PA 791
Rodi Road Expressway

Many Pittsburghers know Rodi Road from the traffic reports heard every morning and evening.  The reason because traffic on the Parkway East will back-up from the Squirrel Hill Tunnel all the way to the PA 791 interchange.  However, what many Pittsburghers don't know is that Rodi Road itself was supposed to become an expressway.

Proposed in the 1963 Transportation Plan, the expressway was discussed for years but nothing done.  On February 18, 1971, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced that it would build an expressway along the Rodi Road corridor.  Construction would begin in late 1973 on the 1.9-mile-long, $12 million expressway.  It would be built as a four-lane facility at a point on Rodi Road north of the interchange with I-376, and end at an interchange with Frankstown Road.  The expressway would parallel Rodi Road to the east, and cross the existing highway about 400 feet north of the Duff Road-Rodi Road intersection.  It would continue north to the west of Rodi Road and go beneath Frankstown Road.  Eventually the expressway was be built all the way to the Allegheny Valley Expressway near Exit 10 and south to the cancelled East-West Expressway in North Versailles.  After that interchange, it would become the Southern Circumferential to I-79 near Bridgeville.  Interchanges would have been built at the following locations:

Click on map for a more detailed plan.

There would be no access to or from the expressway between Churchill and Frankstown Road.  Portions of old Rodi Road would continue to be used for local traffic.

The Rodi Road Expressway would also see the protesting that other proposed expressways of the time, such as the East Street Valley and South Hills Expressways, were receiving.  However, the Rodi Road Association, comprised of a group of Penn Hills residents in the path of the proposed expressway, accepted their fate and were upset with the low amount of compensation awarded by the State to homeowners.  They joined forces with the North Side High Emergency And Relocation Team (HEART), which was a group of homeowners in the East Street Valley facing the same problem.  Henry P. Otto, chairman of the association and former state legislator, estimated that about 100 homes and other private structures would have to be demolished before construction could begin.  They came together to support House Bill 2653, which would pay residents in the path of expressways as much as $5,000 each beyond what the state appraisers value their properties.  The group hoped to amended the bill so that anyone in the path of any expressway construction in Pennsylvania could be awarded the money.

Seems everything was backwards with this proposal, as of all groups, the Allegheny County engineers came out against the Rodi Road Expressway on November 10, 1970.  Allegheny County Planning Commission staffers favored improving Frankstown Road as a means for speeding up traffic between Pittsburgh and the eastern suburbs.  Penn Hills officials were also averse to the idea because they felt it would do little to solve the bottleneck at the intersection of Rodi and Frankstown Roads, which was one of the worst in the county.  One of the officials said, "The expressway would rush Parkway traffic up a high-speed corridor--straight into a traffic snarl."  The county staffers made the following principle recommendations:

  1. Defer construction of a link between the Parkway and Frankstown Road until a top quality north-south traffic route is laid out.
  2. Improve east-west traffic flow in the eastern boroughs by widening Frankstown Road from two to four lanes between Leechburg Road and Graham Boulevard.
  3. Unravel the existing Rodi-Frankstown Road intersection congestion by eliminating traffic from Universal and Jefferson Roads by swinging it east to a new intersection with Frankstown opposite Lime Hollow Road.
The county staffers also pointed out that Frankstown Road parallels the Penn-Lincoln Parkway.  One staffer said, "If Rodi Road Expressway is built now as designed, it'll be just another traffic generator of Parkway traffic."  County staffers figured their plan would be far less than the $13 million projected for the expressway option.

In 1971, Penn Hills Township rejected the PennDOT plan to convert Rodi Road into an expressway because of the loss of tax revenues from the properties that would be taken for the right-of-way.  After the decision, claims that PennDOT had downgraded Penn Hills on its construction priority list were made by Roger Sebastian, president of the township commissioners.  In response, James Hobbs, an assistant district engineer for PennDOT, said, "They (the commissioners) think we're ignoring them over Rodi Road but we're not.  There just has been some misunderstandings over procedures we have to use to get new highways."

After the cancellation of the expressway, some widening was done near the Parkway, but the township asked the state to substitute a $2-3 million intersection improvement at Rodi and Frankstown Roads.  In August 1971, in a letter from PennDOT to the Allegheny County Planning Commission announced nine other projects were substituted for the Rodi Road Expressway, but none of them in Penn Hills.  Hobbs said District 11 recommended the intersection improvement be placed 35th in its list of 180 "priorities" covering Allegheny and Beaver Counties.  In the $500 million, six-year program Allegheny County proposed, the intersection was placed fifth of 150 projects.

Penn Hills got an improved Rodi Road after a decade of waiting.  At 10 AM, on October 17, 1985, ground was broken for a $1.3 million realignment and widening project near the Penn Hills Shopping Center at the intersection of Rodi and Linhart Roads.  George Younker, PennDOT's engineer for the project, said, "It's an important project for the community and we want to recognize its start.  This is an unusual time of year to start a project but we want to being selected work on widening and drainage over winter."  The intersections of Linhart, Universal, and Jefferson Roads were combined into a single intersection.  The project concluded in August 1986.

PA 791
East-West Expressway (Cancelled)
Southern Circumferential (Cancelled)
East Liberty Expressway (Cancelled)

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Page updated January 14, 2006.
Content and graphics, unless otherwise noted, copyright Jeffrey J. Kitsko. All rights reserved.
Information courtesy of the Pittsburgh Area Transportation Plan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Press.