construction as part of the 1928 Allegheny County Bond Issue, Allegheny
River Boulevard runs from Washington Blvd. in the Highland Park neighborhood
of the City of Pittsburgh to Hulton Road in the suburb of Oakmont.
When opened in 1934, the roadway was Pittsburgh's first link between the
city and the suburbs to the north and east. However, unlike her sister
highways; Ohio River Blvd. to the west, Saw Mill Run Blvd. to the south,
and Mosside Blvd. on the eastern edge of the county, Allegheny River Boulevard
would be the last to open after a nearly three year struggle over basically
1300 feet of highway.
The 1928 bond issue allocated over $3.5 million for construction of the four and one half mile roadway from Washington Blvd. to Front St. in Verona. (1) The most challenging part for engineers was designing and constructing the roadway from Washington Blvd. to Nadine. This section was known for its fast rising slopes along the south shores of the Allegheny River. Another obstacle were railroad tracks owned by the Allegheny Valley Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad. The obstacle that would hold the highway in doubt for nearly three years was land owned by the Pennsylvania Water Commission in Nadine.
Forgotten by over 60 years of time is the roadway's original nickname, "Blunder" or "Bungle Boulevard." The blunder, an oversight by Allegheny County Director of Public Works Norman F. Brown, was a dispute over right-of-way between the Pennsylvania Water Commission and Allegheny County. This would also include the Pennsylvania Railroad as they owned rail tracks the county wished to move. (2) The cost of the mistake one half million dollars. (3) Although the water commission and the county wished to come upon a settlement, by 1932 the entire highway was completed with the exception of the "bungled" area that would in the end only be 1,300 feet of roadway.
As many compromises were being discussed including a 1,700 foot link that included "a grade of less than 8 percent, in a sweeping curve with a 600-foot radius...the eastern end [would] descend to meet the present improved highway on a 4 per cent (sic) grade." A bridge would be built over Nadine Road and a "ramp at the eastern end leading down into the Nadine Road and the water company's plant." (4) As various local and state politicians got involved, the "blunder" was an issue in the 1931 Allegheny County Commissioner Race in which Brown lost, other communities provided their own pressure to the design of the highway. In 1933, Penn Township announced that the community would oppose any plan that would not give the township a highway outlet to the river. (5) Oakmont petitioned for a fast solution so area communities could reap the benefits of the road. (6)
It wasn't until the spring of 1933 when Pennsylvania Governor Pinchot signed a bill that "[gave] county commissioners authority to force settlement of the right-of-way problem by relocating the rights-of-way of public service companies." (7) The bill was sponsored by Representative James H. McClure and paved the way to the ultimate completion of the highway. Work was scheduled to begin immediately and by the winter of 1934 the highway was opened. An editorial in the February 1, 1934 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read, "Now that the Nadine bottleneck in the Allegheny River Boulevard has been opened, an old reliable item will be missed by newspaper readers. The story of the Nadine jam was a pretty expensive comic serial."
Today, safety and capacity concerns and improvements are the major issues of the highway. Other issues include the deteriorating condition of the eight scenic pulloffs that were part of the original design and a redesign of the highway in Penn Hills.
Two of the remaining pylons in
Verona (Eric Lasher)
|For the 2007 US Open at Oakmont Country Club, the town of Verona refurbished the Allegheny River Boulevard pylons. The rehabilitation also included restoring the pylons' ability to light up at night. This was the first time the pylons were illuminated in an unknown amount of time.|
|Left and Right Photos: Close-ups of the refurbished and illuminated pylons for Allegheny River Boulevard in Verona. (Photos taken by Eric Lasher.)|
© 2003-07 William Lawson