The origins of this expressway lie in the 1986 state budget, where not only $50 million was set aside for the new airport terminal, but an additional $70 million put towards this roadway. Then Governor Richard Thornburgh and his transportation secretary, Tom Larson, managed to get those two projects into that year's budget. "I never really mentioned the highway," said David Donahoe, who was the county's airport director at the time. "But the state agreed to push for a substantial amount of money for the Midfield Terminal. Then Tom Larson and the governor looked at it and said, 'This isn't complete without the highway.' On their own initiative, they included the highway. I was shocked." Both the expressway and terminal were under construction simultaneously.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 27, 1990, and construction began in earnest soon afterwards. PennDOT faced several challenges while building the new expressway such as subsurface mine fires, coal mine voids, inactive landfill areas, hilly terrain, and wetland areas. At one point, while working near the runways at night, crews needed special light arrangements so as not to confuse pilots. Not only did natural barriers stand in the way of construction, but also did the White Swan Amusement Park. The amusement park which sat in the area of Exit 3 was purchased and demolished to make way for the connection to the Airport Parkway.
The 7.5-mile, $190 million dollar expressway opened in September 1992 and earning the unique distinction of being the last free expressway to be built in the Pittsburgh area. One interesting feature of it is the median which was planned with future expansion in mind, whether it be light rail, Maglev, a West Busway extension, or extra lanes.
There had been an expressway devised in the 1963 Pittsburgh transportation plan that would have served the same area; however, in the plan it was referred to as the Airport Terminal Freeway.
Another groundbreaking ceremony took place on November 12, 2003, but this time for the Southern Beltway. Local officials as well as Governor Ed Rendell were on hand to kick off construction of the $224 million project on a knoll overlooking Pittsburgh International Airport. Dick Corporation of Large built the $64.9 million western end, which includes ramps to and from PA 60 and the airport. The Clinton interchange on the Southern Expressway was upgraded from a partial to a full interchange with construction of ramps from southbound and to northbound PA 60. Those ramps opened on July 21, 2006.
On October 17, 2005, US Senator Rick Santorum and US Representative Melissa Hart made an announcement at Pittsburgh International Airport that has been years in coming. The Interstate 376 designation would be extended and signed on this expressway, replacing the PA 60 designation which was truncated at the US 22/US 30 interchange. Improvements to the associated expressways and the designation change were included in the "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users" highway reauthorization bill passed two months earlier. Cost for the extension was estimated at $80 million to bring the expressways to Interstate Standards, but doesn't have to be completed for 25 years and was certainly not by the target date of New Year's Day 2009.
Southern Expressway Pictures
Airport Terminal Expressway
Future Interstate 376 Corridor Map
|Western Terminus:||Exit 50 in Moon|
|Eastern Terminus:||Exit 57 in Robinson|
|National Highway System:||Entire length|
|Former Designation:||PA 60 (1992 - 2009)|
|Former LR Designation:||None|