Interstate 279 Pennsylvania
Interstate 279 originates at the Fort Pitt Bridge east end by the Point in Downtown Pittsburgh. The freeway forms part of a route looping east from Interstate 79 near Carnegie and north to Franklin Park in the Pittsburgh suburbs. I-279 spans the Allegheny River across the Fort Duquesne Bridge to join Parkway North by Heinz Field (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL franchise) and PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB franchise) along the North Shore. Parkway North veers northward at East Allegheny and continues past Bellevue and Westview before rejoining Interstate 79.
Prior to June 2009, Interstate 279 extended west from Downtown Pittsburgh onto Parkway West via the Fort Pitt Bridge to Interstate 79 near Carnegie. This route traveled through the vicinity of Crafton and Green Tree and under Mount Washington via the Fort Pitt Tunnel. It was replaced by a northwest extension of Interstate 376, following an interim period of cosignage along Parkway West.
Interstate 279 provides metropolitan access from Interstate 79 into Pittsburgh. The Parkway West segment, which is now designated as Interstate 376 and U.S. 22-30, is much older than the Parkway North section of I-279. Parkway North was constructed in the mid to late 1980s while the Parkway West was constructed in the 1950s. The Fort Pitt Bridge opened in 1959 and the Fort Pitt Tunnel opened in 1960. Both elements were incorporated into the Interstate system in the 1960s.1 A road trip through the area in June 1989 revealed ghost ramps at the then future northern terminus.
Starting in 1993, various portions of Interstate 279, including the Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnel, closed for major road work as part of a long term rehabilitation project along Parkway West.2 The $200 million project culminated with the October 1, 2003 opening of the two-lane, 2,500 foot long ramp taking inbound Parkway West traffic to the outbound Parkway East over Monongahela Wharf. The final two year $84.2 million project opened two weeks ahead of schedule. Additionally the Stanwix Street off-ramp on Interstate 376 east opened to traffic in conjunction with the Fort Pitt Bridge ramp opening.3 The multi-year project included improvements to the Fort Pitt Tunnel, Fort Pitt Bridge, and other associated ramps of the freeway.
North End – Franklin Park, PA
South End – Pittsburgh, PA
Mileage – 13.32
Cities – Pittsburgh
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-279 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
|Fort Duquesne Br||28,000|
|Exits 1C to 1D||28,000|
|I-579 to Exit 3||45,000|
|Exits 5 to 7||70,000|
|Exits 7 to 8||65,000|
|Exits 8 to I-79||47,000|
Source: 2017 PennDOT Traffic Volume Maps
Prior to 1970, Interstate 279 was proposed as the bypass for through traffic along Interstate 79 between Washington and Erie, Pennsylvania. I-79 was relocated to the west as the suburban route was completed much sooner than the Parkway North section.
A $67.5 million project through spring 2009 expanded Parkway West to six and eight lanes along a 1.5-mile stretch in the vicinity of Carnegie. Construction also lowered a hill by as much as eight feet to improve safety and added two ramps omitted from the mid-1970s construction of the interchange linking I-79 and 279. The original $17 million exchange was one of the most expensive in the state at the time. Two ramps were dropped from the final design to cut costs. Their removal was also based upon traffic being directed onto Pennsylvania 60 (Steubenville Pike) from I-79 south to Pittsburgh International Airport. Steubenville Pike was vastly more rural then with upgrades planned to handle airport bound traffic.4,5
Opened in November 2008, the new ramp connecting Interstate 79 south to the Parkway West westbound includes a 640 foot long flyover over Campbells Run Road. The new ramp linking Parkway West eastbound to Interstate 79 north includes a 1,500 foot long flyover over both freeways. Opening of these ramps was forecast to bring a 35% reduction in traffic on nearby Pennsylvania 60 (Steubenville Pike).4
Several changes were made to the Pittsburgh’s Interstates during the first 15 years of the system. For Interstate 279, the route was initially proposed as a western bypass of Pittsburgh, with the I-79 mainline looping east to Downtown via the Fort Duquesne Bridge and Penn Lincoln Parkway West to Carnegie. A succeeding change took place on June 30, 1970, with AASHTO approval of the following:
- Reroute Interstate 79 onto its current alignment west of Pittsburgh
- Reassign I-279 to the Parkway North section of the urban loop between the Fort Pitt Bridge at the Point and I-79 at Franklin Park
- Renumber Parkway West as a westward extension of Interstate 76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike mainline northwest from Monroeville was still a part of Interstate 80S).
Interstate 279 was extended westward over Parkway West the following year as approved by AASHTO on December 3. I-279 overtook I-76 west from the Fort Pitt Bridge to I-79, as I-76 was reassigned to the remainder of the PA Turnpike northwest to Ohio and Parkway East renumbered as new Interstate 376. This configuration remained in place until 2009, when I-376 was extended over Parkway West as part of its 70-mile extension to I-80 near the borough of Wheatland.
North End – Franklin Park, Pennsylvania
South End – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Historic Southern Terminus – – Carnegie, Pennsylvania
- Fort Pitt Tunnel – Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, PA (Bruce S. Cridlebaugh).
- “Fort Pitt Bridge ramp to Parkway East opens on Oct. 1.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 17, 2003.
- “Fort Pitt ramp to Parkway East to open.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 1, 2003.
- “Lack of money delaying construction of missing Parkway West/I-79 ramps.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 17, 2003.
- “‘Missing Links’ Take Shape at I-79/Parkway West – After 30 Years, PennDOT Poised to Open New Ramps and Widen the Parkway to Mitigate Rush Hour Traffic.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2, 2008.
Page updated August 16, 2016.