Pittsburgh @ AARoads
Pittsburgh, once a distant trading post known as Fort Duquesne at the juncture of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers, is now a vibrant, world-class city. Known for steel mills in the 1970s, Pittsburgh now has a diverse economic base, with many industries now located in the region. Home to several major league franchises, including football's Steelers and baseball's Pirates, Pittsburgh is home to two large new stadiums, Heinz Field and PNC Park.
The city is oriented around the rivers. Most major routes parallel one of the three rivers coming into downtown, and those that don't usually have to cut through a mountain in the form of tunnels (for instance, the Fort Pitt and Liberty Tunnels) or over a mountain, such as Interstate 279 north of downtown. Pittsburgh is best known for its geography and its stunning skyline at the headwaters of the Ohio River. Best viewed from Mount Washington, the skyline is especially beautiful from above the skyscrapers.
Looking downtown, the city is organized into a rough grid based on the rivers, but that grid is quickly lost as one heads eastward. Forbes Avenue, Boulevard of the Allies, and Bigelow Boulevard each provide access to the eastern part of the city. Bigelow Boulevard, in fact, is the old Lincoln Highway route (formerly U.S. 30, now Pennsylvania 380). Now U.S. 30 and the William Penn Highway, U.S. 22, are routed onto the Parkway East (Interstate 376).
Point State Park, located at the beginning of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, and the promenade between Heinz Field and PNC Park are perfect places for an evening stroll. Ferries connect the shores of the rivers, and some of the bridges have pedestrian access for crossing the rivers. It is said that the city has some 27 bridges crossing one of the three main rivers, making it have one of the highest proportion of bridges in the country.
The following map shows the layout of the downtown area, including the main freeways: Interstate 279, Interstate 376, and Interstate 579. Interstate 279 is the main route from the south and north leading into downtown. While the approach from the north was opened in the 1980s, the approach from the south has been open since the 1960s. The southern approach, known to locals as the Parkway West, is going to be reconstructed over the next ten years. Interstate 376 is the Parkway East, and it is cosigned with U.S. 22-30 as it approaches from the east. Interstate 579 is a short freeway spur from Interstate 279 south to Chatham Center. It provides access to Mellon Center and Duquesne University.
Both Interstates 76 and 79 stay clear of the downtown Pittsburgh area; instead, they steer clear of the metropolitan area and facilitate bypass traffic. Interstate 76 follows the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a southeasterly trajectory from Youngstown, Ohio, toward central Pennsylvania and Harrisburg. This toll route consists of much truck traffic and is the primary route from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest.
With that stated, when Interstate 76 was conceived it followed the routing of Interstate 76 into downtown Pittsburgh from the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange at Monroeville. Interstate 76 to the north and west of that interchange was signed as Interstate 80S. This change occurred in the 1980s.
For more, visit Interstate 76.
Interstate 79 is the primary north-south route in western Pennsylvania. Generally, Interstate 79 follows U.S. 19, but while U.S. 19 enters Pittsburgh, Interstate 79 stays to the west. The freeway acts as a westerly bypass of the city, and it provides convenient access to Pennsylvania 60 and the Pittsburgh International Airport. Connections to the city are made via Interstate 279.
As was the case with Interstate 76, Interstate 79 was originally slated for a downtown path along the current Interstate 279 routing. Interstate 279 was intended for the current Interstate 79 freeway to the west of the city. The switch in designations was mandated during the 1960s.
For more, visit Interstate 79.
Interstate 279 (Penn-Lincoln Parkway West on its approach from the south and the Parkway North on its approach from the north) is the main route from Interstate 79 into the city. In addition, it carries major east-west routes U.S. 22 and 30 between the airport area and downtown. The southern half of Interstate 279 is an older route, with the vintage Fort Pitt tunnel providing one of the most dramatic scenes anywhere on the Interstate Highway System: where the freeway emerges from the tunnel and immediately crosses the Fort Pitt Bridge at it overlooks the Pittsburgh skyline. North of town, Interstate 279 is much more modern, with an express lane, but it does not have as much character as its southern half.
Interstate 79 was originally slated for a downtown path along the current Interstate 279 routing. Interstate 279 was intended for the current Interstate 79 freeway to the west of the city. The switch in designations was mandated during the 1960s.
For more, visit Interstate 279.
Currently, Interstate 376 (the Penn-Lincoln Parkway East) follows U.S. 22 between downtown Pittsburgh and Interstate 76/Pennsylvania Turnpike. It passes through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, which is one of two Interstate Highway tunnels in the Pittsburgh area. U.S. 30 is also merged with Interstate 376 from downtown to Wilkinsburg. Interstate 376 has been considered for extension from downtown Pittsburgh west along Interstate 279 to the Pittsburgh International Airport, then north along Pennsylvania 60 to Sharon. It is unclear when or if this extension will occur.
