed construction of Interstate 70 in Westmoreland and Washington Counties.  The study was to see what the construction and right-of-way costs "...to modernize the existing highway to Interstate requirements within eight months." (1)  This small, non-attributed, three paragraph article came less than a decade after the completion of a four lane highway that linked the Mid-Mon Valley to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This would be the start of a 15 year process to upgrade and improve Interstate 70 - a process that ultimately never produced a single foot of new highway.

This is the story, albeit brief, of the I-70 that never came about.

Background:
What is now known as Interstate70 from Washington to New Stanton began as a connecting highway for the region to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Known as the "Express Highway", construct…

Independence Boulevard - Charlotte's First Urban Highway

Today, the major pieces of Charlotte's highway network include the Outerbelt (I-485), Interstates 77 and 85, and the Brookshire and Belk Freeways (I-277), but nearly sixty years ago Charlotte's first major urban highway project would begin.  The construction of Independence Boulevard in the 1940s and early 1950s would give Charlotte and North Carolina its first urban expressway, and would usher in a new era of highway building throughout the state.
With the help of former mayor, Ben Douglas - who sat on the State Highway Commission in the 1940s - the push for building Independence Blvd. began.  In 1946, city residents passed a $200,000 bond issue that would go along with over $2 million in federal funding.  The highway would open in two stages in 1949 and 1950.  When a grade separated interchange was built at South Blvd. and Morehead St. in the mid 1950s, Independence Blvd. was completed. (1)  Although the highway was not a fully controlled access highway, it gave motorists an …

The Bigelow Blvd. / Crosstown Expressway (Interstate 579) Ghost Ramp Mystery Explained

For nearly five decades, many Pittbsurgh-area motorists, when leaving the old Civic Arena or exiting off the Crosstown Expressway onto Bigelow Boulevard, have wondered what exactly the ghost ramp in the above photo was for.  Where was it to have come from?  When and why did they stop?  Will it ever be built?
The original plans for the Crosstown Expressway included a full interchange with Bigelow Boulevard.  However, these plans never came to fruition.  The only ramps that were built were from I-579 North onto to the Bigelow and from Bigelow Boulevard/PA 380 West to I-579 South.  The above ramp was to have come from I-579 South, and depending on what older map of Pittsburgh you have over or under the existing roadway, and on to Bigelow/PA 380 East.  It never came to be, and the HOV ramp to what was once the Civic Arena has basically eliminated the need for completing this interchange.


The two photos above show the retaining wall with the ghost ramp and how it would have connected onto…