"Pennsylvania Turnpike, I love you so," 70s song revived for Penn Pike's 70th b'day
By Peter Samuel
Hit the home page of the Pennsylvania Turnpike website this week - http://www.paturnpike.com/ - and you get a jolly "Pennsylvania Turnpike " song from the late 1970s by country music composer and singer (George) Vaughn Horton (1911-1988). It's a nicely done 70th birthday feature.
Accompanied by proper engine accelerating roars and toots, the words of the Horton song go:
"Pennsylvania Turnpike, I love you so,
"All the way from Jersey, to Oh-Hi-Oh,
"Oh how I go for the beautiful mountains, and the fields of grass,
"And the friendly road staff, where we can get gas,
"Pennsylvania Turnpike, how I love you,
"And when I pay my toll fare, don't yer love me too,
"Now I'm up in Somerset, and snow plowing ain't come yet
"Pennsylvania Turnpike, I'm stuck on you."
There are lots of period posters and the history below:
Before there was a Pennsylvania Turnpike
Colonial America's Commitment to Building America's Roads
President George Washington publicly favored the establishment of roads to promote the westward expansion of our nation. In 1791, the legislature of the Pennsylvanian Commonwealth approved a state-wide transportation plan and a year later created the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Company. The turnpike charter called for the construction of a 62-mile log-surfaced road, which provided successful transport for settlers and their goods over the muddy territories.
The 1940s: Construction
The Pennsylvania Turnpike officially entered service October 1, 1940, exhibiting new concepts of superhighway design and demonstrating that revenue bonds could finance toll roads. Planners predicted that 1.3 million vehicles would use the turnpike each year, but early actual usage was 2.4 million vehicles, sometimes as many as 10,000 vehicles per day were recorded. When the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened for business on October 1, 1940, it was just 160 miles long stretching from Carlisle to Irwin. It included two-lane tunnels at Laurel Hill, Allegheny, Ray's Hill, Sideling Hill, Tuscarora, Kittatinny and Blue Mountain. Rapidly increasing traffic volumes, far surpassing anything anticipated by early Turnpike planners, soon made the two-lane tunnels obsolete and prompted consideration of by-passing or "double tunneling" the seven original tunnels.
Harry Truman was in the White House when the Carlisle to Valley Forge extension opened on November 20, 1950 to usher in the expansion decade. Extensions from Irwin to the Ohio Line and from Valley Forge to New Jersey soon followed. But the Northeastern Extension, from Montgomery County in the south to Scranton in the north, was the longest of the expansion projects crossing some 110 miles.
Although the Pennsylvania Turnpike has one of the lowest fatality rates in the country, the need for more safety improvements became apparent in response to the rising number of accidents. Improvements over the years have included better pavement drainage and stabilization, a 300-foot right-of-way, a 60-foot median, computerized toll booths, plazas moved back away from the road, and curves added to the boring, straight stretches.
In 1970, a plan was developed that involved updating the Turnpike's original roadway through the Allegheny Mountains. This would be a road for the future, with the biggest part of the plan to include two lanes for cars and two lanes for trucks on both sides of the roadway. Some sections of the new turnpike would be 10 lanes wide. This new roadway would have an 80 mph speed limit and holographic roadway signs. It would even have an electronic computer system that would warn people of icy-roads.
In 1981 a state bill was introduced to build the James E Ross Highway (formerly known as Turnpike 60, and changed in 2010 to Turnpike 376). The bill did not pass. However, the state legislature did pass Act 61 in September 1985 - and this legislated that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission complete route 60.
The first spades of earth were turned on Turnpike 60, the James E. Ross Highway in Beaver County, launching the 1990s as the next decade of expansion. It was the first major Turnpike expansion since the construction of the Northeast Extension in 1958. The section from US 422 to PA 108 was the first part to open, and the rest of the roadway opened one year later. It was constructed on time and under budget. The Act 61 projects had many other components that were completed in the 1990s including the Beaver Valley Climbing Lane, Lehigh Tunnel Number 2, the Downingtown Interchange Expansion, the Keyser Avenue Interchange, the Mid-County Interchange and the Beaver Valley Expressway.
By the 2000 decade, the original 160-mile route was expanded to 514 miles, carrying 156.2 million vehicles a year at a toll of just over 4.1 cents a mile. In the engineering design of this highway, utmost attention has been given to the drivers' safety and comfort.
2010 and beyond
The decade from 2010-2020 will see more of the Act 61 projects completed. The Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway are scheduled for a 2015 completion and the I-95 interchange project is slated to be done in 2014.