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The story behind the ghost ramps around Pittsburgh International Airport

The roads around Pittsburgh International Airport have a lot of history and intrigue.  The growth of the airport and resulting land acquisitions have changed the routing of many roads in Western Allegheny County.  As the airport grew and traffic around the airport increased, the need for new highways would also change the landscape.  Of course, the fact that this is Pittsburgh means there were also plans for roads that never came to be.  Two of these never built highway plans, the Beaver Valley Expressway (BVE) extension and the full-speed connection to the Southern Expressway at Flaugherty Run Road have traces - specifically ghost ramps - of highways that never came to be.

Beaver Valley Expressway Extension:

Pavement stubs for a never-built extension of the Beaver Valley Expressway that would have bypassed the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport terminal.  (Adam Prince - October 1998)

For nearly three decades, this unused piece of roadway along the southern end of Beaver Valley Expressway puzzled Pittsburgh area travelers.  Located near the current-day maintenance hangers for Pittsburgh International Airport, this concrete stub of a highway was supposed to be the start of a bypass of the then highly congested terminal entrance at the intersection of the Airport Parkway and Beers School Road.  This 3.67-mile freeway bypass was a continuation of the Beaver Valley Expressway, which would tie back into the Airport Parkway near the current Thorn Run Road interchange.

Aerial photo of the Greater Pittsburgh Airport area in 1967.  The Airport Parkway comes to an abrupt end at the entrance to the terminal at Beers School Road.  Construction for the Beaver Valley Expressway to the north and west of here had not started yet.  (Penn Pilot)

The need for this bypass was the continued growth of what was then Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.  The Airport Parkway was constructed in the 1950s as part of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway project.  The Monroeville to Airport east-west link allowed a direct connection from the new airport to downtown.  The Airport Parkway ended grandly at the entrance to the airport's main terminal at the intersection of Beers School (now University Boulevard) and Hookstown Grade (now Stevenson Mill) Roads.  

Construction of the Beaver Valley Expressway, which would eventually run from Sharon/New Castle through Beaver County to the airport, would begin near the airport in the late 60s and open by 1972. (1)  By then, congestion around the airport terminal had become an issue.  With new thru-traffic volumes added as a result of the new freeway, plans were made to extend the BVE as a bypass of the terminal and connect with the Airport Parkway just south of the terminal.  While the plans for the expressway's extension were finalizing, a temporary four-lane connection from Flaugherty Run Road to Beers School Road was constructed. 

The routing of the proposed Beaver Valley Expressway Extension/Greater Pittsburgh Terminal Bypass.  The temporary connector road was built and remains part of Business Interstate 376 today.  The McCutcheon Interchange would never be built.  However, in 2003, the International Drive Interchange opened allowing access to cargo areas.  The bypass would have included an interchange at Carnot & Beers School Road (center) and Thorn Run Road (right edge).  Both interchanges would serve as access to the Greater Pitt International Airport Terminal.  A Thorn Run Road Interchange - different than what is shown would be constructed in the early 1990s.  (Map scan courtesy of Jeff Kitsko.)

The routing of the proposed bypass was to parallel the existing Airport Parkway and temporary connection to the north.  According to Bruce Harper, the expressway would have the following routing (2):
As planned, the Expressway would have left the Parkway West somewhere in the vicinity of Montour Heights Country Club (now the Cherrington office park), just south of the current Thorn Run interchange.  The new road would have been to the north of the (now vacant) parking lots across the Parkway from the airport terminal (through the area now populated by the office park and Royce Hotel).  It would have come up
through Port Vue Drive and hit Beers School Road where the adult book shop is, just down from the USAir Credit Union.  It would have continued west (today this is the location of the Port Authority Park and Ride Lot), skirting behind Rosemont Estates (the subdivision behind the car wash) and tying in with the new Expressway just beyond the cargo buildings.
Although some property was acquired, the extension and terminal bypass never came to be. (2)  The need for a terminal bypass became moot in the late 1980s when construction for the airport's new Landside Terminal and direct access from the Southern Expressway (PA 60, now I-376) began.  The new highway and terminal began operation in 1992.  Over a decade later, the concrete ghost stubs for the Beaver Valley Expressway extension were removed during the construction of the International Drive interchange in 2003. 

By 2003, this was all that was left of the Expressway's extension ghost stubs. (Denny Pine)

Flaugherty Run Road High-Speed Interchange Stubs:

The Flaugherty Run Road interchange sits not that far north of the Beaver Valley Expressway Extension stub.  The diamond interchange was opened in the early 1970s when the Beaver Valley Expressway made its way toward the airport.  When the Southern Expressway was constructed in the early 1990s, a half-interchange connection between the two freeways was built just to the north.  This connection did not allow northbound traffic along the BVE to make a "U-Turn," so to speak, onto the Southern Expressway or northbound PA 60 traffic to exit for access to the cargo and maintenance areas along the Beaver Valley.  Initial plans were to build a high-speed freeway-to-freeway access utilizing some of the ramps from the Flaugherty Run Road interchange. In addition, Flaughery Run Road traffic would have access to/from the Southern Expressway. 

Ghost ramp stub for the unbuilt high-speed connection between the Beaver Valley Expressway and Southern Expressway. (Adam Prince - December 2003)

At the time of construction, the high-speed connection was determined unnecessary, and the access ramps to/from Flaugherty Run Road would serve as the connection between the two freeways. Final construction included grading work for some of the ramps along with a wide median that would allow for future construction of the bridges that would carry the higher-speed ramps.  Today, there are no plans to build the high-speed ramps as it is viewed as unnecessary.

Ghost ramp stub for the unbuilt high-speed connection between the Beaver Valley Expressway and Southern Expressway. (Adam Prince - December 2003)
Site Navigation:
Sources & Links:
Update Log:
  • June 5, 2005 - General details on both topics added to gribblenation.com
  • April 27, 2017 - Full article published at gribblenation.org
  • January 15, 2023 - Navigation to SWPA Roads Index added (small spelling errors fixed)
  • February 19, 2023 - Beaver Valley Expressway map from Jeff Kitsko added along with full grammar/spelling review.
  • July 1, 2023 - Added Links to Pittsburgh Airport related topics at site.

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