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The New PA 48 - The Unbuilt Eastern Allegheny County Freeway

From the 1950s to the 1980s, there was a proposal to build a 4-lane expressway paralleling PA Route 48. This proposed highway was officially known as the "North-South Parkway", but locally known as the "New 48". Sadly, this route never came to be; however, it is the predecessor of another highway, The Mon-Fayette Expressway. The "New 48" was a highly debated route that really never got beyond the planning stages. There are very few remnants of construction left.

History: 

Originally proposed during post-war Pittsburgh, the "New 48" was a lot of talk; however, it really never saw much work done. Most of the discussion, planning, land acquisitions, and right-of-way clearing occurred from the early 1960s to 1974. The "New 48" would also have gone by the term "North-South Parkway". This was the term for the highway used in White Oak: A Master Plan completed by the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Commission in 1960. (1)

The early 60s would see much of the logistical and planning work take place for the new highway. On May 24, 1963, a public hearing was held to discuss plans for the new highway; however, there were not any follow-up articles published about the hearing. Throughout 1964 tensions between Southwestern Pennsylvania Planners and the State Department of Highways escalated as political and business leaders in Southwestern PA began to doubt the state's commitment. On May 22, 1964, Mr. William Proudfit of the Route 48 Association spoke at 9:00 am at a super-conference of State Highways Officials and local leaders held in Monroeville (2). Leaders and backers of various other highways also spoke at this conference. Unfortunately, it is not known what was discussed.

The New 48 was one of the top regional priorities throughout the 1960s. The county considered the highway from Boston to US 22 as a top priority of construction between 1964-1970. The projected cost was $28 million. From Boston South to PA 51 was planned for construction between 1970-1976 for $15 million. Both segments would be based on deficit financing and were ranked sixth in importance. (3) An Allegheny County status report of the highway in September 1964 said that "Route 48 - PA 51 to Peterman's Corner [The intersection of Saltsburg and Frankstown Road in Penn Hills] is under preliminary design; some parts further along than others." (4) A June 1966 status checklist compiled by Allegheny County listed PA 48 from Boston to US 22 as planned for construction in 1968 with completion by the fall of 1969. However, the final design and property acquisition were never completed. (5)

In the late 1960s, land was acquired in White Oak Borough. Much of this land was at or near the current intersection of Route 48 and Lincoln Way. The state purchased the land containing the Rainbow Gardens Amusement Park via eminent domain. The park closed and was torn down in 1968. The park was home to a drive-in movie theater, swimming pool, roller rink, and a few rides.

PAHighways.com webmaster, Jeff Kitsko, has a personal story about the NEW 48:
Right of way was cleared including the amusement park that my mother used to go to as a child, Rainbow Gardens in White Oak. Now it is a shopping center called Oak Park Mall and nearly every time we drive past she says, "That used to be my amusement park. They tore down my park to build a road!"
According to Matt Boyko, there was once a proposal for an "East-West Expressway" that would have begun at US 30 at either the PA Turnpike Irwin Interchange or at the western end of the current-day US 30 Greensburg Bypass and would run from those points West to current day Interstate 79 in the Heidelberg area. The New 48 and the proposed East-West Expressway would have shared a brief alignment in White Oak near the current PA 48 and Lincoln Way Intersection. I was also told by family that the Rainbow Gardens area was to have a large cloverleaf interchange with Lincoln Way.

The few remnants of right-of-way clearing for the New 48 were located in White Oak and South Versailles. For decades, the former site of Rainbow Gardens sat empty. It wasn't until the early 1990s that the state finally sold the land reserved for the highway, and the Oak Park Mall was constructed.  Also, directly across from the old Rainbow Gardens were a few residential streets and businesses, these were also removed, and for many years you could tell where the old homes once were. Along Center Street in South Versailles, several homes were claimed with the only remnants being staircases from the road. (1)

Little is known about what officially killed this project - or if any definitive plans for the route of this highway were made. However, it is safe to assume that like many of the regions and the state's highway projects of that era, PennDOT's financial struggles killed any chance for the highway to be built.

When the Mon Valley/Mon-Fayette project was resurrected in the 1980s, leaders of Eastern Allegheny County communities had hoped that the revived highway would follow the path of the New 48. However, this routing was quickly removed from consideration as the state chose a route that will run closer to Pittsburgh.  In the early 1990s, PennDOT finally sold off the remaining right-of-way in White Oak thus ending any chances of the "New 48" ever being built.


Routing & Construction Plan:

The highway was broken up into three sections - north, south, and middle.  The South Section was from PA 51 northwards across the Youghiogheny River to Center Street in Versailles.  The Middle Section - to be constructed first - ran from Center Street in Versailles to just beyond the PA 48 and 130 junction near Pitcairn.  The North Section would continue the highway into Monroeville until terminating at US 22.

