The  Connector
Photos and History of an Improvement to Pittsburgh's Highway System
On December 6, 2002, another chapter of Pittsburgh Highway History was made when the I-279/376 'Downtown Connector' was opened to traffic.  The connector allows a high-speed, no traffic signal connection from I-279 South and the Ft. Duquesne Bridge to I-376 and the Parkway East.  For over 30 years, motorists wanting to make this connection had to navigate the signals and traffic restrictions on Ft. Pitt Boulevard.

From Water Street to the Downtown Connector:
For over a century, the north shore of the Monongahela River has been important to the trade and transportation of Pittsburgh.  Beginning in the 1800s, Water Street and the Monongahela Wharf combined to be the landing point for commerce and trade.  Water Street which ran above the slopes of the wharf was full of warehouses and office buildings.  As the automobile era grew stronger into the 1940s, city leaders planned and then built Ft. Pitt Boulevard, an elevated roadway that improved and segregated traffic flow from the Wharf.   The completion of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway in the 1950's added to the maze of highways, as the Boulevard became more important to the Central Business District traffic compared to the through traffic of the parkway on ground level.  In 1968, the completion of the Fort Duquesne Bridge brought new levels of traffic to Ft. Pitt Boulevard.  The Boulevard was used for traffic coming from the North Shore and the bridge wishing to connect to the Parkway East towards Oakland and Monroeville.  By the mid-1990s, the condition of the roadway had deteriorated where one of the three eastbound lanes were closed for safety concerns.  The concern over the rehabilitation of the Ft. Pitt Bridge and the desire to have a seamless flow between the Interstates initiated talk and the eventual construction of the connector in 2001-2002.

The construction which was accelerated because of the immediate needs in the area also included the rehabilitation of Ft. Pitt Boulevard which had not seen any major improvements since opening in the 1940s.  The three eastbound lanes for Ft. Pitt Blvd. was realigned to include two lanes used exclusively for local traffic and signaled intersections.  The third lane was isolated for signal free and quick access to I-376.  Construction also included a 12 foot sidewalk that improved access to Point State Park and the Eliza Furnace Trail.

Just after crossing the Allegheny River, the connector begins underneath the Ft. Pitt Bridge.  In the past, both lanes led to Ft. Pitt Boulevard.  Photo taken by Ed Szuba, August 31, 2003
The Downtown Connector approaching the Ft. Pitt Boulevard split.  The right lane splits for the traffic signal free smooth connection to I-376 East.  The two left lanes lead to Ft. Pitt Boulevard.  Photo taken by Ed Szuba, August 31, 2003.
Along Ft. Pitt Blvd., this overhead shows another split.  Ft. Pitt Boulevard still provides access to Interstate 376, allowing many First Side streets to access the Parkway.  Ft. Pitt Boulevard ends at Grant Street.  Photo taken by Ed Szuba, August 31, 2003.

Site Navigation:

  • Return to SWPA Roads Project Index
  • Sources & Links:

  • Interstate 279 History @ ---Jeff Kitsko
  • Interstate 376 History @ ---Jeff Kitsko
  • Ft. Pitt Boulevard @ ---Bruce Cridlebaugh
  • I-279 @ ---Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
  • I-376 @ ---Andy Field/Alex Nitzman
  • Stickel, Glenn D., PE. "Constructing a Missing Interstate Link in Downtown Pittsburgh."  American Society of Highway Engineering. (January 24, 2004)
  • Fort Pitt Boulevard Eastbound Construction ---PennDot
  • Ed Szuba



    Page Created: January 25, 2004
    Last Updated: January 26, 2004

    (C) 2004 Adam Prince
    I-279 & 376 Shields coutesy Jeff Kitsko