The Penn-Lincoln Parkway was originally slated to be a part of Interstate 70 when Interstates in Pennsylvania were first laid out. The current Interstate 70 was to be signed as Interstate 70S. Once this split designation was dropped, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway was to be signed Interstate 76, and Interstates 76 and 79 were to meet in downtown Pittsburgh. Interstate 76 was ultimately rerouted to the Pennsylvania Turnpike north and west of Pittsburgh to replace Interstate 80S, and the Parkway East was renumbered as Interstate 376.
For more, visit Interstate 376.
The last metro Interstate is short Interstate 579, which spurs from Interstate 279 on the north shore of the Allegheny River into downtown Pittsburgh via the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Interstate 579 was originally supposed to connect directly with Interstate 376, but instead, one must take local routes to get to Interstate 376. Interstate 579 exits directly onto the Liberty Bridge, which leads into the Liberty Tunnel.
This Interstate was signed as Interstate 479 until 1971, and was shown as Interstate 876 on the 1971/72 Penndot state map. This information obtained from Jeff Kitsko's Pennsylvania's Dearly Departed Interstates page. The lack of a complete interchange at Interstate 376 is the reason why this route is assigned an odd rather than even first digit number.
For more, visit Interstate 579.
U.S. 19 leaves the vicinity of Interstate 79 to serve Pittsburgh directly. It splits into Truck and Regular U.S. 19 at Mount Lebanon. U.S. 19 follows Cohcran Road, Banksville Boulevard, the West End Bridge, Marshall Avenue, and Perrysville Avenue through the city, but it avoids downtown. Truck U.S. 19 follows West Liberty Avenue, then merges onto Interstate 279 at Saw Mill Run Road (Pennsylvania 51). Truck U.S. 19 is merged onto Interstate 279 northbound at this point, but remains unsigned until it exits the freeway at McKnight Road. Truck U.S. 19 and U.S. 19 merge back together at McCandless.
U.S. 22, the William Penn Highway, is the Main Street of Pennsylvania. Connecting major cities such as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Allentown, U.S. 22 has several branches (U.S. 222, 322, 422, and 522) that connect to other major destinations in Pennsylvania. U.S. 22 is almost entirely freeway through its passage through the Pittsburgh area, almost entirely as part of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway. That name is taken from the merger of the Penn and Lincoln Highways, U.S. 22 and U.S. 30. Even on sections where U.S. 22 is merged onto Interstate 279 or Interstate 376, it is still fairly well-signed.
For more, visit U.S. 22.
The transcontinental Lincoln Highway passes through Pittsburgh. The route is now largely freeway, as it stays on Interstate 279 or Interstate 376 for most of its route through Pittsburgh. However, Pennsylvania 380 provides a glimpse of the original Lincoln Highway along Bigelow Boulevard. This was the original main east-west route in town. U.S. 30 leaves Interstate 376 at Exit 8 in Wilkinsburg, and it follows Lincoln Highway in a southeasterly trajectory.
For more, visit U.S. 30.
Pennsylvania 8, which begins its northerly journey at Interstate 376/U.S. 22-30 Exit 8A-B. Starting as Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg, it enters the eastern end of Pittsburgh then heads north Washington Boulevard and Butler Street before crossing the Allegheny River at the 62nd Street Bridge. Pennsylvania 8 then heads due north to Butler, Franklin, Titusville, and Union City before angling northwest into Erie. Pennsylvania 8 ends at its junction with U.S. 20 in Erie.
Pennsylvania 28 (Ohio Street/Allegheny Valley Expressway) is an expressway and freeway leading from Interstate 279 in the North Shore area in a northeasterly direction toward Fox Chapel. The freeway is rather strange, as through lanes have a propensity to become exit only lanes; the freeway narrows to only one through lane in each direction at two interchanges due to the lack of space for expanding the road. Plans call for these bottlenecks to be eliminated in a reconstruction effort, but it may take several years for such an improvement to be completed. Pennsylvania 28 continues as a freeway all the way to Kittanning, 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania 60 is the main freeway connection from Sharon south to U.S. 22-30 near the Pittsburgh International Airport. From New Castle and Sharon, it is faster to take Pennsylvania 60 to Pittsburgh instead of Interstate 79. There is a tolled section between New Castle and Interstate 76, and this tolled section is part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Plans have been circulated to extend the Interstate 376 designation along the Pennsylvania 60 freeway from Pittsburgh via Interstate 279 and U.S. 22-30 to Pennsylvania 60, then north all the way to Sharon.
