PA-110–“Amerca’s Super Highway”
One of the Tunnels on Pennsylvania Turnpike
On the back:
PA100–One of the seven tunnels carrying the Turnpike beneath formicable mountains, six were inherited from the old rail project. The interior view of the Allegheny tunnel, near New Baltimore and the entrance to the Tuscarora is shown. Others at Laurel, Allegheny, Ray’s Hill, Sideling Hill, Tuscarora, Kittatinny, Blue Mountain.
Publisher: Minsky Bros & Co., Publishing Division, Pittsburgh, PATuscarora.
During most of its first two decades the Pennsylvania Turnpike was promoted and considered by many as “The Crown Jewel” of the American highway system. The highway was spoken in magnificent terms and was touted as a modern example of safe, high speed, and scenic travel. However, soon after the birth of the Interstate system in 1956, the PA Turnpike would become outdated in comparison to the more modern Interstate
Gribblenation (more postcards)
The Pennsylvania Turnpike (Penna Turnpike or PA Turnpike) is a toll highway operated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. A controlled-access highway, it runs for 360 miles (580 km) across the state. . . . During the 1930s the Pennsylvania Turnpike was designed to improve automobile transportation across the mountains of Pennsylvania, using seven tunnels built for the abandoned South Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880s. The road opened on October 1, 1940, between Irwin and Carlisle. It was one of the earlier long-distance limited-access highways in the United States, and served as a precedent for additional limited-access toll roads and the Interstate Highway System. . . . The Pennsylvania Turnpike incorporates several major bridges and tunnels along its route. Four tunnels cross central Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. The 6,070-foot (1,850 m) Allegheny Mountain Tunnel passes under Allegheny Mountain in Somerset County. The Tuscarora Mountain Tunnel runs beneath Tuscarora Mountain (at the border of Huntingdon and Franklin counties), and is 5,236 feet (1,596 m) long.
William H. Vanderbilt proposed an idea to build a railroad from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh that would be under his control, and not that of the Pennsylvania Railroad. After the surveying was complete, work began on a two-track roadbed with nine tunnels. Excavation began on the tunnels in early 1884. Thousands of workers dug the tunnels for $1.25 for a 10 hour day. The construction continued through 1884 and 1885; however, trouble for the project was starting in New York. Banker J. Pierpont Morgan won a seat on the board of Vanderbilt’s New York City & Hudson River Railroad. Morgan with the President of the NYC&HRRR sold the right-of-way to George B. Roberts, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Work stopped immediately. A total of $10 million had been spent and 26 workers lost their lives. The unfinished project came to be known as “Vanderbilt’s Folly.”
. . .
The twentieth century came and with it a new form of transportation: the automobile. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to establish a highway department. In late 1934, an employee with the State Planning Board named Victor Lecoq and William Sutherland of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association proposed the idea of building a toll highway utilizing the old roadbed and tunnels left behind.
The reports of the survey crews were favorable, and in 1937 the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was established with Walter A. Jones of Pittsburgh named the first commission chairman. The Turnpike Commission was given authorization to construct a 160-mile long 4-lane limited access superhighway through the Allegheny Mountains from Irwin (just east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County) to Carlisle (just west of Harrisburg in Cumberland County). This highway was the first of its kind in the United States. Nobody had ever seen a road like this before, except at the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. Design features for the new road were:
Four 12-foot wide concrete traffic lanes – two in each direction
10 foot wide median strip and 10 foot wide berms
3 percent maximum grades (normal grades for roads through the mountains were 6-12 percent)
Maximum curvature of 6 degrees (most curves were 3-4 degrees)
Limited access design with 1,200 foot long entrance and exit lanes
Ten service plazas located along the right-of-way for traveler convenience
No cross streets, traffic signals, driveways or railroad grade crossings
The Pensylvania Trunpike: a history
The PA Turnpike officially entered service October 1, 1940 and the new concepts of superhighway design made it an engineering marvel. The new, mostly four-lane roadway was referred to as “America’s First Superhighway.” Planners predicted that 1.3 million vehicles would use the PA Turnpike each year, but early usage exceeded predictions with 2.4 million vehicles traveling the PA Turnpike annually. Sometimes, as many as 10,000 vehicles per day were recorded. When the PA Turnpike opened, it was just 160 miles long stretching from Carlisle to Irwin. It included two-lane tunnels, but the rapidly increasing traffic volumes soon made the two-lane tunnels obsolete and prompted consideration of by-passing or “double tunneling” the seven original tunnels. In addition to reducing travel time between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg by three hours, the PA Turnpike created an economic boom to areas along its path.