Middle Section:

The middle section would be a seven-mile freeway with interchanges at Long Run Road (existing PA 48) near Center Street, Lincoln Way (both shown on the map below), US 30 (where a temporary diamond interchange with Route 30 would be built, due to uncertainty of a US 30 Bypass in the area), an interchange with PA 130 (Broadway Boulevard) near Trafford, and finally at Haymaker Road about one-half mile north of Broadway Boulevard. (6)

Map showing a plan of the PA 48 Freeway through White Oak Borough.  The PA 48 Freeway (1076-3) is the thicker line in the image.  It shows interchanges with Jacks Run Road (PA 48) just southeast of the Ripple Road/Center Ave. Extension intersection.  The highway would head south to the Youghiogheny River from here.  The former location of Rainbow Gardens is shown - it was purchased by PennDOT to make room for an interchange with Lincoln Way.  This rendering shows a different (possibly incomplete) interchange than the often-mentioned cloverleaf.  (7)

The middle section of the new freeway would displace 107 residential homes and 26 businesses. The relocations were split into three sub-sections to not upend local real estate markets.  According to PennDOT's 1972 Environmental Impact Statement, right-of-way acquisition had begun in the first third of the project. (6)

A key point of contention in the middle section was acquiring land around Allegheny County's White Oak Park.  The highway's original plan had a half-diamond interchange with McClintock Road near the park's entrance.  As part of a compromise with the county, the exit was omitted.  Further, McClintock Road would be truncated and remain a circulating road within the park.  The State, County, and the nearby McKeesport Sportsman's Association would come to a land agreement in 1973. (8)

To avoid White Oak Park as much as possible, the 48 Freeway would cross over existing PA 48 (Jacks Run Road) twice, once south and north of the park.  A bridge would also have the new highway cross over McKee Road - west of White Oak Park.

US 30 would go over the new PA 48 - east of the former K-Mark Plaza.  The highway would then remain east of current PA 48 - cross over the railroad tracks and Turtle Creek before the Broadway Boulevard Interchange.

Northern Section:

The next section for construction would be the highway north to Route 22.  As of 1972, analysis of various alternative alignments for this section was underway.  The recommended corridor would see the removal of two residences and 13 businesses. (6)

The plans mention the former Burke Glen Amusement Park in Monroeville as one of the environmental concerns for the northern section of the highway.  Burke Glen was located on Route 22 east of the PA Turnpike Interchange at Elliott Road.  The park, which once had rides and a roller coaster, was home to a swimming pool, driving range, and miniature golf in the early 1970s. The park closed for good in 1974.  This area along US 22 between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and PA 286 seems to be the most fitting for a northern terminus of the route.  

The mention of the former Burke Glen Park in the 1972 PennDOT document confirms a note that Bruce Cridlebaugh shared:
The old Monroeville map that the real estate companies used to give out in the 70s showed a proposed PA 48. It looked like the new highway would've crossed Northern Pike at Deauville Apartments/LaVale Dr. This would've brought the road to meet US 22 nearly a mile east of the PA Turnpike -- east of Giant Eagle on Old Wm Penn Hwy -- in the area of the former Burke's Glen Pool (now a car dealer).

Southern Section:

1968 Gulf Oil / Rand-McNally
The southern third of the freeway - across the Youghiogheny River through Elizabeth Township to PA 51 - would be built last.  As of 1972, only preliminary engineering studies were performed.  Original estimates had roughly 100 homes that would need to be purchased for this section - with 80 homes being removed in the Elizabeth Township community of Boston. (6)

The highway would run nearly due south from the Youghiogheny River to PA 51, crossing over the existing PA 48 three times.

The state planned to avoid Elizabeth Forward High School and Round Hill Park - another Allegheny County Park.  In the 1970s, an easement bordered by PA 48, Round Hill Park, and Dillon Road was surveyed and marked by the state. (8) This seems to be a likely route as it would avoid Elizabeth Forward High School and Round Hill Park.  The highway would have crossed PA 48 at or south of the Elizabeth Forward School District Bus Garage and possibly utilized the grounds of the former NIKE missile site on its way to Route 51.


Route Uncertainty:

Maps of the time showed a variety of general routings of the proposed highway.  From Rand-McNally, Allegheny County planning maps, and even PennDOT drawings for unrelated projects showed the new highway with different bends and crossings along the same general corridor.  

1973 Allegheny County Municipal Map

A 1973 Allegheny County municipal map appears to match the routing for the middle section of the highway; however, it has the highway running through Monroeville to the west of PA 48 versus the overall details in the 1972 PennDOT report.  Sadly, scans of this report do not include images of the proposed corridors for the northern and southern sections.  Maps or reports of these two sections would certainly be key pieces of the overall puzzle.

As always, if you have any additional details about this project, leave a comment, or drop me an e-mail.

Site Navigation:

Sources & Links:
Update Log:
  • Page first published on gribblenation.com - August 18, 2000
  • Last Gribblenation.com Update - January 6, 2005
  • Moved to gribblenation.net - December 22, 2017
  • Much-needed grammar/spelling corrections and minor updates - December 27, 2020.
  • SWPA Roads Project Index Link added - January 15, 2023.
  • Updated to include more detail on possible routing from US 30 to Monroeville - February 19, 2023.
  • Full rewrite to document the planned construction timeline, routing detail, and White Oak interchanges scan - July 4, 2023.

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