Pennsylvania 380 is Bigelow Boulevard. This divided highway is a primary route from the east into downtown Pittsburgh, and it is the original routing of U.S. 22 and U.S. 30 through the city (their routes have since been moved onto Interstate 376). It seems that Pennsylvania 380 begins at its junction with Interstate 579, but it may have at one time been signed further west than that into downtown, perhaps all the way to Interstate 279 via Liberty Avenue. Pennsylvania 380 leaves the path of old U.S. 22-30 once it reaches Pennsylvania 8 near Mellon Park and Homewood. Pennsylvania 380 continues from that point east to its terminus at Pennsylvania 66 at North Washington via Saltsburg Road.
Boulevard of the Allies
The Boulevard of the Allies, which parallels Interstate 376 as a near-freeway between the downtown/Golden Triangle area east to Exit 3A-B on Interstate 376. Officially Pennsylvania 885, the Boulevard of the Allies was closed in 2001 for reconstruction. However, it was reopened by 2002, and it was immediately put into service as a crucial alternate route while other major highways, including the parkway (Interstate 279 south and Interstate 376 east) and the Fort Pitt Tunnel undergo rehabilitation that require closures.
Pittsburgh's Belt System
The Pittsburgh Belt System consists of six colored-coded route marker that define the route of six belt routes around the city in circles. The innermost belt is the Purple Belt, and it is almost entirely located downtown. The outermost belt is the Red Belt. Each belt route follows city streets to provide a complete loop around the city. The colors are ordered the colors of a rainbow from innermost loop to outermost loop: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. For more, see the Pittsburgh Belt System (Jeff Kitsko).
|Junction Blue Belt in Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh). Photos taken 05/25/02.|
|Blue Belt signage on southbound Browns Hill Road between Interstate 376 and the Waterfront at Homestead. Photo taken 05/25/02.|
Scenes around Pittsburgh
|Oakland/University of Pittsburgh
||Eastbound Forbes Avenue travels into the heart of the University of Pittsburgh, with the Cathedral of Learning rising into the blue sky above the many campus buildings and businesses of downtown Oakland. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Forbes Avenue serves the campus by splitting into two one-way streets with 5th Avenue. The two streets pass the acknowledged heart of campus at the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel near Carnegie Music Hall. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||The Cathedral of Learning was constructed in stages between 1926 and 1937. The cathedral dominates the skyline of the university, and it is prominently featured. Trips to the top of the tower can be made via elevator, affording an excellent view of the surrounding city. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Tall, with 42 stories and 535 feet in height, the Cathedral of Learning is the second tallest educational building in world. Located in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh, the tower features classrooms based on various cultures throughout the world on its first floor. The building has a wide variety of classrooms and offices, as well as a cavernous study area on the first floor. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Adjacent to the Cathedral of Learning is Heinz Chapel, which is situated at the other end of a large quad of green open space between the two buildings. For more, visit Heinz Chapel Official Site. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Southbound Braddock Avenue approaches a junction with Interstate 376/Penn-Lincoln Parkway East. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Southbound Braddock Avenue reaches its junction with Interstate 376/Penn-Lincoln Parkway East. Photo taken 10/31/04.
||Forbes Avenue, a major thoroughfare, passes underneath this building east of downtown. Photo taken 10/8/01.
||On this afternoon, a large rain shower arrived just prior to the start of the Pirates-St. Louis Cardinals game. These pictures are of downtown Pittsburgh and Point State Park (with fountain) as seen from a ferry boat connecting Station Square (just off Pennsylvania 837 on the south side of the Monongahela River) and the sports complex (PNC Park and Heinz Field). Photos taken 5/24/02.
||These buildings, located in the strip district (on the south shore of the Allegheny River), are now high-end lofts (not photographed). Notice the tree growing on the roof of one of the structures. Thanks to Jeffery Eck for the updated information about the lofts (11/12/06). Photo taken 10/8/01.
||These bridges cross the Allegheny River east of Roberto Clemente Bridge near PNC Park. Photo taken 10/8/01.
||The Roberto Clemente Bridge connects the PNC Park/North Shore with downtown Pittsburgh. This bridge is very similar in appearance to the 7th and 9th Street Bridges. Photos taken 10/8/01.
||This view of Smithfield Bridge is seen from a ferry on the same stormy afternoon. The Smithfield Bridge carries traffic from downtown south to South Shore, connecting Fort Pitt Boulevard with Carson Street. Photo taken 5/24/02.
|Views of the Pittsburgh downtown skyline as seen from Station Square, south of the Monongahela River. These pictures were taken just before a storm arrived. Photos taken 5/24/02.|
Pittsburgh Road Links
Page Updated December 23, 2006.