A Photo Essay on St. John the Baptist
Milepost 129: Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Along the 36
miles that are between the Somerset and Bedford interchanges on the Pennsylvania
Turnpike, there is not much to break the monotony of this segment.
Yes, there is the Allegheny Tunnel and a full service rest area that motorists
can use to countdown the miles along this 30 minute drive between the two
interchanges. However, it is at milepost 129 that maybe one of the
most unique features of the Pennsylvania Turnpike appears. In the
town of New
Baltimore, one of the few towns the original Turnpike actually runs
through, steps from both sides of the Turnpike can carry motorists, if
they desire to stop, to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. "The
Church on the Turnpike" has become a travelers' tradition since the 1950s.
A full shot of St. John's Church
New Baltimore and the church's
importance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike System has slowly lessened over
the highway's 65 plus years in existence. A service plaza once existed
nearby. Greyhound Bus Lines no longer pick-up or drop off passengers
at the church. The town of nearly 200 residents is without direct
access to the turnpike. However, the church, cut off from the town
by the turnpike, still attracts curious passers by like myself in July
2002 along a busy ribbon of concrete and asphalt.
The quiet town of New Baltimore.
There are many who have stopped
at St. John's Church , including the Bee
Family, who share photos in the links below.
A vintage PA Turnpike Postcard showing
St. John's Church. (Image courtesy Doug Weasner)
Sadly, the connection between
St. John's and the Turnpike is coming to an end. As a result of a
highway improvement project that will widen the toll road and update it
to modern standards, the staircases on both sides of the the highway will
be removed. Because there is no formal requirement for access to
the church from the Turnpike to exist, the stairs will not be replaced.
The project begins in 2009.