Imagine a time when getting around wasn't so easy. Imagine driving cross-state on mountainous, meandering two-lane roads. Stopping at intersections. Moving only as fast as the traffic ahead. That changed 75 years ago, when the first vehicles glided past gleaming blue tollbooths, down concrete ramps and onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The original, 160-mile long Turnpike opened Oct. 1, 1940 becoming America's First Superhighway.
Nobody had experienced anything like it -- an unbroken ribbon of concrete cutting through mountains and across valleys, bypassing towns. No stop signs, no intersections, no speed limits. The PA Turnpike received nationwide acclaim as an engineering marvel during its development in the late 1930s as America's first four-lane, limited-access highway.
When it opened, it paved the way for our nation's Interstate Highway System. The Turnpike established the national standard for superhighway design and construction more than 16 years before the first U.S. interstate highway. It was the granddaddy of the interstates, the model upon which other limited-access highways were built.
Today, the PA Turnpike stretches more than 550 miles -- triple its original length. It continues its legacy of innovation in the ground-transportation industry with a modern-day mission to operate a safe, reliable, customer-valued toll road system that supports national mobility and commerce. Recent advances include designing and building award-winning facilities and structures, investing in wider and smoother roadways, and providing traveler benefits such as an innovative smartphone app and a dedicated, 24/7 customer safety and response team.
Some moments last a lifetime -- especially those captured in photographs. Even today, photos have a fascinating way of telling a story without a single utterance. Relive some of the many iconic "moments in motion" -- past and present -- on this historic toll highway through the captivating photographs on the pages of the new book, "The Pennsylvania Turnpike: Moments in Motion". This comprehensive volume details the history of the Pennsylvania Turnpike on its seventy-fifth anniversary. Click here to order a copy online at the PA Turnpike's 75th Anniversary store.
Please enjoy this presentation of 75 years of Turnpike history.
Pennsylvania Turnpike 75th Anniversary Video
Click here to download a copy of the video (25MB Zip archive).
Several people have shared their memories of the Pa. Turnpike with us, and we would now like to share them with you. These are memories and in some cases photos from Pa. Turnpike employees and Turnpike enthusiasts who just wanted to share their experiences. New stories will be featured throughout the coming months. If you are interested in telling us your story, just fill out the form on our contact page to submit your information.
As a young boy growing up a mile from the Irwin Interchange of the PA turnpike in the 1970's, it provided a way to travel to Pittsburgh for any of the great sporting events. It also provided way to travel to the laurel mountains in the winter for skiing and other winter activities.
But the best and ironically most comforting memory were hearing the distant sounds of the turnpike when my friends and I would sleep in our backyards on hot summer nights. Never noisy but a quiet murmur of travelers covering many miles for the many journeys planned.
As an adult living in Philadelphia, it is way back home to visit family and friends in Western PA.
Learning its rich history is even more fascinating than just America's first superhighway. Its birth from the Vanderbilt's follies to its innovative present day mode of transportation makes more than a highway but a part of the Pennsylvania's economic development.
I look forward to continuing to make it a part of my life across this state. Happy Anniversary PA Turnpike!
-- Douglas Kemp
For more Turnpike memories, click here to view the "Turnpike Memories" story archive.
If you want to tell us your story, just fill out the form on our contact page to submit your information.