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Author Topic: Oldest Freeway???  (Read 2883 times)

roadman65

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Oldest Freeway???
« on: March 24, 2012, 12:32:26 PM »

I was doing research the other day on CA 110 and found that it is the first freeway in America.  Is not the PA Turnpike from Irwin, PA to Carlisle, PA the first super highway to be built in 1940?

Which is correct then? They both cannot be the first obviously.
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Sheryl Crowe

PHLBOS

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 12:58:04 PM »

IMHO, this is where the terms highway and freeway shouldn't be 100% interchangeable. 

At least in the East Coast, the term freeway was usually used/applied for highways that had NO tolls.  If you told a layman that the PA Turnpike was a freeway, they would look at you like you were nuts.  "How can a toll road be a freeway?" would be an often-asked question.

That segment of the PA Turnpike; while being dubbed as the first super-highway to open, it was and is a TOLL ROAD.  It NEVER was nor will be a free highway.  

Even if CA 110 was built after the above-PA Turnpike (when was it actually built BTW?); being a FREE highway from the get-go could give that road the right to be the first Freeway in America... provided there wasn't another freeway that predates it around.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 01:36:44 PM by PHLBOS »
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NE2

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 01:07:44 PM »

Freeways can have tolls.

Anyway, a short piece of the Pasadena Freeway opened in December 1938, and a longer piece in July 1940 (a month after the Cahuenga Pass Freeway). The PA Turnpike opened in October 1940.

But neither was first - NYC's West Side Elevated Highway dated to 1930.
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kphoger

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2012, 01:08:52 PM »

Freeways are highways which are free of cross traffic and stops.
Tollroads are highways which drivers must pay a toll to use.
The two are not mutually exclusive.
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MrDisco99

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2012, 02:34:07 PM »

The PA Turnpike gets credit for being the first long-distance or intercity limited access highway in America.  It was inspired by the autobahns in Germany being built by the Nazis before the war.

However, the oldest freeways within a metro area were probably the parkways around New York City.  The Bronx River Parkway opened to traffic in 1922.
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NE2

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2012, 04:32:38 PM »

The Bronx River wasn't (and still isn't) quite a freeway, with at-grade left turns. (I don't know if any full-freeway portion opened before 1930; a piece may have been built in 1922.) If you want the first controlled-access road with at-grades, that would be the Long Island Motor Parkway (1908).
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MrDisco99

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2012, 06:09:34 PM »

The Bronx River wasn't (and still isn't) quite a freeway, with at-grade left turns. (I don't know if any full-freeway portion opened before 1930; a piece may have been built in 1922.) If you want the first controlled-access road with at-grades, that would be the Long Island Motor Parkway (1908).

Good point.  It was all sort of an evolution, wasn't it?  I guess the first grade separated road was probably the West Side Highway like you mentioned.  Remembering being on it when I was a kid in the 70s, though, I'd hardly call it a freeway.  You'd tear up your suspension if you went over 40 on that thing.
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Perfxion

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2012, 06:34:20 PM »

I know the oldest section of the Merritt Parkway is from 1938, and looks kind of like a cross section from the Bronx Rivier and PA turnpike. Some actual interchanges and some at grade turns and stop sign on ramps.
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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2012, 09:10:14 PM »

The Maine Turnpike claims to be America's first superhighway, but the PA Turnpike did for a fact open before it, right?

Beltway

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2012, 10:03:51 PM »

The Maine Turnpike claims to be America's first superhighway, but the PA Turnpike did for a fact open before it, right?

Perhaps the Maine Turnpike was the first -completed- superhighway?  It was completed in 1947, and at that point the PA Turnpike only extended halfway across the state.
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Kacie Jane

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2012, 11:23:13 PM »

I know the oldest section of the Merritt Parkway is from 1938, and looks kind of like a cross section from the Bronx Rivier and PA turnpike. Some actual interchanges and some at grade turns and stop sign on ramps.

I'm pretty sure the Merritt doesn't have any at-grade turns.  Does definitely have woefully substandard ramps though.  (Stop signs are the least of your worries.)
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TheStranger

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2012, 03:57:02 AM »

The first actual freeway in California isn't the Arroyo Seco Parkway, if we consider the US 40/50 Bay Bridge from the Macarthur Maze to 5th Street (which includes a very low-speed interchange at Treasure Island that still exists even in the I-80 era), which dates to 1936.  The Golden Gate Bridge/Doyle Drive freeway setup for US 101 in San Francisco came not long after that, though don't know if the Marina/Richardson split was original to that road.
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Chris Sampang

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2012, 03:59:40 AM »

The first actual freeway in California isn't the Arroyo Seco Parkway, if we consider the US 40/50 Bay Bridge from the Macarthur Maze to 5th Street (which includes a very low-speed interchange at Treasure Island that still exists even in the I-80 era), which dates to 1936.
How did this interchange work when the Bay Bridge was two-way on each level (cars above, trucks below)?

[edit] The upper level had a conflated pair of folded diamonds: http://www.historicaerials.com/aerials.php?scale=1.31722003942703E-05&lat=37.8098014834828&lon=-122.366112155857&year=1946
I see a single ramp to the lower level. With the interurban tracks on the side, all the lower level ramps had to be to the northwest. So the lower level wasn't a freeway, but the upper level was.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 04:16:44 AM by NE2 »
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TheStranger

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2012, 03:10:05 PM »


I see a single ramp to the lower level. With the interurban tracks on the side, all the lower level ramps had to be to the northwest. So the lower level wasn't a freeway, but the upper level was.

With regards to the lower level - was it just one onramp but complete access control between 5th Street and the MacArthur Maze?  Hard to tell what the configuration was to split traffic between both decks, from the overhead photos.
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Chris Sampang

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2012, 03:30:20 PM »

Looks like the lower level came to the intersection of Harrison and Essex, where an onramp still exists: http://www.historicaerials.com/aerials.php?scale=5.93128758336188E-06&lat=37.7856049137149&lon=-122.393072312333&year=1946
That's the interurban trackage leaving the bridge just to the south.

At the Oakland end, the lower lanes split to straddle the main lanes.
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TheStranger

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Re: Oldest Freeway???
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2012, 04:08:15 PM »

Looks like the lower level came to the intersection of Harrison and Essex, where an onramp still exists: http://www.historicaerials.com/aerials.php?scale=5.93128758336188E-06&lat=37.7856049137149&lon=-122.393072312333&year=1946
That's the interurban trackage leaving the bridge just to the south.

At the Oakland end, the lower lanes split to straddle the main lanes.

Thanks for the link!

So would it be fair to say there was a de facto "Truck US 40/50" along Harrison Street between the Essex ramp and 5th Street?  (With the lower deck also being de facto Truck 40/50, though not necessarily signed as such)

It seems to me also the first few years of I-80 (when it was I-80/US 40/US 50) involved the San Francisco Skyway seamlessly continuing to the upper deck only, while trucks still used the lower level - the lower deck became one-way eastbound in the mid-1960s IIRC.
http://www.historicaerials.com/aerials.php?scale=8E-06&lat=37.7844036400311&lon=-122.393496312333&year=1956
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