Search WWW

Field Notes:
Layers of Roads: Northern Turnpike, Old and New William Penn Highways and the Parkway East at Churchill, Allegheny County, PA

In reply to a discussion about the tangle of roads laid over top of each other near the Churchill Interchange of the Penn Lincoln Parkway, here is a mix of history and speculation:

A book at the Monroeville Library says the Penn Lincoln Parkway extension (now I-376, previously I-76) was built in 1961, and it was two lanes each direction with a wide grass median. The median became two additional lanes with Jersey barrier in 1975-76.

William Penn Highway (Business US22) thru Monroeville was constructed as three lanes in 1940-41. The quickly-decaying concrete overpass near the Monroeville Borough Bldg has a 1940 keystone embedded. This is also just west of where Wm Penn Hwy crosses over and cuts its predecessor: Northern Pike (c.1820). The road was widened to five lanes in 1957.

Old Willam Penn Highway (two-lane concrete) was displaced in several places west of where it crosses under the Bessemer and Lake Erie RR at Leak Run. McCully Rd was cut in half by the Parkway Extension, and a small section of the c.1919 Old Wm Penn Hwy lies on the south side of the new highway. A newer routing was laid along the northern edge. The course was altered a bit more before the Jefferson Heights Rd intersection and I suspect Green Valley Rd may have been an earlier Old Wm Penn Hwy.

Just across the Jefferson Heights bridge (which is to be replaced in Y2K) the old path of Northern Pike emerges from the Hall Station valley and it's cut off by the Parkway Extension road cut. OWPH sneaks back under the Parkway Extension and ascends thru a few hundred feet of Wilkins Twp where it picks up another stub of Northern Pike. When OWPH enters Churchill Boro it is renamed McCrady Rd (probably named for an early settler).

Terrasever shows the change of pavement as the road emerges on what would have been a rather high cliff but has been cut and filled . Rodi Rd (which replaced a previous Larimer Rd, some stubs still exist in Penn Hills) is built on a series of filled embankments from 1961.

The fill carrying McCrady OWPH is visible where it leads to Rodi Rd. However, note that McCrady continued through the Parkway Extension to what is now a dead end section near the golf course. This dead-end is a two lane concrete original section. When the original Parkway came to town in 1950, it met with Old and New William Penn, which in front of the Churchill Boro Bldg are the same. The road behind the municipal building is Northern Pike.

The portion of McCrady Rd in front of the old Beulah Church was built during Parkway construction. (More detailed history is available from the church website.) This connector would not have been needed when the 1941 Wm Penn Hwy merged into the end of the Parkway extending from Pgh. But further east beyond where the suburban homes line the north side of the street, an older section of OWPH and Northern Pike is set off to the north; it is cut off by the high embankment of the Parkway Extension.

The goofy left entrances and left entrances at Churchill made more sense when the Parkway originally melted into the 1941 Wm Penn Hwy heading east into Wilkins. The entrance/exit at Churchill Rd was also apparently added as a way to patch things together. And technically EB traffic from Wilkinsburg to Wilkins is supposed to turn right onto Beulah Rd (which also has an Old Beulah Rd oxbow), then turn left onto Churchill Rd and enter the Parkway in the right lane for immediate exit at Wilkins (yeah right...never happens). The section of Churchill Rd nearest the Parkway was part of Northern Pike.

Following Wm Penn down toward Wilkins, the road rides along a filled embankment to the new Rodi Rd intersection. This was the first place I remember seeing an emergency call box. It was once in the middle of nowhere but suburbia has caught up with it. Imagine the whole area as the hole it once was. There are also remnants of the lower elevation and bridges of Wm Penn Hwy before the 1961 changes.

When you get to Merrie Wood Dr, you'll find the old path of Wm Penn Hwy (Rodi Rd / Larimer Rd) as it follows the creek valley. There is a 1941 PA Dept of Hwys bridge down there: the kind with the mission-style ballustrade. Look at the Terraserver image to follow the old road's path as it crosses under the current WPH and become signed as Lower Rodi Rd near Lougeay Rd. Before 1941, there was no simple east-west road through this area. Most of the original roads lead southward to the Turtle Creek Valley.

Northern Turnpike (about a half-mile north) was one of the few east-west routes...and one of the few that cut contrary to the natural north-south creek valleys. It was followed, in time and roughly in course, by (Old) William Penn Hwy...which used more modern technology of grading and paving, but was still pushed about by the merciless topography. The transition continues in 1941 WPH which used more cuts and fills and longer bridges including the high-level sprandrel-braced arch at Hall Station. By 1961, there were no obstacles, and the Parkway Extension cut through Monroeville as an arbitrarily drawn curve on a map.

Submit info or inquiry - share some facts or ask a question.

Page created: Page created: 22-Nov-1999
Last modified: 22-Nov-1999