Interstate 76 or I -76 is an Interstate Highway in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The highway connects the Ohio city of Youngstown via Pittsburgh and Harrisburg with Philadelphia. Most of the highway is a toll road, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The toll-free portion is located in Philadelphia, and a portion north of Pittsburgh. The trail in Pennsylvania is 563 kilometers long.
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I-76 at Monroeville near Pittsburgh.
Northwest of Enon Valley, Interstate 76 in Ohio enters the state of Pennsylvania from the Youngstown region. The highway then has 2×2 lanes, and you pass through slightly sloping area. Near Big Beaver, the first interchange soon follows, with State Route 60, a highway from Pittsburgh to New Castle. The area then becomes a bit more hilly, and you quickly reach the furthest suburbs of Pittsburgh. At Warrendale one crosses Interstate 79, which runs from Pittsburgh to Erie. If you want to go downtown Pittsburgh, it’s best to take this highway, as I-76 only goes through the northernmost and eastern suburbs. One then passes through hilly areas dotted with small suburbs of usually only a few thousand inhabitants. This section is a toll road, so there are few exits.
The highway goes around the densely built-up parts of the agglomeration quite well. The area is also quite densely wooded and hilly, so there is no grid pattern. One then crosses State Route 28, the highway from Pittsburgh to Kittaning, but there are no direct interchanges. Soon after, the highway crosses the Allegheny River, a tributary of the Ohio River. The highway just has 2×2 lanes here. On the eastern side of the conurbation, one crosses Interstate 376, the eastern highway of the city of Pittsburgh. After that, the suburbs quickly become thinner, and they are further apart. At Greensburg you still cross the US 30, a somewhat larger highway to the southeast. After that you really leave the big thin conurbation, and not much further Interstate 70 joins in, coming from Columbus in Ohio. Both roads are then double-numbered over a large distance.
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I-76 near the Blue Mountain Tunnel.
The double numbering of I-70 with I-76 is one of the longest in the United States and is 197 kilometers long. The Turnpike then winds through the mountains, the central part of Pennsylvania is quite mountainous, due to the many ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. The exits are usually 20 to 30 kilometers apart. The area is also sparsely populated. At Somerset you cross the US 219, but there are no exchange possibilities for that. Connecting northern Maryland to Johnstown, US 219 is a regional highway with no through importance. Just east of Somerset comes the first tunnel, the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel. This tunnel dates from 1939 and is almost 2 kilometers long. Tunnels are an exception in the American highway network in mountain areas. After the tunnel, the highway quickly descends a few hundred meters. At Bedford, it interchanges with Interstate 99, the highway to Altoona and State College, two cities in central Pennsylvania.
The Turnpike then continues its winding road through the Appalachian Mountains. You then pass Breezewood, the last missing link where through traffic has to take a city road. Interstate 70 turns south here toward Baltimore and Washington. Traffic to Philadelphia and New York can follow Interstate 76, which has no interruption. Breezewood is therefore an important interchange for east-west traffic. Between Breezewood and Hustontown, I-76 has a different route than it used to be. The old Turnpike went through two tunnels, which already had a lot of traffic jams before the 1960s. At the time, it was considered cheaper to build a new highway than to build a second tunnel tube.
A little further on you come to the second tunnel, the 1.6 kilometer long Tuscacora tunnel, which goes under a steep ridge. Not much further on are a third and fourth tunnel, which are 200 meters apart. First up is the Kittatinny Tunnel which is 1.5 kilometers long and the Blue Mountain Tunnel which is 1.4 kilometers long. Two parallel steep ridges are crossed here. After that, the highway runs straight to the east for miles, which at the time was still quite unusual to build in this way.
One then reaches Carlisle, a suburb of Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. Here one crosses Interstate 81, the highway from Hagerstown in Maryland to Scranton in northern Pennsylvania. To get to this highway, you have to drive one kilometer via the secondary road network. Harrisburg has about 50,000 inhabitants, but the agglomeration is a lot bigger with 652,000 inhabitants. Interstate 76 continues south of the city, with 2×2 lanes and is still a toll road. Here you cross the US 15, a regional highway to the well-known town of Gettysburg. On the south side of the city, one crosses Interstate 83, the highway from Baltimorein the south. Not far afterwards, the 1300 meter long Susquehanna River Bridge crosses the great Susquehanna River. Immediately afterwards, one crosses Interstate 283, Harrisburg ‘s eastern bypass. State Route 283 also goes here to Lancaster, a larger city in the southeast, where Interstate 76 passes at some distance.
The TOTSO of I-76 at King of Prussia, just outside of Philadelphia.
After Harrisburg, the area becomes flatter, and it consists mainly of agricultural areas. In this region are the towns of Lancaster and Reading, but Interstate 76 runs some distance between the two places. The highway also has 2×2 lanes here. US 322 runs more or less parallel to the highway. At Reamston you cross the US 222, the highway from Lancaster to Reading. Direct exchange options do not matter, having to go through a Spur Road. Interstate 176 ends at Morgantown, which runs to Reading. Then one enters the area of influence of Philadelphia, which is still about 80 kilometers to the southeast. Nevertheless, there are already some sparsely built suburbs, located in wooded areas. However, Interstate 76 still has 2×2 lanes. At King of Prussia, one really enters the conurbation, turning off Interstate 76, while the Pennsylvania Turnpike continues on Interstate 276 along the north side of Pennsylvania. Traffic to New York must follow this highway.
De Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia.
see Schuylkill Expressway for the main article.
At King of Prussia, one also directly crosses US 202, an east-west highway that runs to West Chester. Interstate 76 is called the Schuylkill Expressway here, and still has 2×2 lanes. Conshohocken crosses Interstate 476, the highway from Chester to Allentown and Scranton. The highway then runs parallel to the river after which it is named, the Schuylkill. However, the highway still has 2×2 lanes, and can cause serious traffic jams, as you get deeper and deeper into the urban area. One then reaches the city of Philadelphia itself, which has 1.4 million inhabitants. Here the US strikes 1off, the Roosevelt Expressway, which runs to the northeastern neighborhoods of Philadelphia. After this, the highway has 2×4 lanes. The highway then quickly narrows again to 2×3 lanes, while getting closer to the center. The skyline is already visible from the highway. Interstate 676 exits downtown and runs along the north side of downtown to Camden.
The highway then runs underground for a bit, where a number of bridges cross the Schuylkill River. Here the highway only has 2×2 lanes. The highway then crosses the river, passing the west side of downtown. In this area there are often dense residential areas, which are slowly emptying. You then pass a large industrial estate, and the I-76 then turns east. Here too, the highway has only 2×2 lanes. A toll plaza follows before the interchange with Interstate 95, before the toll bridge Walt Whitman Bridge over the Delaware River. This bridge has 4+3 lanes and dates from 1957. The bridge is 3.6 kilometers long and also forms the border with New Jersey. Interstate 76 in New Jerseythen continue for a few more miles to Interstate 295.
In the 1930s, plans were made for an east-west highway through the state of Pennsylvania. The highway was modeled after the German Autobahn and made use of South Pennsylvania Railraod rail tunnels through the Appalachian Mountains bored in the 1880s. In 1937 bonds were issued to finance the construction of the highway, these bonds would be repaid with tolls. Construction began on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on October 27, 1938. The construction of the first 257 kilometers took less than two years, on October 1, 1940, the highway between Irwin (near Pittsburgh) and Carlisle (near Harrisburg) opened.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is often referred to as the first freeway in the United States, but that is not correct. During the 1930s, a considerable network of parkways had already been developed around New York City, which had the characteristics of a highway from the second half of the 1930s. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was the United States’ first major highway, significantly longer than Connecticut ‘s 1938 Merritt Parkway, often considered the first freeway outside an urban region.
World War II delayed plans to quickly extend the Pennsylvania Turnpike into Philadelphia and to the Ohio border. However, the construction of the highway was a top priority after the war, on February 1, 1950 a 10-mile extension opened east to US 15 at Harrisburg and on November 20, 1950 a 145-kilometer stretch between Harrisburg and King of Prussia opened. King of Prussia is a major road junction northwest of Philadelphia. On August 7, 1951, an 11-mile section from Monroeville to Irwin, on the east side of Pittsburgh, opened, followed by the remainder of the Ohio border to Monroeville on December 26, 1951. This completed I-76 as part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The urban portion in the Philadelphia area has been developed as the Schuylkill Expressway. Construction of the highway on the Philadelphia border on the bank of the Schuylkill River began in 1949. The first section opened on September 1, 1954 through Montgomery County. Construction then continued further south, through the city of Philadelphia. In 1957, the Walt Whitman Bridge opened over the Delaware River, into New Jersey. Initially there were problems with obtaining the necessary finances, but after the Interstate Highway system was rolled out in 1956, construction became easier and on June 30, 1959 the last section of the highway opened.
I-76 featured a substandard design, with many cramped bridges with no emergency lanes and a lack of capacity, especially on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia. From 2000, more and more sections of I-76 were modernized, in some cases still retaining the original 1930s concrete. Also, many bridges have been replaced because of their age.
|Carlisle||Harrisburg (US 15)||16 km||01-02-1950|
|Harrisburg||King of Prussia||145 km||20-11-1950|
|Ohio state line||Monroeville||90 km||26-12-1951|
|King of Prussia||King of Prussia (US 202)||1 km||00-00-1951|
|King of Prussia (US 202)||Consohocken||8 km||00-00-1952|
|Consohocken||Philadelphia City Avenue||12 km||01-09-1954|
|34th Street?||Walt Whitman Bridge||10 km||16-05-1957|
|Philadelphia City Avenue||I-676||8 km||00-00-1959|
|I-676||34th Street?||3 km||30-06-1959|
About 22,000 vehicles enter the state of Pennsylvania from Ohio every day, increasing from 35,000 to 47,000 vehicles passing through Pittsburgh. East of the city this drops to 36,000 vehicles per day. After Breezewood, the I-70 turns off and the intensity drops to about 23,000 vehicles per day. Along Harrisburg, intensities aren’t much higher at 28,000. Towards Philadelphia this rises to 49,000 vehicles, but in Philadelphia the road is toll-free, and at King of Prussia there are 116,000 vehicles per day. Towards Philadelphia this rises to 131,000 vehicles, on the north side of the city 192,000 vehicles, and is heavily congested here. To the south of the center 118,000 vehicles drive every 24 hours.