Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Even "Free" Roads Have Their Tolls

The question is not "What's in a name?":

PITTSBURGH (AP)--Those who travel from the suburb of Monroeville through the city and to the Pittsburgh International Airport know they must drive along one roadway that has four names--Interstate 376, Interstate 279, Routes 22/30 and Route 60.

But the state recently commissioned a report that examined what it would take to give the 90-mile stretch of interstate one, easily identifiable name.

The question is, "How much does the name cost?":

According to the report that was recently accepted by the Federal Highway Administration, the project would cost $91 million, which would cover the cost of signs and road modifications.
Who thought that this was a good idea? Admittedly, the four names can be confusing to out-of-towners, especially those coming in from the Airport. Has anyone considered why the roadway has the designations that it does?

Here is some background, for those unfamiliar with this area. As a boy, I got to know the portion of this road in my area as the Penn Lincoln Parkway. I knew not why it had two names, but they sounded historical. Historical was good. In 5th Grade, I finally learned that there was a number attached to the Parkway. What was the significance of 22/30? Wasn't it easier for drivers to remember "Penn Lincoln"? (I learned my lesson after I grew up and had to drive on highways. No driver cares who the road was named after.)

The name is a combination of the two highways that form a single road in the Greater Pittsburgh area. US Route 30, the Lincoln Highway, is part of a historical road stretching from New York to San Francisco. US Route 22 in Pennsylvania is the William Penn Highway, named for the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Neither of these names should be touched.

The Interstate highway names (I-279 and I-376) come from the Parkway's proximity to Interstates 79 and 76. 279 starts with an even number, indicating that it is a beltway connecting with I-79 in two different places. 376 starts with an odd number, indicating that it is a spur of I-76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike). It connects the Turnpike in eastern Allegheny County with I-279 in downtown Pittsburgh.

I-279 goes from the western suburbs (where it is called the Parkway West) to the northern suburbs (where it is the Parkway North). I-376 (the Parkway East) connects I-279 with the eastern suburbs. If I-279 and I-376 are given the same name, we will have a Y-shaped interstate. How in the heck can someone from out of town tell where they are going? Ask the Scarecrow from Oz for directions, just to have him point both ways?

More importantly, is this really worth $91 million? I am all in favor of maintaining and improving the infrastructure, but this is outside the bounds. It would be cheaper to just do what I did as a child -- call it the Penn Lincoln Parkway like it says on the map, and be done with it.

No comments: