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Grata's Guide: Anybody who's anybody gets his name on a state highway

Sunday, June 13, 1999

By Joe Grata, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Directions to drive from Downtown Pittsburgh to Presque Isle State Park in Erie this summer:

Take Veterans Memorial Bridge north to the Raymond E. Wilt Memorial Highway. This connects to the Raymond P. Shafer Highway, designated also as the 79th Division Highway.

As you travel north, you'll come upon the O.D. (Orville DeWayne) Anderson Interchange in Mercer County.

That's the interchange for the Keystone Shortway, also named the Z.H. Confair Memorial Highway.

A few minutes later, you'll cross under AMVETS Memorial Highway in Erie County, but stay on the Ray Shafer/79th Division Highway.

Exit at the Harold G. Reslink Interchange. You'll be in the City of Erie, only 1.5 miles from Presque Isle State Park.

Lost?

Here's an easier way: I-579 to I-279 to I-79 to Route 5.

Over the years, the General Assembly has named more than 175 interstates, other state-owned roads, bridges, bypasses, interchanges and even an underpass and a trail after people dead and alive, military and veterans groups, fire departments, significant places, presidents, engineers and politicians.

We have three bridges named Veterans Memorial Bridge, including one on I-579 in Allegheny County, and four highways named POW/MIA Highway (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action).

In Centre County, home of Penn State University, you can take the Mount Nittany Express (Route 322) or the Nittany Parkway (Route 26) to tailgate at Beaver Stadium.

U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Everett, is the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

This "king of pork" brings home the bacon. You'll know when you arrive in his congressional district, because you'll likely be driving on either the Bud Shuster Highway (Route 220) or the Bud Shuster Byway (Route 30/26).

One bridge takes its name from a local amusement park (Kennywood Bridge) in Duquesne.

Then there's the Hex Highway in Berks and Lehigh counties, and the Highway to Adventure in the Pocono tourist region.

Five years ago, lawmakers named the CAN DO Expressway in Luzerne County.

The Route 45 bridge over a Susquehanna River branch has the longest name in the state: Judge Herbert W. Cunningham/Judge Harold M. McClure Memorial Bridge.

When you look over the list of names, you won't find any like Taxpayer Thruway, Eminent Domain Expressway or I.O.U. Big Time Bridge.

I bring up the subject because of a highway/bridge-naming bill reported out of the state House Transportation Committee last week. The bill proposes to:

?Name approximately 40 miles of the Mon-Fayette Expressway north of I-70 in Washington County as the J. Barry Stout Expressway. The Stout Expressway would include the Y-shaped northern links to the Parkway East, in Monroeville and in Pittsburgh.

?Name dual bridges that will carry the Mon-Fayette Expressway 260 feet above Route 88, north of Monongahela, as the Joe Montana Bridges.

?Name a two-mile stretch of four-lane road in Donora and Carroll Township as the Stan Musial Byway.

If you don't know, Sen. Stout, D-Bentleyville, is the ranking Democrat on the state Senate Transportation Committee.

He steered one cent of the state's 1991 gas-tax increase to the Turnpike Commission, and he got $28 million a year from the 1997 motor vehicle registration fee increases for the expressway.

Montana is the famous Notre Dame and San Francisco 49ers quarterback from Ringgold School District.

Some Mon Valley residents are still smarting about an "appearance fee" his former agent demanded for Montana to return home for a parade and testimonial dinner in his honor not so many years ago.

It was the agent who made the demands, not Montana, but people were peeved nonetheless.

Stan "The Man" Musial is, of course, the St. Louis Cardinals slugger and Hall-of-Famer who hails from Donora.

Maybe if they name the road after him, someday he will find his way back to the community he seems to have forgotten.

You would think that's enough names. But when the bill came up, Rep. Dave Levdansky, D-Elizabeth Township, a member of the transportation committee, moved to amend it.

Levdansky said Jefferson Hills officials wanted to submit their own suggestions to name two miles of the Mon-Fayette Expressway through their community, while a colleague, Rep. Tom Michlovic, D-Braddock, wants to name the toll road north of Route 51 after Medal of Honor recipients.

The transportation committee rejected Levdansky's amendment, so the Stout, Montana and Musial names prevail at this point. The bill must be passed by the full House, and then the state Senate, to take effect.

I'm not going to be critical about Barry Stout, because -- agree with the expressway or not -- he had guts to keep his word, push the right buttons and deliver on two difficult votes.

"If it came down to naming the expressway after him or getting the rest of the money we need to build it to Pittsburgh," Stout wouldn't care what they name it, said Frank Irey, president of the Mon Valley Progress Council.


Send your transportation questions, complaints and suggestions to Joe Grata c/o The Post-Gazette or e-mail him at jgrata@post-gazette.com. Include address and phone number.



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