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US 50 in Clarksburg, WV

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Tom958:
Yesterday I replied to a signage-related Facebook post about something near Clarksburg, WV, and I took the opportunity to have a look at US 50 downtown after seeing some funky-looking ramps there. I'd just assumed that the freeway segment there that appears in the Rand McNally atlas was a boring modern highway like the one in Parkersburg. No. Not even.

To make a long story short, this impressive railroad viaduct spanning US 50 and Sycamore Street was built in 1937, but US 50 passing under it wasn't opened until the late fifties-early sixties. The second portion to open, a bridge spanning Elk Creek east of downtown, came along in 1955; this aerial photo from 1957 shows it open, but not a hint of construction anywhere else that I see. The other bridge over Elk Creek, much nearer to the rail viaduct, was finished in 1958. Unfortunately, there's not another historicaerial until 1982, when everything was finished, and the USGS topos found at that site are unconvincing and unhelpful.

If a false start was made on building a freeway here in 1937, it would've been one of the earliest freeways in the nation, contemporary with what became the Hollywood and Pasadena Freeways in Los Angeles. I find that absolutely fascinating, and I'm surprised that I'd never heard of it.

I'm sure there are people here who know all about this, and/or who can direct me to online sources about it. And... hopefully, people will just want to talk about it.

 

Dirt Roads:
Sorry, no dice here.  That viaduct went over a B&O branch line that connected northwest of here and skirted along the northside of downtown.  Back in the 1920s, Sycamore Street was routed through that third bay under the viaduct pretty much the same way that it is today.  By the early 1950s, the downtown branch had been abandoned and several roads popped up along its old alignment.  From the look of this viaduct structure, there may have been separate tracks in each of the two bays that carries Corridor D today.

The 1958 USGS map shows the eastern end of the Clarksburg Freeway completed from Pike Street East to the Third Street RIRO exit and just beyond the North Fourth Street overpass.  The USGS actually shows an elevated fill that runs from about Fifth Street past Sixth Street and then turning northward along what is now College Street.  It looks like another railroad branch ran along that fill line back in the 1920s.  Since the Clarksburg Freeway runs along the creekbank elevation and slightly depressed as compared to the streets in downtown Clarksburg, it looks like the railroad fill was removed during the construction of the freeway.  Anyhow, US-50 continued to use the Pike Street (westbound) and Main Street (eastbound) until Corridor D was completed from Wilsonburg in 1977.  That section was routed beneath the B&O Mainline viaduct that you posted here and connected to the lightly used section constructed in the late 1950s.

For the history books, that early section of the Clarksburg Freeway would have been the earliest section of freeway completed in West Virginia except that it didn't have a fully functioning exit at Third Street back then (and the east end simply dumped onto Pike Street). 

Tom958:

--- Quote from: Dirt Roads on May 03, 2022, 08:03:51 PM ---Sorry, no dice here.  That viaduct went over a B&O branch line that connected northwest of here and skirted along the northside of downtown.  Back in the 1920s, Sycamore Street was routed through that third bay under the viaduct pretty much the same way that it is today.  By the early 1950s, the downtown branch had been abandoned and several roads popped up along its old alignment.  From the look of this viaduct structure, there may have been separate tracks in each of the two bays that carries Corridor D today.

The 1958 USGS map shows the eastern end of the Clarksburg Freeway completed from Pike Street East to the Third Street RIRO exit and just beyond the North Fourth Street overpass.  The USGS actually shows an elevated fill that runs from about Fifth Street past Sixth Street and then turning northward along what is now College Street.  It looks like another railroad branch ran along that fill line back in the 1920s.  Since the Clarksburg Freeway runs along the creekbank elevation and slightly depressed as compared to the streets in downtown Clarksburg, it looks like the railroad fill was removed during the construction of the freeway.  Anyhow, US-50 continued to use the Pike Street (westbound) and Main Street (eastbound) until Corridor D was completed from Wilsonburg in 1977.  That section was routed beneath the B&O Mainline viaduct that you posted here and connected to the lightly used section constructed in the late 1950s.

For the history books, that early section of the Clarksburg Freeway would have been the earliest section of freeway completed in West Virginia except that it didn't have a fully functioning exit at Third Street back then (and the east end simply dumped onto Pike Street).

--- End quote ---

Thanks for that! (Sorry for the late reply. I've had a rough couple of days)

I still think that the B&O viaduct was built as a crossing of at least a four-lane highway as well as Sycamore Street. One other data point Is the placement of the decorative B&O shields: one over each future roadway, in the direction of traffic flow. It seems unlikely that they would've built it that way if it was intended only to cross some (four?!?) train tracks.

One caveat is that the highway may not have been envisioned initially as having fully controlled access. The lay of the land, though, makes only the Chestnut Street and the Thirteen Street-Sycamore Street interchanges appear to be optional (the former, per Bridgehunter, was built in 1958, the latter in 1961). However, the Fourth and Sixth Street bridges were there before new US 50, and having the new highway intersect them at grade would've been expensive to the point of infeasibility as well as inferior in perfomance-- unless that railroad embankment you mentioned was high enough to meet Fourth and/or Sixth Streets at grade and the bridges were extended over the highway when it was built. What I found at http://bridgehunter.com/wv/harrison/bh92846/ and http://bridgehunter.com/wv/harrison/bh92847/ weighs against that possibility, though:

The 1933 Fourth Street Bridge


The ancient Fourth Street Bridge


I'm gonna email https://www.clarksburghistorymuseum.com/ about it.

Bitmapped:

--- Quote from: Tom958 on May 05, 2022, 05:54:39 AM ---
--- Quote from: Dirt Roads on May 03, 2022, 08:03:51 PM ---Sorry, no dice here.  That viaduct went over a B&O branch line that connected northwest of here and skirted along the northside of downtown.  Back in the 1920s, Sycamore Street was routed through that third bay under the viaduct pretty much the same way that it is today.  By the early 1950s, the downtown branch had been abandoned and several roads popped up along its old alignment.  From the look of this viaduct structure, there may have been separate tracks in each of the two bays that carries Corridor D today.

The 1958 USGS map shows the eastern end of the Clarksburg Freeway completed from Pike Street East to the Third Street RIRO exit and just beyond the North Fourth Street overpass.  The USGS actually shows an elevated fill that runs from about Fifth Street past Sixth Street and then turning northward along what is now College Street.  It looks like another railroad branch ran along that fill line back in the 1920s.  Since the Clarksburg Freeway runs along the creekbank elevation and slightly depressed as compared to the streets in downtown Clarksburg, it looks like the railroad fill was removed during the construction of the freeway.  Anyhow, US-50 continued to use the Pike Street (westbound) and Main Street (eastbound) until Corridor D was completed from Wilsonburg in 1977.  That section was routed beneath the B&O Mainline viaduct that you posted here and connected to the lightly used section constructed in the late 1950s.

For the history books, that early section of the Clarksburg Freeway would have been the earliest section of freeway completed in West Virginia except that it didn't have a fully functioning exit at Third Street back then (and the east end simply dumped onto Pike Street).

--- End quote ---

Thanks for that! (Sorry for the late reply. I've had a rough couple of days)

I still think that the B&O viaduct was built as a crossing of at least a four-lane highway as well as Sycamore Street. One other data point Is the placement of the decorative B&O shields: one over each future roadway, in the direction of traffic flow. It seems unlikely that they would've built it that way if it was intended only to cross some (four?!?) train tracks.

--- End quote ---

The National Bridge Inventory says the bridge over US 50 was built in 1960. I suspect that the original 1937 bridge over Sycamore Street was extended when the US 50 freeway was built.

Tom958:

--- Quote from: Bitmapped on May 05, 2022, 09:22:26 AM ---The National Bridge Inventory says the bridge over US 50 was built in 1960. I suspect that the original 1937 bridge over Sycamore Street was extended when the US 50 freeway was built.
--- End quote ---

I have a hard time believing that. The Bridgereports entry has issues; it doesn't even have the usual place for a modification date, and the span length is apparently the width of the spanned roadway measured perpendicularly to the roadway rather than the usual actual length of the two spans. Beyond that... does this really look like something that's been added onto?

There's some other stuff, too, detailed below. I think it's likely that the Bridgereports entry is simply mistaken. I love Bridgereports, but I've found mistakes there before.


--- Quote from: Dirt Roads ---https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=31465.msg2734594#msg2734594The USGS actually shows an elevated fill that runs from about Fifth Street past Sixth Street and then turning northward along what is now College Street.  It looks like another railroad branch ran along that fill line back in the 1920s.  Since the Clarksburg Freeway runs along the creekbank elevation and slightly depressed as compared to the streets in downtown Clarksburg, it looks like the railroad fill was removed during the construction of the freeway.
--- End quote ---

I didn't really understand what you were saying here (and I must not be as good at finding old USGS maps), so I had a look at the 1926 map. I don't really see the line along College Street, but there's a railroad spur that runs westward from Fourth Street along the future route of US 50! So, it seems extremely unlikely that the 1937 bridge wasn't built in one phase rather than being extended in, say, 1960.

On the 1958 map I looked at, the rail spur is gone, but the contours for that cut are visible. There's an unexcavated plug right at Broaddus Avenue, though, where the interchange bridge is now. Could that have been a short tunnel? Sure looks like it. Also, the photo I posted above of the 1933 Glen Elk Viaduct/Fourth Street bridge mentioned an interurban line. Maybe that plays into all of this somehow.

I sent a concise message to the museum in Clarksburg. Maybe something will come of it.

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